Plant Pansies and Violas for Color in the Off-Season

Gardeners in warmer climates can have color in their gardens from winter through spring by planting cool-season annuals and biennials in fall. Depending on your region, you’ll have many varieties to choose from, including calendula, foxglove, Iceland poppies, nasturtiums, primroses, and snapdragons. But for faithful bloomers available in a wide range of colors, it’s hard to beat pansies and violas.

Pansies and violas come in many sizes and shapes, as well as colors. Part of the genus Viola, they are characterized by the happy little “faces” of their flowers. Many new selections have been introduced in recent years, offering gardeners almost any color they would want—from creamy white to yellow, orange, and copper to pale lavender to deep rose or purple. What’s more, many pansies and violas have two– or even three–tone faces, combining yellow and purple, lavender and white, rose and black, and others.

A trip to your local garden center is likely to give you plenty of choices. Here are a few tips for successful plantings:

  • Plant in fall to give time for roots to get established. Fall plantings of pansies and violas will bloom throughout the winter if the weather is not too severe, with peak blooms in spring regardless.
  • Plan your plantings to create a mass of color. Choose one dominant color or a combination of compatible shades.
  • Follow spacing and planting directions on the plant tags. Provide your transplants with plenty of organic matter in the soil by adding soil amendments.
  • Feed with plant food starting two weeks after planting. Follow a regular watering and feeding schedule thereafter to encourage and maintain healthy plants with beautiful blooms.

Pansies are probably the traditional favorite among hardy annuals, with violas becoming more popular lately due to new introductions. Between them, you are sure to find just the right combination of plants to add late-season color to your yard this year.