The Common Mistake That’s Sure To Kill Your Pansies (& What To Do Instead)

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The Common Mistake That's Sure To Kill Your Pansies (& What To Do Instead)

Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are a type of viola hybrid. They are a popular choice for cool-season gardens due to their beautiful colors and sweet faces. Although pansies are not challenging to grow and are surprisingly cold-hardy, they need proper care to thrive. Consistent watering is essential for their growth, and neglecting it can cause them to die.

Pansies grow best in cool temperatures ranging between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. They start to grow when temperatures begin to drop. These plants are generally grown as either spring or fall annuals, but some varieties may return or self-seed. Therefore, it’s common to find pansies growing in unexpected places. Pansy plants are small, rarely growing over 1 foot tall and wide, which makes them perfect candidates for containers, hanging baskets, and the front of gardens. However, they generally die back once summer temperatures begin to rise. To extend their growing season, consider planting them in part shade.

Avoid under or overwatering pansies

person planting yellow pansy

Michkasova Elena/Shutterstock

Pansies thrive in moist and cool soil. When they’re grown in the landscape, pansies generally require about 1 inch of water per week, either from rain or other types of irrigation. Plants grown in containers or hanging baskets usually need to be watered more often. Water your plants when the soil 1 inch below the surface has dried out. Be sure to water thoroughly, particularly if you are trying to rehydrate very dry potting mix.

While pansies grow best in moist soil, they are also prone to root diseases including black root rot (Thielaviopsis basicola), so it is essential not to overwater them or allow them to sit in waterlogged soil. If you are growing pansies in containers, be sure the pots have enough drainage holes to allow water to flow freely. Signs of root rot include wilting, yellowing leaves, and eventually death. Because most diseases that cause root rot are contagious and soil-borne, consider relocating any plants sharing a container with a plant with root rot.

Amend your soil as needed to prevent watering problems

watering pansies

rigsbyphoto/Shutterstock

Growing your pansies in well-draining soil goes a long way toward preventing root rot and ensuring that your plants won’t be sitting in waterlogged soil. Add compost or other organic material to your soil to improve drainage if necessary. While you may have heard of adding rocks to the bottom of planters to improve drainage, this has actually been found to encourage root rot and isn’t recommended. Pansies are more prone to root disease when the growing medium’s pH is over 6.0 so be sure to test your soil’s pH and ensure it is sufficiently acidic for pansies.

Adding compost and organic matter doesn’t just help soil that drains too slowly — it can also help soil that dries out too quickly hold onto more water. Additionally, consider spreading 2 inches of mulch on top of the soil to limit the water lost to evaporation. Mulch also helps to keep the soil cooler, which may help extend your pansies’ growing season.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.