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Growing Pansies

Hi, I have a problem with my pansies. Some have turned yellow and are trying to die. What can I do? I’ve got a sort of sandy clay soil, but I mixed a gardening soil with it and fed them with a recommended fertilizer; a time release pellet. Thank you.

Pansies, Viola x wittrockiana, are charming plants that bloom in colorful profusion with cheerful faces. They are mildly fragrant and even edible. They brighten containers on the porch or patio or next to the entrance of your home and depending on where you live, bring color to your garden during fall, winter and spring.

Because they are not heat tolerant, spring pansies will not over-summer well in the south and are best used as a cool season planting. In warm regions they are most often planted in the fall. They will grow throughout winter, blooming whenever the weather is favorable and then really take off in spring. A 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch to prevent the ground from freezing will help protect them during freezes and cold snaps.

In colder zones they may not persist during extended cold weather and they will not over-winter so planting is done in the spring through the early summer, until temperatures get too warm.

Without seeing your plants it’s hard to diagnose the problem, but here are some general guidelines to follow that should lead to success.

If you are planting pansies in the fall, wait until temperatures cool down. Plants weakened by heat may not recover enough to be as beautiful as they can be.

Plant your pansies in full sun to partially shaded places. Lanky plants are an indication that the light levels are too low.

They prefer a loose, organic, slightly acidic soil that is cool, rich, moist, and well-drained. A natural, slow release fertilizer such as blood meal or compost can be added into the soil as you are planting.

Mulch around your pansies with 2 inches of organic material such as pine straw or pine bark to help conserve moisture, reduce wilting during the heat of the day and keep weed growth in check.

When you water try not to get moisture on the leaves of the plants.

Pansies are heavy feeders and benefit from a monthly application of a liquid fertilizer. Be sure to follow the package directions.

Root rot, leaf spot, powdery mildew, and bumpy growths on the stems are all conditions of too much water caused by the plants either being overwatered or in too wet of an environment. Make sure that the soil is allowed to dry slightly between watering. In areas that grow them over the fall and winter you may not need to water them much once the cooler weather sets in. If you notice that the leaves are purplish colored, that is a sign of stress, usually from the cold.

In addition to moisture related diseases the usual pests need to be watched for ¬ aphids, mites and slugs. Insecticidal soaps and slug traps are the best organic defenses.