Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall Planting Deadline for Pansies and Violas

To grow pansies successfully, follow this four- step program. Start with: 1. Purchasing healthy plants, 2. Planting by mid-October or earlier, 3. Watering in the fall and winter as needed, and 4. Fertilizing monthly through the winter and spring months.

Shop for vigorous dark green plants at local greenhouses and garden centers. Closely inspect for lots of white growing roots. Don’t buy short or spindly seedlings or those with yellowing leaves. Purchase sturdy 1801 plants (18 - 3 ½” plant cells per tray) or larger pots. Small pansies tend to be more disease susceptible. To avoid deadly root rot diseases in garden soils, move pansy/viola beds every three years.

Over much of the Southern Appalachian region (USDA zones 6-7), the completion date for planting pansies and violas is October 15th. Back up a week or two earlier if planting in gardens at higher elevations. An earlier fall planting date allows plants adequate time to root down into the warm autumn soil. Deeply rooted plants bloom heavier through the fall and winter seasons.

Large sized plants start off quickly and fall-winter flowering is better. Deeply rooted pansies and violas provide better anchorage, which prevents a chance of winter freeze heaving. Once soil temperatures drop below 45°F, plant growth slows and flower numbers decline.

There are many series of pansies and violas to choose in colors ranging from white, yellow, pink, red, and purple shades. Color patterns may be clear, blotched or picotee. Four popular pansy series are Delta®, Matrix®, Panola®, and Majestic Giant ll™. Among the popular viola series are Sorbet®, Rocky™, Penny™ and Velour™.

Prepare the garden bed or containers prior to planting. Pansies should be planted in well-drained, organically rich garden soil or container media mix. An acidic soil pH ranging between 5.2 - 5.8 avoids natural deficiencies in iron and manganese. Adding lime to pansy beds is usually unnecessary unless recommended after a soil test. Pansies thrive in full sun to partial shade. Plants grow more compact and bloom heaviest in full sun.

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