KUSA - If you're itching to plant something - anything - pick up some pansies. Expose them to outside conditions gradually. This is called "hardening off" and should be done with all plants that come out of a greenhouse.
I'm planting pansies in lightweight plastic bowls so that if night temperatures drop much below freezing I can bring them indoors. In general, however, pansies thrive in cool weather. The wild pansy - or viola - is native to England. We call it the Johnny-jump-up. All the modern, colorful pansies have been bred from this little viola.
Because the pansies need to develop quickly for a good show, plant them about 4 inches apart. Keep them moist and fertilize them weekly to bulk them up. Use a bloom booster fertilizer as they hit full size. Deadhead every few days so that the plants put energy into flower production, not seed production.
Pansies are at their best in spring and begin to suffer when it gets hot. They will perform better in summer at high altitudes. Planting them in shade doesn't help extend their season.
I like to plant just one color of pansy or viola in each bowl. I use these like throw pillows on the spring patio so they can be moved around and grouped to compliment other plantings. Pansies make good companions for tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs, as well as other cool-season annuals such as dusty miller, kale, dianthus, primroses, snapdragons and ornamental kale.
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