Pansies, also known by their scientific name, Viola x wittrockiana, are small, annual flowering plants that produce blooms during cool weather and add interest to the garden throughout fall, winter and spring. Popular bedding plants, pansies provide nectar for early and late-season butterflies, and their blooms are often cut for flower arrangements or dried for crafts. Gardeners value pansies for their ease of care, tolerance to the cold and showy flowers that appear in single or multiple shades of yellow, orange, red, white, pink, blue and violet, depending on the variety.
Site and Soil
Choose a planting site for pansies that receives full sunlight for optimal growth. Pansies can survive in partial shade, but growth and flowering will be reduced. Ensure the chosen site consists of well-drained, fertile soil for optimal growth. Apply a 2-inch layer of organic compost to the site and use a garden tiller to work it into the soil to further increase fertility and drainage. Plant pansies during fall, from mid-September until October, as plants grow best when night time temperatures are below 65 degrees F.
Watering and Mulching
Water pansies to a depth of 6 to 8 inches immediately after planting to bring plenty of moisture into contact with the root system and compact the soil. Apply water once every seven to 10 days to prevent the soil from drying out completely, as pansies require slightly moist soil to thrive. Pour the water directly over the soil instead of watering from overhead to reduce the risk of disease, as moist leaves are more susceptible to illness. Spread a 4-to-6 inch layer of mulch over the soil surrounding pansies immediately after planting to deter weeds, insulate the soil and gradually add nutrients as it decomposes. Begin the mulch at least 3 inches from the crown of the plants to allow plenty of air circulation. Replenish the mulch as necessary throughout the year. Pine straw, wheat straw and pine bark all make ideal mulch for pansies.
Fertilizing and Pruning
Fertilize pansies once every two months to provide enough nutrients for flower, root and foliage formation. Use a balanced, 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer at the rate described by the manufacturer for the best results. Water both before and after fertilizing to reduce the risk of root burn and release the nutrients into the soil. Remove dead and faded pansy flowers whenever possible to encourage the formation of additional blossoms. Pinch off the old flowers near their point of origin, or the area where the blossoms meet the stems, to minimize damage and reduce the risk of disease. Cut back overgrown stems any time of year to maintain a compact growth habit and improve visual appeal.