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Mid-October, November are time for planting pansies, violas

News Release Distributed 10/17/14

By Allen Owings

LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – The ideal planting time for cool-season bedding plants in Louisiana runs from late September through early December. Some of our common cool-season flowers prefer the earlier planting dates, and some do better with the later planting dates.

Pansies and their dwarf cousins, violas, prefer planting after the temperatures have cooled off some. You see pansies and violas in garden centers starting in early October. It is typically best to wait until mid- or late October to plant them. But they can be planted through November and even into December.

Pansies continue to be our most popular landscape flower for late fall through early spring, but violas are gaining more market share and are being used more in home landscape plantings. If you’re interested in violas, you should seriously consider planting the Sorbet series, which are Louisiana Super Plants.

Many pansy and viola varieties on the market come in a wide choice of colors – blue, rose, pink, yellow, white, purple, red and scarlet, among others. Flower sizes can be large, medium and small. Some varieties have solid-color – "clear" – flower petals, and others have blotched flower faces. Normally, clear-faced flowers are more popular for landscape use, but some folks like the blotched flowers in mixed plantings.

When properly cared for, pansies will last into late April and early May most years.

Pansies in the front of a landscape bed combined with the colorful foliage of kale and cabbage behind them can be attractive. Snapdragons are also nice companion plants for violas or pansies. You can even consider adding dianthus, such as the Amazon or Dash series, in combination with pansies and violas.

Pansies and violas do best when planted in full sun, but they can tolerate a few hours of partial shade daily. Be aggressive and plant these flowers in masses for the best visual enhancement. Space individual plants 8-10 inches apart and at least 3-4 rows deep.

Pansy varieties with small- and medium-sized flowers hold up better than larger-flowered varieties long term. The smaller-flowered violas are season extenders due to their rain and heat tolerance. Violas can last two weeks longer than pansies into late spring.

To enjoy pansies and violas season-long, follow proper bed preparation, fertilization, soil pH and irrigation practices.

Properly prepare the landscape bed to allow for good internal drainage and aeration. Make sure purchased soil comes from a reputable supplier. Cheap soil is “bad”; expensive soil is “good.”

Pansy and viola beds need a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.0. They require more acidic growing conditions than some other bedding plants.

You can add fresh, nutrient-rich, finished compost to landscape beds to provide nutrients. Compost also is a great source of organic matter. For a traditional fertilizer approach, apply a slow-release fertilizer at planting. Most slow-release fertilizers for home gardens are effective for three to four months.

Pansies and violas are low-maintenance. Deadheading – removing old flowers – is not needed. They’ll keep on blooming through spring.

In addition to the Sorbet violas you could try Cool Wave, Waterfall or Freefall trailing pansies. These are relatively newcomers in the horticulture marketplace and offer a trailing alternative in pansy growth habit. They work well in hanging baskets.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.

Rick Bogren

Last Updated: 10/17/2014 7:30:39 AM

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