Pansy Seed Sowing: Learn How To Plant Pansy Seeds

Pansy Seed Sowing: Learn How To Plant Pansy Seeds

By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)

Pansies are a long-time favorite bedding plant. While technically short-lived perennials, most gardeners choose to treat them as annuals, planting new seedlings each year. Coming in a wide array of colors and patterns, these harbingers of spring are readily available for purchase in most home improvement stores, garden centers, and nurseries. Gardeners looking to save money often consider starting their own pansy transplants from seed. Keep reading to learn about the care of seed grown pansies.

How to Plant Pansy Seeds

Pansies are cool season plants which grow best when temperatures are below 65 degrees F. (18 C.). This makes the plants ideal candidates for planting in fall and spring gardens. Knowing when and how to sow pansy seeds varies depending upon where the grower lives. With its larger blooms, this member of the viola family is surprisingly cold tolerant, often surviving temperatures below 10 degrees F. (-12 C.). Various germination methods will ensure a beautiful addition to home landscaping and decorative flower beds.

When growing pansies from seed, temperature is an important factor which must be regulated. Ideal germination temperatures range between 65 to 75 degrees F. (18-24 C.). While gardeners living in warmer growing zones may be able to sow seeds in the late summer for fall and winter blooms, those living in harsher climate zones may need to sow seed in spring.

Starting Pansies Indoors

Pansy seed propagation indoors is relatively easy. Start with a high-quality seed starting mix. Fill the plant trays with growing medium. Then, surface sow the pansy seeds into the tray, making sure that the seed comes into good contact with the soil.

Place the tray into a black plastic bag which does not allow light to pass. Place the tray in a cool location and check for signs of growth every couple days. Make certain the soil remains moist throughout the germination process.

Once seeds have germinated, move to a location with ample light until time to transplant into the garden. Remember, the hardy nature of pansies allows them to be transplanted in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Fall sown pansies can be transplanted as soon temperatures have started to cool in autumn.

Starting Pansies Outdoors

While direct sowing pansy seeds into the garden may be possible, it is not recommended. Gardeners without the space or required supplies for starting seeds indoors can still do so using the winter sowing method.

The winter sowing method uses recycled containers, such as milk jugs, to serve as “mini greenhouses.” Surface sow the pansy seeds into containers and place the containers outside. When time is right, the pansy seeds will germinate and begin to grow.

Seedlings can be transplanted into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring.

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Growing pansies from seed not easy

A. I'm afraid I'm one of those gardeners who just picks up a flat or two of pansies at the nursery because they are not as easy as, say, calendulas, from seed.

Cool darkness is needed for germination of pansy seed, with an ideal soil temperature between between 60 and 65 degrees. Sow seeds 1/8-inch deep in a clean seed flat or individual containers filled with a soilless germinating mix. Sprinkle the mix over the seed. Carefully water.

Since pansy seed must have darkness to germinate, it is a good idea to cover the seed flat with black plastic. Or cover with clear kitchen wrap, then place damp newspapers on top of the wrap. Check the moisture of the germination mix daily or at least every other day. Do not let the mix dry out mist to moisten.

Germination usually occurs in 10 to 20 days. Once tiny sprouts are visible, permanently remove the plastic/newspaper. Move the seedlings to a cool area where there is bright light. Transplant when seedlings have two sets of leaves. Move to a cool, sunny spot. Apply a diluted water-soluble fertilizer.

Q. We have moved into a house that is overgrown with shrubs. I would like to cut the azaleas back to 3 or 4 feet. They have lots of tall shoots. Should this be done after blooming in spring?

A. It is best to prune right after spring blooms, because azaleas set buds during the summer and pruning now would mean few or no blooms next spring. You could prune the shrubs down to 3 or 4 feet now, but you might consider just removing extra-leggy shoots to shape your plants. Then you'd still get flowers on the bulk of the shrub next spring.

Prune soon, however, rather than waiting until fall, because pruning promotes tender new growth that would be more susceptible to freeze damage. You can root those long shoots if you like or, of course, donate them to a compost pile.

Q. I am having a problem with my hamelia, or hummingbird bush. This is the first one I've had. I know that when weather cools, the leaves turn color and drop. It's doing that now, and all the full, beautiful leaves are going. Is there something I need to do that I may have overlooked?

A. Full sun will brighten hamelia foliage, and in fall the leaves can turn blood red. A freeze will burn the top, perhaps to the ground, but new growth should appear in spring.

While the sun may affect the coloring of your plant now, the leaves should not be dropping. Hamelia tolerates any soil that drains well, and, once established, it is drought-tolerant.

Does the soil in your bed stay wet too long after a rain? Some plants react to overly wet conditions by dropping their leaves. We did have that long wet spell before we shifted gears in late July to this awfully hot, dry period. A new, unestablished plant can show greater signs of stress with such fluctuations. Or perhaps your plant got too dry.

Sun, a well-draining soil and average water hopefully will restart your hamelia.

Q. My house faces northwest and has a planter box across the front. This gets direct west sun in the afternoon, and I need to know what I can plant in the box that would bloom, be decorative and pretty, yet take this direct sun. Right now I have aspidistra in it, and it looks awful. It always has yellowish tips. I am removing the aspidistra and want to start preparing the soil for new plants.

A. You're smart to improve the soil. Work in compost to improve texture and add nutrients. Sharp sand will improve drainage.

I suggest using two or three different types of plants -- if you have room. I recently saw a long, narrow bed with plants that were upright and those that spilled over a retaining wall. It sounds as though yours would be a similar situation.

You could use the low-maintenance evergreen giant liriope for fountainlike, upright growth, then add blue or white plumbago to spill over the sides. The giant liriope is much more attractive to me than the regular type we use for edging. It matures to 2 1/2 to 3 feet, forms dense, dark-green clumps and produces summer stalks of lavender flowers. The plumbago is a tough perennial with nonstop flowers late spring to frost. It will eventually get big, so you'll need to pinch it back in years to come, but it certainly is an easy plant.

Society garlic is another option. This perennial, as you may know, has grasslike foliage, green or variegated, and produces lavender blooms atop slender stems for months. It, too, is tough, once established. It will freeze back.

I also think the combination of giant liriope, `Indian Summer' rudbeckia (large, long-lasting, golden-yellow blooms) and `Solar Sunrise' coleus (burgundy, green, yellow and cream variegated foliage) is attractive late spring to frost.

You could add late-fall-to-spring color when the coleus dies out in winter and the rudbeckia goes dormant. Cool-season alternatives include alyssum, pansies or violas, petunias and trailing nasturtiums.

Q. My family has a place outside New Braunfels where there are several Texas mountain laurels. I have the seeds from the plants and have tried to propagate them with no luck. Any information would be great. -- L.K., Houston

A. Seeds generally are collected in late summer or fall when the pods begin to dry. If the seeds are stored in a cool, dry place, they will likely remain viable for several months, perhaps as long as three years. The seeds have a hard coat, and it's a good idea to file or nick the coat with a knife to encourage germination.

Seeds are planted outdoors after the soil has warmed. Or you can plant the seeds in individual pots that will accommodate a long root. Either way, the soil should be well-draining. Some gardeners drench the soil with a fungicide before sowing.

Jacaranda source: We've discovered another source for this tree. Great Western Growers, 10655 Stancliff in Houston, a wholesale nursery that is open to the public Saturdays and Sundays, has a limited number of 15-gallon jacaranda trees.


The Door Garden

Growing these pansies from seed was easy, and saved money!

Pansies are my favorite annual of the year. They bloom all fall and winter, and then really crank up for spring. I love them!

We had about a 50% success rate our first time growing pansies from seed. Not too bad, but we'll do better next time.

They’re also the most expensive annuals I plant, because I plant eight plants per square foot in my beds. Yep. I put two plants in each hole and plant each pair six inches apart. Try it one time and you’ll never want to plant them any other way. They completely cover the bed with mounds of gorgeous color for months.

So, I start my pansies from seed. Pansy seed is on the pricey side too. But, if you plant alot of pansies like me (20 flats or so a year), you can buy them in bulk. I got my seed this year from Hazzard’s Seed. It is a wholesale seed company that will sell to anyone. They have seeds in packages of 250 and 1000.

Pansies are easy to grow from seed, once you know the secret. Here’s how.

If you recycle your containers, be sure to wash them and dip them into a strong bleach and water solution, then rinse well. Fill them with a good potting soil, but not one with moisture crystals in it. (That will stay too wet and promote rot.) Press the soil firmly into the pot, leaving enough headroom for watering. Then sow the seed right on top of the soil. I sow into four inch pots and put two or three seeds per pot. That way I have my two plants for each hole already growing together. Water the pots very very well and let them drain for a good half hour. You want the soil to be thoroughly moist, but without water dripping out. Then put the pots into an airtight container: ziploc bag, saran wrap over the flat, inside a plastic box with a lid, under a plastic milk jug or softdrink bottle that have had the bottoms cut off, deli containers, etc. The idea is to create a mini greenhouse that keeps the moisture inside the box. Since I start so many seeds, I have invested over the years in clear plastic rubbermaid storage boxes that will hold a flat in each container. I set the flats in the lid and then the box becomes the dome.

Now, the secret. Put your pots inside their mini greenhouses in a cool, DARK place: a closet, under the bed, in a basement, etc. Start checking for germination in seven days. As soon as you see germination happening, move your plants out of their greenhouses and into a cool lighted place. I grow mine in my basement under flourescent lights. A bright window in an airconditioned house will work well too, just don’t put the plants too close to the window. Water amd give half strength fertilizer weekly until the plants are stronger and the temps outside cool enough. Harden the plants off and set them in the ground.

I planted twenty flats two weeks ago. The first ones germinated in seven days, and I have moved at least one whole flat into the light every day since then. I have three flats left that have not germinated yet. Although both seeds in a pot do not germinate at once, I move it into light when the first one does. The second seeds follow shortly thereafter. Naturally, there will be some skips. I filled one flat with soil and sowed extra seed in it so that I have some extras to move into any empty spots.

I normally plant my pansies in late October at the earliest, to mid November at the latest. The weather is cool enough for them (daytime highs below eighty), but there is still time for them to get established before the weather gets cold.

Here’s another great article on growing pansies from seed on a Blog in the U.K. and another by professional grounds keeper Glenn Bronner on starting lots of pansies from seed. Here is a Publication from NCSU on Commercial Production of Pansies.

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Growing Pansies: Care-free Cool Weather Color

For folks in milder winter areas, pansies are a great choice for seasonal color.

"I send thee pansies while the year is young, Yellow as sunshine, purple as the night Flowers of remembrance, ever fondly sung. By all the chiefest of the Sons of Light And if in recollection lives regret. For wasted days and dreams that were not true, I tell thee that the "pansy freak'd with jet" Is still the heart's ease that the poets knew. Take all the sweetness of a gift unsought, And for the pansies send me back a thought." Sarah Doudney

A fashionable Victorian flower, pansies were supposed to be the flowers of lovers. Legend has it that pansies could transfer the thoughts of sweethearts without spoken words. The word "pansy" is reported to be derived from the French, "pensee," which translates as "thought." When near pansies, it was believed that one could hear their lover's thoughts. They were a popular ingredient in "love potions", and have been written about by Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and many others.

Pansies are a popular cool weather flower. Here in the South, their cheery blooms make us smile through the dreary gray days of winter. A splash of color in an otherwise monotone landscape. Further north, they are the first transplants to make it to the garden centers. They are joyfully carried home by gardeners who are longing for a living spot of green, gold, and purple to herald the coming of Spring.

Technically a perennial plant, pansies are best used as an annual or a biennial. They are members of the large Viola family and their proper name is Viola x wittrockiana. Their first season tends to be their best, and they deteriorate in the heat of summer. Plan for using them in the cooler seasons. Most gardeners treat them as a half hardy annual, and replace them with more heat tolerant plants as the summer warms.

In the southern states, pansies are planted in September and October to give us color throughout the winter. Even in the Upper South, here in west Kentucky, pansies are planted. Freezes shut them down for a short period of time, but as soon as temperatures moderate, they spring back and bloom their heads off. They are quite popular across the Mid-south, and bloom continuously in areas such as Alabama and Georgia. Our cool, damp winters are perfect for these plants. When our blast furnace summers arrive, they shrink and fade away. Further north, they make an excellent mainstay to garden plantings. They are perfect for rock gardens, and are quite content in containers also.

Growing pansies from seed is not as simple as scattering a few in a pot of soil and waiting. The seeds germinate best in soil temperatures between 60 and 65 F. This means that the customary use of a heat mat is not necessary. They also require total darkness for germination. After sowing the seeds, sprinkle about 1/8" of seed starting mix over them, and cover the flats with a board or cloth. Check on the progress frequently. Germination can take between 10 and 20 days. Move the seedlings to a cool, bright area as soon as they emerge, taking care to keep the seedlings moist. They can be transplanted as soon as they have two sets of true leaves.

Pansies like sunny moist conditions. They bloom best when there is ample water, but do not tolerate wet feet. They are also heavy feeders, and a fertilizer formulated for blooming flowers should be applied every two or three weeks. Dead-heading your pansies will promote more blooms for a longer period of time. Few pests bother pansies, slugs are the worst. Use a recommended slug bait, or saucers full of beer to eliminate them. Aphids also like pansies, and an insecticidal soap will eliminate them.

Just be sure not to use pesticides if you are planning to use your pansies in the kitchen. Yes, the colorful blooms are quite attractive, and are also edible. They make a pretty garnish for salads, and blossoms frozen in ice cubes are quite nice for a luncheon. With a little imagination, pansy blossoms can be used in a number of ways in the kitchen. They make a beautiful addition to any Spring meal, even if only as a decoration.

When choosing pansy transplants at the garden center, pick plants that are just starting to show buds or blooms. Flats full of pretty flowers are usually the gardener's first instinct, but these plants are stressed in their small cell packs trying to produce blossoms. As hard as it is to wait, choosing the smaller, less colorful plants will pay dividends in the long run. The new transplants will be able to produce a better root system before having to support a great number of flowers. They will reward you with a bigger and better show in a few weeks.

Pansies are a lovely little flower with an interesting history. They have charmed people with their face-like markings, and their resilient determination to bloom in many conditions. The pansy is an excellent choice for cool weather blooms, and will happily reward you with color when many plants cannot. Spring is here! It's time for pansies!


Growing Pansies in Containers

With their trailing habit, pansies are very popular for containers and window boxes. They don't like soggy roots, so make sure to use a relatively loose, well-draining potting mix and a container with good drainage. A slow-release fertilizer added to the potting mix is a good idea. Pinch off leggy growth and deadhead regularly, and feed the plants with a balanced liquid fertilizer every few weeks.


Watch the video: How To Grow and Care For Pansies Everything You Need To Know