Pansy – Viola wittrockiana hybrids (v. tricolor hortensis)

Pansies are the cultivated form of the native viola. There are many strains of pansies and violas available. Some have typical markings— a face in the middle of five, rounded petals, others are just one colour.

Single coloured pansies range from white, pale or dark blue, deep purple, rose, scarlet, clear yellow, ruby-red or a lovely bronze shade — with a yellow or white eye. Hybrids known as Fl hybrids have the greatest vigour and uniformity of growth habit. All pansies will flower freely when conditions are right. Depending on variety, this can be from February through until November.

Pansies can be divided into groups depending on the size of the flowers. Large-flowered kinds are mostly yellow, red or blue-violet with a characteristic dark face. These are usually spring blooming.

Small-flowered types are sometimes called bedding violas. They come in a huge range of colours but do not have dark faces. They bloom in summer and autumn.Pansy - Viola wittrockiana hybrids (v. tricolor hortensis)

Named hybrids are available. These are forms which are thought to be exceptional and this characteristic has been retained by taking stem cuttings.

Depending on variety the height varies from 10— 25cm (4-10in). Pansies usually have compact spreading growth at first, then become more upright as they begin to flower. Generally fast-growing, they will give colour for many months.

For summer flowers try Swiss Giants which have velvety flowers with distinctive markings.

Display ideas

Pansies grow well and will make a massed display in balcony boxes, tubs and other suitable outdoor containers. Set the small plants about 15cm (6in) apart and see that the container is in a position where it will receive the maximum amount of spring sunshine.

Use your imagination to plant up boxes, tubs and containers in many different ways. You will discover that they can be successfully combined with almost any other flowers.

Growing from seed

It is very simple and usually fairly inexpensive to buy young pansy or viola seedlings from a local garden centre from April onwards. They can be planted in window-boxes or containers on the patio at any time.

They will begin to bloom a week or two after planting and will continue to bloom until mid-autumn. However, if you have a greenhouse or cold frame you could sow the seeds yourself in the autumn. The seedlings need to be overwintered at a temperature of around 10°C (50°F). You could make a similar sowing in early spring, if you con-maintain a temperature of 10°C (50°F).

Sow the seeds thinly. When the seedlings are large enough to handle prick them out into ‘nursery’ trays and pot up singly when they are well-developed.

Pests And Diseases

Small, dark brown patches on the leaves which are faintly transparent at the edges are caused by a fungus.

Treatment: Spray with a fungicide and isolate from unaffected plants.

Crown rot is a fungus which attacks the crown, roots and stems. The plant will die as a result. Treatment: If you are able to treat the infection before it has spread too far, remove all affected parts of the plant. Treat remaining plants with a fungicide. Do not use soil which has been infected for planting new pansies.

Powdery mildew

Powdery mildew can be a problem in cool humid conditions. Treatment: Spray with a fungicide specifically designed to combat this. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.


Pansies are very easy to grow. Remove faded flowers to prevent seed production. High temperatures will result in leggy, soft growth.

  • Potting: Pansies will thrive in any fertile well-drained potting mixture. Do not overpot as this will result in lots of leaves and fewer flowers.
  • Water regularly and never allow the plants to dry out in between waterings.
  • Feeding: Feed fortnightly in the flowering period with a diluted liquid fertilizer. Foliar feeding (spraying the leaves with a liquid fertilizer) is a good pick-me-up during late summer.


  • Light: Pansies thrive in full sun as well as half-shade.
  • Temperature: Pansies enjoy cool temperatures — too much heat can make them pale and straggly. Temperatures from 100-15°C (50-60°F) are ideal.

Buying Tips

  • Pansies are sold at garden centres in pots as single plants or as seedlings in trays in early spring. Winter flowering varieties are usually on sale in late autumn.
  • For best results buy small compact plants. Avoid plants that are leggy and have withered yellow leaves.
  • Pansies have a two-year lifespan but are used as annual bedding plants. Sow your own pansy seeds for a bright spring display.

Dark-faced or plain, pansies, available in a wide range of colours, flower shapes and sizes, are a favourite choice for spring and summer planting on the patio.

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