Start Your Pansies NOW! – Pinetree Garden Seeds

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We’ve still got too much snow to think about outdoor gardening here in Maine, but that makes it the perfect time to get going on your seed starting… flowers in particular! Here’s a little info on a type of flower that should be started nice and early in your growing season… Pansies!

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Pansies are one of the most beloved flowers in the world, and are fairly easy to grow. The name ‘pansy’ is traced back to France, where it derives it’s name from the French word pensée, which means “thought”. It all began with a small wildflower from Europe called the viola (viola tricolor), commonly called the Johnny Jump Up. What we know as pansy today came about in the early 1800’s in England by curious gardeners, crossing various viola species.


The gardener of an English estate, William Thompson, is credited with creating the cross of violas, the pansy ancestor. Its ancestor is said to have been the cross of a yellow viola, a wide petaled yellow viola, and a blue species from Russia. The large flowered pansy has come from by selecting plant for colors and flower size. The face-like blotches on the petals originally were not so big, just lines of dark color on the petals. When the first bloom with the large blotch was discovered, it was named “Medora”. It quickly became very popular in Europe with gardeners and breeders, and by the mid-1800’s breeding increased, creating stronger more vigorous plants and clear flowers without “faces”. 50 years later, by the late 19th century, they were seen in American seed catalogs in the late 1800’s and popularity soared.

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There are over 250 cultivars on the world today, coming in shades of yellow, gold, orange, violet, red, white, and close to black. Pansies offer one of the widest ranges of color available in flowers grown annually in gardens. The Swiss Giant is an old-fashioned European pansy bred in Switzerland. Many of today’s hybrid varieties were developed from Swiss Giant.


There is a common misconception that pansies and violas are the same thing. Both are edible, and both belong in the genus violas, where violas are the ancestors to pansies. The differences between the two are as follows:

  • Native to the northern hemisphere, violas have about 500 species with about 60 of them are native to the US

  • Viola flowers are smaller compared to pansies

  • Pansies have a more compact growth than violas

  • Pansies have large blooms and blooms less often with distinctive blotches or markings

  • Pansies have 4 petals that point upward, and viola have 3 upward and 2 downward.

  • Violas fill in garden spaces quicker, have many more flowers

    876 Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Viola - low

Growing pansies at home is very easy!

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  • Start 6 weeks or more before transplanting out, sow ⅛ deep and provide 65-70 degrees; cover lightly. Can take 7-14 days to germ. Keep moist, place under bright light and keep in a cooler area of 60 degrees. Transplant after 2nd set of leaves appear.

  • Requires full sun to partial sun (hotter areas) and well-drained soil

  • They are perennials (hardy zones 4-8) and are mostly grown in temperate climates. Can be grown as an annual or biennial, as due to selective human breeding pansies now can bloom in 8-10 weeks, where its ancestors needed a full year to do this.

  • They are not heat tolerant. Too much heat and humidity inhibit blooming. Provide plenty of water and mulch.

  • To keep progressive blooming, you should fertilize every 2 weeks and deadhead by pinching the flowers with their stems off.

    76301 Pastel Wave Pansy Mix - low

The fragrant and edible blooms of the pansy can have mild fresh flavor or even hints of wintergreen. Whole flowers have a stronger flavor than single petals, and they contain vitamins A and C. Pansies can be used to make syrup, flavored honey and salads. Both the leaves and flowers can be used as a garnish, and can be candied for cakes and desserts. Be sure to grow them yourself to ensure they are clean and free of chemicals.

763 Berries and Cream Pansy Mix - low


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