Just because the cold comes around doesn’t mean you have to give up color in your garden. Winter pansies (Viola hiemalis) are perfect for wintertime flowerbeds. Unlike your typical pansies, winter pansies are a unique, more cold-hardy species, making them perfect for planting in the colder months.
Also known as ice pansies, icicle pansies, and winter flowering pansies, this species produces smaller flowers than other, more common pansy types. They bloom in various colors, including white, yellow, pink, purple, red, and other bi-color options. Winter pansies grow very well in cooler weather and will start declining in health when the temperature reaches above 60°F. Read on for all you need to know about winter pansies.
|Common Name:||Winter Pansies, Ice Pansies, Icicle Pansies, Winter Flowering Pansies|
|Botanical Name:||Viola hiemalis|
|Mature Size:||6-9 in. tall, 9-12 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure:||Full, Partial|
|Soil Type:||Loamy, Well-drained, Rich|
|Soil pH:||Acidic (4.8 to 5.8)|
|Bloom Time:||Spring, Fall, Winter|
|Flower Color:||Red, Pink, Yellow, Purple, White|
|Hardiness Zones:||Zones 4-10 (USDA)|
|Native Area:||North America, Europe|
Winter Pansy Care
While pansies are resilient, they will need a little extra attention in the winter months. Winter pansies will bloom for five to eight months if cared for properly, which means you get a lot of color for a large portion of the year. Plus, winter pansies can return for three years or more.
While winter pansies are very tolerant of the cold, they grow the best in sunlight. When planting your pansies, consider their location. Plant them where they are facing the sun, and give them at least four hours of sunlight per day.
When cold-hardy pansies start to droop in the winter months, they’re likely too wet, too dry, or suffering from cold nights, harsh winds, or maybe just a little neglect. Fortunately, they’ll be back and blooming after some attention.
Plant pansies in a place where they will get at least four hours of sunlight a day. They should also be facing the sun for optimal growth.
Plant your winter pansies in soil between the temperatures of 45°F and 65 °F. Ensure the soil has good drainage and doesn’t allow cold water to gather around your pansies, as this will likely kill them. For added warmth, try adding a layer of mulch around your pansies—pine straw will do the best at holding in the heat.
Depending on how wet your winters are should determine how often you water your pansies. If your pansies are in a pot and covered on your porch, they need regular watering. Be wary of overwatering your pansies, as this could cause the plant to develop root rot. Check the dryness level by sticking your finger into the soil. If the soil is moist, it should be okay.
Temperature and Humidity
Winter pansies thrive in temperatures ranging from 45°F to 65°F. Temperatures that drop too low can stunt flower development and cause the foliage to turn pale green. Pansies do not tolerate excessive humidity.
Feed your pansies with a water-soluble, liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food 15-30-15. Moisten the soil with plain water first, then pour on the fertilizer. Using liquid rather than granular fertilizer is necessary because it is easier for the plant to absorb it in colder months. Feed your pansies every two to three weeks during the season, ensuring they have enough nutrients to grow.
Types of Winter Pansies
Winter Pansies are available in several varieties and cultivar types. Here are some that range in size and color:
- Viola Tricolor» Heart’s Ease»: A delicate purple, cream, and yellow pansy that blooms in the winter.
- Viola x Wittrockiana» Matrix Solar Flare»: Blooming from September through the winter, this flower features reddish-orange petals surrounding a yellow center.
- Viola Cornuta «Sorbet Yellow»: A bright and compact flower with yellow petals ideal for edging gardens, borders, and container plants.
Pruning winter pansies will help encourage new growth. Deadheading spent blooms or pinching back pansies at the stems with your fingers will extend the blooming period. Removing older flowers will allow new buds to absorb nutrients and the plant to flower for longer. This process also helps prevent pansies from becoming too leggy. Any time damaged or diseased growth emerges, remove it before infections can spread.
Next, take off those damaged, curled-up leaves. Snip them off using small scissors designed for trimming foliage. After all this preening and clipping, your pansies may look thin and hungry. Nourish pansies with extra fertilizer to help them continue to flourish. Use a water-soluble, liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food 15-30-15. Moisten the soil with water first, then add the fertilizer.
Propagating Winter Pansies
Pansies grow well from seed, but propagating through cuttings is still possible. Here is how to propagate pansies:
- Select a healthy plant with many stems, and cut a three-inch selection using sterilized scissors or shear. Cut below the leaf node where the leaf meets the stem.
- Remove the lower leaves and dip them in a rooting hormone to promote growth.
- Place the cutting directly in potting soil.
- After the roots emerge, transplant the cuttings in the fall so the new growth has time to adjust before winter.
If propagating from divisions, gently dig the plant to expose the roots. Separate the stems so the roots are still attached to each section and plant it directly into moist, well-draining potting soil.
How to Grow Winter Pansies From Seed
Growing pansies from seed is relatively easy. Depending on the plant size, space seeds five to 10 inches apart so the plant has enough space for its roots to expand. If planted later in the fall, the roots will grow smaller than pansies planted earlier in the season. Potting soil with plenty of drainage holes is best for planting pansies. Adding compost to amend the ground can help add nutrients if necessary.
If starting seeds indoors, use wet soilless mix in a seed-starting tray. Gently place seeds throughout the soil and cover them entirely. Keep the tray in the dark to germinate, and continue spraying with a water bottle so the soil is moist. Pansies should develop roots within one to three weeks.
Potting and Repotting Winter Pansies
September or early October is the best time to plant transplanted winter pansies. This timeframe gives pansies ample time to grow a solid root system so they are secure during the harsh winter months. You can wait to plant them in late October or even November, but they are less likely to survive since they only have a little time to grow their roots. If you are starting your pansies from seeds, you should plant them mid to late summer so they have plenty of time to germinate and grow their foundational roots. Pansies handle repotting relatively well if the new container has rich, moist, and well-draining soil.
Winter pansies go dormant after temperatures drop to 25°F but will survive to 20°F. These winter plants are cold-hardy, but adding a layer of mulch—sure as light pine straw—over the roots will help the plant retain moisture and reduce damage during a hard freeze. Continue watering pansies throughout the winter—including before a hard freeze—which is especially true for pansies in pots.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Relatively pest-free, winter pansies are still susceptible to pests such as aphids, slugs, and snails. Remove slugs and snails by hand when possible. Aphids harm the foliage by sucking and removing the sap, so treat with insecticidal soap if you notice any damage.
Some diseases that impact winter pansies include powdery mildew, root rot, gray mold, and spot anthracnose. Avoid overwatering and too much sun exposure to help prevent these fungal and bacterial diseases from developing. When watering, avoid wetting the foliage as this leaves a layer of fungus spores, or powdery mildew, that can spread throughout the plant.
How to Get Winter Pansies to Bloom
Provide pansies with plenty of sunlight while establishing their roots to help promote healthy plants and ample buds. Prepare the pansies for winter weather by adding a layer of mulch or compost to cover the well-draining soil, retaining moisture and heat. Fertilizer also helps to encourage showy blooms, especially a time-release or slow-release fertilizer that extends flowering. Deadhead spent blooms to see a second showing of flowers throughout the winter before temperatures drop too low. With proper care conditions, winter pansies can bloom for several months.
Common Problems With Winter Pansies
Pansies are relatively problem-free but require proper maintenance and care to see the best flower showing throughout the winter. Here are some problems to be aware of and the treatment:
Leaves Turning Black/Brown
Depending on the specific fungal infection, pansy leaf spots can cause spots in varying brown and black colors on the plant’s foliage. In some cases, very dark spots will appear on the foliage, and the plant’s crown may also rot. Pansy leaf spots are treatable with fungicides if detected early. In cases where the disease spreads to the crown, removing the entire plant might be necessary to prevent it from spreading to other plants through the soil.
Leaves Turning Yellow
Yellowing leaves are often a sign of overwatering. Additionally, watering the foliage instead of the roots can cause yellowing leaves and is a precursor to rot developing. If inconsistent watering continues, the foliage will turn brown—starting at the plant’s base—and eventually destroy the entire plant. If correcting the pansy’s watering schedule does not work, check the soil’s nutrients and sun exposure for other common care issues.