Archive for October 13th, 2010

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Growing Pansies for Winter Color

October 13, 2010

 

Pansies are one of those delightful annuals that can flourish in winter, spring, or summer. During cooler months, pansies add invaluable color spots in garden beds and in pots as they bring sunshine to dreary, grey days. Plant now in full sun and they will flower through April or until summer’s first hot days.

Most varieties are two-tone with the classic pansy-like face. The Crown Series, however, is a singular color without the traditional and oftentimes humorous feature, but just a beautiful. Regardless what variety, pansies promise to bring color influence to your winter beds.

A favorite of mine is the Majestic Giants. Their large flowers are an absolute show-off, like the star performer of a Las Vegas dance team. In fact, developed to have long stems for cut flowers, the Majestic Giants won the first All-American selections award for pansies. Most of us forget (me included) or don’t realize is that all pansies are good for cutting. Even the short-stemmed pansies are sweet in a shallow bowl of water placed on a coffee table or bathroom vanity. There’s nothing like fresh flowers indoors to perk up a cold winter day with the pledge of springtime ahead.

Although I’ve never eaten a pansy, or any other flower, pansies are eatable* and downright striking in a bowl of split-pea soup or fluttering about salad greens. Women, you probably won’t snag a man putting pansies in his food, but men, the women will adore you for the gesture. Most anyone, though, would enjoy colorful pansies frozen in ice cubes in a drink.

While pansies will give you months of blooming pleasure, they can get Rhizoctonia, a fungus in soggy soil that will cause pansies to suddenly wilt and die. Once this disease is in the soil, wait a couple of years before planting pansies in the infected area. (Put something else in their place.) Until then, try planting pansies in a different location. If you use a fungicide to prevent Rhizoctonia, check with a professional before planting and always follow the instructions on the label.

Helpful Hints:

  • Avoid buying pansies with yellow foliage and numerous blooms.
  • Choose stocky pansies with dark green foliage, buds, and few blooms.
  • Plant in well-drained soil to prevent stem and root rot. Watch for yellow leaves that die which is an indication of this.
  • Plant the crowns half an inch above the soil.
  • Plant alone as borders, blend with other border flowers, or as groups in front of low-growing shrubs.
  • Plant in pots around the edge of an upright plant placed in the middle, or in a strawberry pot.
  • In cooler climates plant in full sun. In hotter conditions, plant in full sun to part shade.
  • To promote root growth, cut off flowers and leggy stems after or just before transplanting.

  * Never consume any part of an indoor or outdoor plant or flower without knowledge of its history in relation to the use of pesticides or fungicides or if it is poisonus. Grow your own in a safe environment or buy from a certified organic grower. Check with your local poison control center before using flowers/plants in food. Here is a link to an informative website on edible flowers:  http://whatscookingamerica.net/EdibleFlowers/EdibleFlowersMain.htm

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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