15 Tips For Growing Pansies in Pots or Containers
Thinking of growing pansies in pots or containers this season? Anyone can throw pansies in a pot, but how do you get them to thrive? In this article, certified master gardener Laura Elsner walks through her top tips for growing beautiful pansies in pots or containers this season!
Pansies are one of my favorite flowers. They have big large faces and come in so many colors and patterns. These cool season flowers look great in borders and pop with color throughout garden beds. But have you ever considered adding them into your containers? Pansies grow great in containers under the right conditions.
Many gardeners will just drop pansies in pots and think that’s the end of their care. But there’s a little more that goes into thriving pansies versus those that end up dying off in a few weeks after potting. So what can you do to ensure your pansies will thrive once planted?
There are several basic actions you can take to ensure your pansies thrive in their containers. Keep on reading for some of my top tips to create beautiful containers using the mighty pansy flower.
Pick The Right Soil Type
To start off, let’s cover the basics. One of the most important factors for success with any plant is the soil.
Pansies grow best in light soil full of lots of organic matter. This is extra important when growing them in containers. Do not use soil from the garden. This is too heavy for containers and will not allow water to drain freely out of them.
Pansies hate being in soggy soil. Instead use an all purpose potting soil for containers. I reuse my potting soil. I will add some worm casting, or compost in to add nutrients, or I will add 6 inches of fresh potting soil.
Place The Container Morning Sun
Pansies like to be in part shade/part sun conditions. Too much sun will result in crispy fried blooms. Too little sun and they will be leggy and will not bloom. Shade from the harsh afternoon sun is best. Perhaps under a tree for dappled light. Or at an eastern exposure for early morning sun.
Pansies like water, but not too much. Its a delicate dance that you will eventually groove with.
When you first plant, water them daily. They might be drooping to the point you think they are dead. They are laying flat on the soil. But give them a big drink and they should perk back up. Unless they are crispy, that is the point of no return. After they have been established for a week or two they will require less water.
Water depends a lot on the size of your container and the sun conditions. They will tolerate more sun if they are getting extra water.
Also a large container of soil will hold more water than a tiny pot. So it’s hard to say exactly how often you’ll need to water your container pansies. I recommend checking them daily until you can determine how much they need.
Use a Balanced Fertilizer Bi-Weekly
Pansies are a flowering plant. It requires energy and nutrients to produce these flowers. By providing fertilizer to your containers, you will maximize the amount of blooms. In containers fertilizer is even more essential because they are growing in an enclosed space. I use an all purpose 20-20-20 fertilizer once every 2 weeks.
Choose the Right Container
I love pansies because they can be planted in almost any container. Play around with funky junk like old boots or shoes. Plant up a decoration like an old wagon. Or stick to a more traditional terracotta pot. The sky’s the limit really.
The only thing I will say, is make sure it has drainage. Pansies do not like sitting in soggy soil. Drainage can be added to pots by drilling some holes in it. Or use a nursery pot liner that you can pull out and dump pooling water.
The other thing to consider is size. Feel free to plant in tiny teacups if you want (this would look super cute!). But remember, tiny pots need to be watered more often. Especially if it is hot or if they are in a very sunny location.
They might need to be watered multiple times a day. If that isn’t something you want to commit to, choose a larger pot that can retain moisture longer.
Don’t Plant in the Wrong Season
Pansies are a cool season plant. They will wilt and fade in the hot sun. In cooler climates they should be planted as soon as the ground is workable. They can handle temperatures below 32F (0C) as well as frost and snow.
In hot climates they should be planted in the winter months. They will fry in the summer heat. But cool nights and days are perfect.
If you really want to push season with containers, plant them in containers that can be moved indoors to protect them from too hot or too cold temperatures.
Plant Them in Containers Properly
Pansies usually come from the garden centers in six pack cells or 4″ pots. They can get really rootbound in these pots depending how long they’ve been in them.
Start by gently squeezing them out of the container. If they are really rootbound, don’t tug on the top of the plant. You will pop the pansy right off. Wedge your fingers into the pot and pull the root ball out.
Then crack the root ball in half and in half again. This will help the pansy establish roots in the container. If you leave the root ball in a mat the roots will just continue to circle around itself and the pansy will struggle.
Then plant the pansy into the nice loos fluffy potting soil up to the crown the the plant. I plant them very tightly in containers. You can plant less and wait for them to grow, but I like planting them full right away. They don’t mind being crowded.
Deadhead When Necessary
This is probably the most important advice when it comes to pansies. The more you pick off the old flowers and seed pods, the more flowers they will produce. Pinch or snip off the flower and the stem back to the base of the plant.
I pinch everything that is even just starting to look sad. The more you pinch, the more flowers. I will also keep them pinched in if they are starting to get leggy and long. You can be fairly aggressive when trimming, as they will frequently grow back.
Watch Daily For Pests
Healthy pansies will usually remain pest-free throughout their season. If you are battling with pests on your container pansies, I would look into why they are in a weakened state leaving them susceptible to pests. Make sure they are in the right soil, getting a good amount of light and getting enough, but not too much water (read sections 1-3).
But if you have pests, they can be dealt with and then hopefully prevented next time.
I find aphids to be the most common pest on container plants, including pansies. I usually start by giving them a good spray off with the hose and wiping them off by hand. Next I move on to using an insecticidal soap weekly, or as directed.
Sometimes if the pests become too much of a problem, I will pull the plants out of the containers and start again depending on how much of the season is left.
Watch For Powdery Mildew
The most common disease I find in containers is powdery mildew. Since containers are tight spaces sometimes it is hard to get adequate airflow.
The best way to deal with powdery mildew is by preventing it. Start by making sure your they are getting enough light. If they look leggy and aren’t blooming there is a good chance they need more sun.
They are more susceptible to powdery mildew if they are kept in too shady conditions. Watering is the next thing. Make sure you do not overwater. Yellowing at the base is a sign of too much water. Also, avoid constantly spraying the foliage (as much as possible). Constantly wet foliage is a breeding ground for mildew.
If your they do get powdery mildew, use a copper fungicide to get rid of it. Or, if it’s late in the season I will just dispose of them and then replace them.
Plant Them Alone in a Container
Pansies serve a role in a container planter. It is important to plant them in a container in such a way so that they do not get lost in the container.
Plant them alone in a container. This is a great way to showcase the pretty faces of pansies. Plant them in small containers, or perhaps in ‘funky junk’ like an old pair of boots or a teacup.
Plant them as part of a container arrangement. They make a great filler plant in containers that have a thriller (large focal point), and spiller (a trailing plant such as ivy). I will usually stick to a single variety to create a real pop of color. Or maybe two bold complementary or contrasting colored pansies to create a pop. I avoid using too much of a mixture as they tend to look jumbled and get lost.
Avoid planting them behind larger plants, and avoid planting just one pansy in a large arrangement. They will get lost in the container. Plant a group of bold colored pansies for maximum impact.
Pack Your Containers
I am a stuffer when it comes to containers. This is common for gardeners that live in a very short growing season. I like things looking as full on the first day as they do on the last day. Because of this, I tend to plant a lot of pansies into my containers.
This isn’t necessary, you can plant fewer into a container and let them fill in. Or plant small pansies, which are cheaper, and let them grow. They will grow and fill in within a few weeks.
Odd numbers are more attractive when planting a grouping in a container. I like three, five, or seven. Our brains will automatically group even numbers into two sets of twos or three sets of three if we plant four or six. But odd numbers just appear to be a ‘bunch’ for our brains and are more pleasing to look at.
Pick Visually Stunning Varieties
I love how many unique varieties of pansies there are. Some of the intricate details and whiskers on their floral faces. While others are a crystal clear color. Here are a few of my favorites:
‘Matrix True Blue’
I love this solid periwinkle blue hued flower with a small yellow eye. It is a bold pop of color, perfect for containers. Pair them with Matrix Yellow for a lovely pastel spring themed container.
‘Black Accord Pansy’
This is a pure velvety black flowering pansy with a small yellow eye. It is eye catching and different. It gives containers a modern twist.
‘Cool Wave Frost’
The Cool Wave series features a spreading habit. They can trail and spill out of containers. It is definitely a fun variation to add to containers as the flowers spill delicately out. The frost variety have light periwinkle upper petals that fade to white flower petals. They also have the classic whiskers around their yellow eye.
If you are planting for fall consider this variety. They come in rich reds and yellows, perfect for fall. But what makes them really unique is the fish net or tiger stripes all over their petals. It’s very unique and sure to attract attention to your container designs.
Pair Them With Friendly Companions
Pansies do look great on their own, but pairing them with other plants can really bring your containers to the next level.
A pansy’s role in a container is generally a filler plant. This means that they look great with a thriller, which is the main eye catching plant. Along with the spiller, which is the trailer plant that spills down the edges of a container.
They also prefer part sun containers, meaning they don’t care for too hot of weather. So plant them with plants that like the same cool, part shade conditions.
Dracena is probably my favorite pansy companion. Its strong spikes shape provides the perfect contrast to light and airy texture. I will add some lysimachia or ivy as a spiller and it is a simple pot.
I also like throwing them into mixed containers. They add a quick pop of color to containers filled with other flowering plants such as verbena and petunias. Pair that with a dracaena or fountain grass or some other filler that adds structure for a gorgeous pot.
I did a container with pansies and a canna lily that looked spectacular. The small vibrant pansy flowers hovered magically underneath the large leaf of the canna lily.
I will also use majesty palms as a thriller with pansies underneath providing delicate flowers. Try using white flowering pansies or violas, red begonias and a palm in the center for an elegant combo.
Get Creative With Containers
There are so many ways to play with pansies in containers. They are one of my favorite plants to work with in containers. You can really play with the container itself, the colors, and the theme when planting pansies in containers.
They grow really well in just about any container. As I outlined above, as long as they are getting the right amount of water, just about any container can work. I love funky junk containers in my garden. I’ve used shoes, teacups, wheelbarrows. I’ve transformed my kid’s old toys into planting vessels.
Such as an old toy dump truck, or a doll’s head. I have an old wishing well that I love having pansies pour out of. Just about any vessel you can think of, a pansy will grow and look cheerful. So look around for funky objects at yard sales and thrift stores.
I also love playing with the colors when planting them. They come in so many contrasting and complementary shades. Beautiful pastel spring Easter shades are an easy one when it comes to pansies.
Baby blue, purple, and yellow all look soft and springy in an arrangement. Clip some tall pushy willows and place them in the center of the pot for some height, then layer the Easter color pansies underneath for an easy spring arrangement. For an easy fall arrangement place yellow and red colored pansies along with some gourds and euphoria or heather.
For a really modern twist on an old-fashioned favorite try color blocking the bold varieties. Try matrix white combined with black accord to create a black and white chessboard pattern.
Pansies are a perfect flower for containers. They don’t take up too much space and they have a profusion of flowers. They are easy to care for, and are easily replaced if they don’t do well for any reason. Play around and have fun mixing and matching them in all sorts of containers all throughout your cool season!