Pansy best practices, when to plant, fertilize, pull….


When do you remove overwintering pansies to plant summer annuals?  That depends on when your last expected frost for the spring is. 

 The best time to pull your winter pansies is 1 to 3  weeks after your last expected frost date.  This is perfect timing for the ground to start to warm, great for the new annuals to get rooted in before the blasts of summer heat. 

You avoid late, unexpected frosts and the selection of fresh summer annuals is at its peak in the garden center! Yes, your pansies are still looking great and it seems a shame to pull them out now, but waiting will set back your summer plants. To pick the best summer annuals for your conditions, every time, click here!

Most of you who are planting out pansies for winter color will be in zones 6,7 and 8.

When to pull out your pansies:

Generally, the date window to  pull pansies and replant summer annuals will be :

Zone 6April 27- Mother’s Day
Zone 7April 17- May 8
Zone 8March 17- 31

Click this link to the National Climatic Data Center if you are in the United States to find out most accurately when your last expected frosts will be.

Or contact your local extension service.  

Globally, contact your local weather service, and they will be more than happy to tell you. 

 If you pull pansies and plant summer annuals too early and then get a frost, problems.  The summer annuals will need protection and still may either be set back or killed and need replanting.  Who wants to do that?

If you wait too long, the heat of summer will stress the new transplants that have not had a chance to root in first.  As well as the best selection of summer annuals will be gone from the garden center and then what will you replace them with? 

It is hard to pull them up at the right time.  Mostly because they will still be looking wonderful most likely, and pulling out flowers that look great is a test in resolve.  It does warrant repeating. 🙂

The end date for pulling out your pansies is not a hard cut-off time by any means, the deciding factor is how fast HOT weather is coming and how fast the replacement annuals are leaving the garden centers. 

If you are growing your summer annuals from seed, in place, a different strategy will work best.  Depending on what you are seeding into your beds, pull the pansies just before you seed. Refer to the seed packet for the proper timing for the seeds you chose.  This avoids damaging fragile, tender seedling roots when you belatedly pull the pansies later as the seedlings grow,

Growing Pansies

Pansies thrive in cool weather getting at least 4-6 hours of sun for best flowering.  In the winter, this is easier to provide, they will thrive in beds under deciduous trees, where the fallen leaves let the sun stream in.  Pansies and violas shake off a light frost with ease. A hard freeze will nip the open flowers, but not harm established plants, which will simply work to open new flowers as soon as the temperatures rebound to above freezing.

Those of you with snow cover that stays on the ground and temperatures that do not rebound into the 50s degrees F, and more during most days, won’t have the success and enthusiasm for pansies that gardeners with milder conditions have for pansies.

Gardeners in zones 6, 7, and 8 can enjoy these winter flowering powerhouses during the most difficult time of year to get flowering color in your landscape or pots.

When to plant your pansies:

Pansies thrive when planted with the ground that has not chilled down yet, but the heat of summer has passed out of the air. 

Zone 6Sept 15- Oct 1
Zone7October 1-15
Zone 8October 15-Nov 1

Click here for “success with Pansies…” Extension service publication for Landscape Professionals.

Do pansies need protection from the cold?

Pansy blossoms will be withered by a frost, but it will not deter the plant in the slightest.  It will set about opening new buds. If you do cover pansies with frost cloth (fabric, not plastic) from a frost, open blooms might be spared.  It is worth the effort if there is a special reason why you need blooms open on a certain date, photoshoot, wedding, or just really don’t want to miss a moment.

What pests bother pansies?

When pansies are grown in cooler temperatures and the well-drained soil they like, pests are few.  If there are pests, aphids, mealybugs, and slugs are the most likely culprits. Sometimes caterpillars, if warm enough.  If you see large holes in the leaves, think caterpillars or slugs. Larger mammals enjoy pansies too. Rabbits and deer love the flowers in particular.  Particularly infuriating 🙂 when you come out to find a freshly planted pansy bed all pulled, uprooted, and left outside their holes to die with roots in the sun and wind.  Here is an anti-deer, un-planting your plants hack – lay deer (or bird netting, they title it by dimension the piece is cut to, same product) over your bed of freshly planted transplants.  Like a nearly invisible blanket that will confuse casual grazers. It can be left long-term, or removed in a couple of weeks when more firmly rooted in. (And the deer have discovered your neighbors garden to nibble on instead).

How to fertilize pansies:

Pansies love a fertilizer that supports root growth and bloom production.  One that is lower in nitrogen. Also, because of the cooler weather, avoiding a common source of annual flower slow-release nitrogen, Ammoniacal nitrogen.  It releases too much in the warm fall months, making the crown extend and become leggy, and when the soil cools below 45 degrees F, is not available to the pansies at all.  Use a low nitrogen, liquid fertilizer when planting, and A great cool formulation fertilizer is Pansy Food, find it here on Amazon.  When the soil begins to warm up again around March, you can start using your standard fertilizers again.

When to plant:

USDA Hardiness Zone(s)Suggested Planting     Dates
8a and 8bOct. 15 – Nov. 1
7bOct. 1 – Oct. 15
6b and 7aSept. 15 – Oct. 1

Number of plants required at various plant spacings
Distance between PlantsPlants Required/100 sq.ft.
6 in.400
8 in.227
10 in.143

Can pansies bloom all summer? 

The simple answer is no, not usually, and not reliably.  Most areas where pansies are common are far too hot in the summer.  They perform best in the cooler winter months. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that gets cool in the evening, like 50’s most nights in the summer, then pansies WILL bloom all summer!

Why are my pansies uprooted the morning after I planted them?

In short…critters.  More often than not, deer.  The deer come and eat the pansy flower, and the rest of the plant pops out.  Not that the deer meant to uproot your entire planting bed, they just wanted to browse on the flowers.  Not that knowing this makes it any less frustrating!

How does temperature affect pansy growth and flowering?

Temperature affects the size of pansy flowers, as the temperatures increase from 40 F to 77F, the flower size decreased as reported in The Journal of Horticultural ScienceAlso, the fastest rate of flower bud development is at 77 degrees.

So the largest pansy flowers are in cooler temperatures, still above freezing, however, the volume of flowers is greatest in mild temperatures in the 70’s.

Another study, published in the Annals of Botany, looked into pansies in relation to not only temperature but day length.

This shows the perfect temperature for growth and development is 71 F.  

Pansies are my long-lost sisters :).  I also find the perfect temperature is 71 F.  And like any sisters are different, I like the temperatures to rise from there, where pansies thrive in cooler temperatures.

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