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Pansies & Violas: A Primer to the Cool-Weather Blooms of Your Dreams!

Written by Ann Meisoll & Mikaela Rice

Pansies & violas are a decades-old fall staple for a multitude of reasons, including their ability to bloom in the cold and signature vibrant “faces”. We’ve put together this primer to help you navigate the wild and wonderful world of pansy land and provide tips for growing the biggest and most prolific blooms!

What makes pansies & violas so great?

Pansies & violas are two of the few flowers that will bloom during cold winter months. Unlike other plants, they can survive frosts and rebound from single-digit temperatures. They can last for several months if you plant them in the fall. Plant them in containers, borders, and as ground color for vibrant pops of color when everything else has died down for the season. Pansies and violas are mostly treated as annuals since they perform best in cool weather.

Fun Fact: If you’re a fan of cooking or baking, both of these flowers are also edible! They have a mildly sweet green flavor and make a colorful garnish for salads, soups, and desserts.

Pansies vs. Violas: What’s the difference?

Pansy flower vs. viola flower

To start, all pansies are violas but not all violas are pansies – both of these famed cool-weather flowers belong to the genus Viola. Pansies tend to have larger blooms, usually 2-3 inches in diameter, in solid colors or with a face in the middle of the bloom. Viola flowers are much smaller, usually around the size of a nickel. However, they make up for their smaller faces with more prolific blooms and the fact they are incredibly weather tolerant.

Some of Our Favorite Varieties:

Photo © Ball Horticultural Company

ColorMax Violas ( NEW FOR 2019 ) – Our #1 pick for colder weather, ColorMax is a giant-flowered viola that is heat- AND cold-tolerant that will provide an abundance of blooms throughout the entire season. Enjoy blooms the size of pansies with the improved hardiness of a viola!

Photo © Ball Horticultural Company

Panola Pansies – Panolas are a cross between a pansy and a viola and are renown for their winter performance. They have the bloom size of a pansy and the bloom count of a viola.

Photo © Ball Horticultural Company

Cool Wave Pansies – Cool Wave pansies are famous for their fast-growing and easily-spreading habit. They are a dream for lush baskets and cool-weather containers.

Photo © Ball Horticultural Company

Majestic Giant Pansies – A 1966 AAS Flower Winner, Majestic Giants boast the largest pansy blooms on the market measuring up to 4” across!

Tips & Tricks for Beautiful Blooms:

  • Plant them in a sunny area.
  • Be sure to water them during sunny dry weather, even if it is cold outside.
  • Feed them once a month! We recommend using Fertilome Bedding Plant Food.
  • Be sure to add a 1″ layer of mulch after you’re finished planting. This will help retain moisture and warmth in the soil, and prevent them from being heaved up out of the soil during a warm spell.
  • If they look wilted and sad after a really cold spell, they will usually perk up once it warms up a bit.
  • The biggest pest challenge to pansies is the pansy worm. We recommend fighting this insect with Sevin or Thuricide.
  • Consider creating a mixed container with violas, evergreen ferns, and anything else that catches your eye. Give yourself a spot of color all winter long!

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