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COOLER WEATHER MEANS TIME TO PLANT PANSIES

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The Old Farmer’s Almanac states that the fall season
commenced on September 22 at 3:02 p.m.
“What happened to fall?” was a common question
I heard last week when record-setting temperatures
soared into the 80s and low 90s. At least the cold front
that arrived over the past weekend gives hope that
fall will finally begin to feel like fall, even in the Texas
Upper Gulf Coast region.
One of the benefits of living in the Texas Upper
Gulf Coast region is that we can plant pansies now
for enjoyment in the winter landscape. Pansies are a
remarkable annual capable of surviving our coldest
winter temperatures then bouncing back with vigor
when warm weather returns.
Pansies have become the most popular cool season
annual used to provide a dependable winter and early
spring color display for Galveston County landscapes
and gardens. Their versatile use in the landscape,
easy culture, and abundant blooms make them quite
worthy of their popularity.
Now through early December is the ideal time to
be planting pansy transplants. Pansies require soil
temperatures between 45 degrees and 65 degrees
Fahrenheit for best growth. Pansies planted after soil
temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit show
stunted, pale green leaves, little growth and little or no
flowering. Cold-stressed root systems are less efficient
in taking up nutrients.
On the other hand, pansies planted too early and
exposed to warm temperatures often appear yellow;
the stems stretch and the new growth will appear as
small rosettes at the ends of stems. As a result, the
plants flower poorly and are more susceptible to frost
damage or disease.
Even though they may look delicate, pansies are
tough plants as they are one of the few flowers that
withstand cold temperatures (down to the single digits)
and still provide a spectacular show when temperatures
warm up.
Pansies thrive during our mild winters. They will
continue to provide blooms through the spring season
which is their peak performance period.
Pansies should be located in areas that receive full
sun or only partial shade. The soil should be wellturned
to a depth of 8-to-10 inches and the addition
of organic amendments, such as garden compost or
composted manure is beneficial.
It’s Pansy Weather!
Pansies are susceptible to several root rot diseases
and they require good soil drainage for optimal performance.
Therefore, the bed level should be raised several
inches above the existing ground to insure good
surface drainage in areas that are not well-drained.
Pansies lend themselves to a wide range of applications
in the home landscape. They are popular in large
formal plantings, as borders, and in planter boxes.
They are also popular as background or fill-in annuals
for spring bulbs. Their long season of bloom is excellent
in providing rich, colorful blooms from the spring
season to the bloom season of early summer annuals.
The pansy has one of the widest range of flower
colors of any garden annual. Included in the wide
color range are red, purple, blue, bronze, pink,
black, yellow, white, lavender, orange, apricot
and mahogany. Flowers may be single-colored,
streaked, or blotched.
Some flowers have petals with crinkled-ruffled
edges, while others are smooth. The F1 hybrids
offer an extended bloom time lasting well into
spring due to their heat tolerance.
Today you will find a wide array of pansy varieties.
Different breeding companies produce entire
series of pansies, with names like Majestic Giants
(one of my favorite series), Antique Shades,
Nature, Matrix, Panola, Skippy, and Bingo, just to
name a few. Each series sports varieties with and
without faces.
Choose healthy, fresh plants for planting. Most
transplants are sold locally in multi-pak units or by
the individual plant. Purchase stocky plants with
at least 4 to 5 strong leaves.
Space individual plants 6 to 10 inches apart to
provide a solid mass of color. Be sure that the
top of each transplant’s potting mix is about 1/4
inch below the soil line. However, do not plant too
deeply as the tender plants become more susceptible
to root rot.
To keep pansies blooming profusely, fertilize
lightly every month with a general purpose,
complete fertilizer (such as 13-13-13) or a slow
release fertilizer such as Osmocote. To maximize
flower production, be sure to keep spent flowers
pinched off.
Water the newly planted pansies well. Mulch
pansy beds with shredded pine bark to provide a
distinctive background contrast that enhances the
green foliage and colorful flowers.
Pansies are easy to grow and will reward a
homeowner’s efforts with an abundance of color.
There is a place for them in every Galveston
County garden. Plant now and enjoy their smiling
faces in your fall, winter, and early spring garden.

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