Through decades of hybridizations, plant breeders are able to present hundreds of varieties of pansies (Viola spp.) for planting in fall that will persist until late spring. Pansies, with their large-sized flowers with five petals, prosper in moist, well-draining soil in full sun to partially shaded exposures. Feed with dilute liquid fertilizer weekly to greatly increase flower production in early spring.
Gardeners generally categorize pansies based on the size of bloom and their petal color combinations. Texas A&M University notes that the sizes of pansy flowers fall into three ranges: large (3 to 4 inches), medium (2 to 3 inches) and multiflora (1 to 2 inches). Smaller pansies often get called "Johnny jump-ups" or simply "violas" to differentiate them from the large-blooming "big" pansies. A plant series combines all the plants with similar qualities of different colors into a marketable collection. Each series differs in the number of colors and patterns available.
Selections of horned violets (Viola cornuta) commonly get called pansies, especially when their flowers grow larger than the size of a U.S. quarter. Small-flowering varieties gain the colloquial name "Johnny jump-ups" or simply violas. These plants tend to develop more of a tap root system and lots of flowers on the plant compared to producing fewer, larger flowers. Some horned violet series to consider: Rocky, Skippy XL and Sorbet. Wide ranges of flower colors and petal markings exist, from orange, blue and purple to tones of violet and burgundy-red.
Pansies often carry long, complex lineages in their breeding histories. These receive the ambiguous botanical name Viola x wittrockiana. Plant breeders in the United States and Europe develop new pansy varieties continuously at their production facilities, and any new flower colors or petal patterns make their way into garden centers. The Ernst Benary company of Germany created two worthwhile collections named Giant Forerunner and Inspire. The Dutch plant breeders at Kieft-Pro Seeds developed the Promise series. In the United States, Syngenta brought the Skyline and Patiola series of pansies and Ball Hort the Panola series.
Many other large-flowering pansies find favor with gardeners in different regions, all depending on their performance and what seeds greenhouses choose to grow and sell each market year. Other proven series of pansies include: Endurio, Delta, Accord, Dynamite, Karma, Matrix, Majestic Giant, XXL and Joker. Remember that new colorful varieties may be added to a plant series each year, so don't write-off an "old" series quickly. You never know what plant breeders will discover to dazzle the world of pansies.