Pansies in bloom.
image by Bianca de Blok: sxc.hu
Bright pansies have long been planted in baskets, borders and beds to add a variety of colors to gardens. They are cold tolerant, so their blooms will survive long into winter, and possibly all the way into the following spring. They survive in freezing temperatures down to the single digits. While most pansies will survive cold temperatures with proper care, planting varieties known for their winter hardiness will ensure success. While you can plant pansies from seed, nursery-grown plants fare better in the winter landscape, as they are mature enough to handle the colder temperatures.
Choose a bed in full-to-partial sun with rich, well-draining soil. Elevate the bed 3 to 6 inches by working compost into the area before planting.
Plant your pansies in the autumn once temperatures are steadily in the 45-to-65 degrees F range. Avoid establishing new plants in the ground once temperatures dip below freezing.
Space plants 6 to 10 inches apart. Plant so the crown of the plant---where the leaves emerge from the central stem---is at soil level, but not buried.
Water the beds thoroughly after planting. Allow the soil to dry slightly between watering during the cold months.
Mulch around each plant with a 2-inch layer of straw or small bark mulch. Avoid covering any foliage with mulch.
Cover the pansy plants completely with a 2-to-4 inch layer of straw mulch during extended cold spells of 20 degrees F, or lower.
Fertilize with a nitrogen-rich, liquid fertilizer every two weeks until temperatures remain above 60 degrees F. Use a slow-release fertilizer once warm weather returns.
Snip off spent flowers and those damaged by frost weekly. Regularly remove all dead stems and leaves, and any other plant detritus from your garden.