They’re the quintessential cool weather flower, so can you grow pansies in winter? The answer is that it depends on where you live. Gardens in zones 7 through 9 may get some cold winter weather, but these little flowers are hardy and can persist through cold spells and add color to winter beds.
Growing Pansies in Winter
Whether or not you can successfully grow pansies outdoors in winter depends on your climate and winter temperatures. Areas much further north than zone 6 are tricky and may have winter weather that kills pansies. When the temperature gets down to about 25 degrees F. (-4 C.), flowers and foliage will begin to wilt, or even freeze. If the cold snap doesn’t last too long, and if the plants are established, they’ll come back and give you more blooms.
Pansy Winter Care
To ensure that your pansies will persist throughout the winter, you need to provide good care and plant them at the right time. Established plants are better able to survive. Pansy cold tolerance starts at the roots and they need to be planted in soil that is between 45 and 65 degrees F. (7-18 C.). Plant your winter pansies at the end of September in zones 6 and 7a, in early October for zone 7b, and the end of October in zone 8. Pansies will also need extra fertilizer in the winter. Use a liquid fertilizer, as it will be more difficult for the plants to take up nutrients from granular fertilizers in the winter. You can use a formula specific for pansies and apply it every few weeks throughout the season. Winter rains can prove to be damaging to pansies, causing root rot. Use raised beds where possible to prevent standing water. Keep weeds at bay by pulling them and by using mulch around the pansies. To get more flowers out of the winter season, trim off dead blooms. This forces the plants to put more energy into producing flowers instead of producing seeds.
Pansy Cold Protection
If you do get an unusual cold snap, like 20 degrees F. (-7 C.), for a few days or longer, you can protect the plants to prevent them from freezing and dying. The simplest way to do this is to pile on a couple inches (5 cm.) of pine straw to trap in the heat. As soon as the cold weather is over, rake off the straw. As long as you provide your pansies with good winter care and you don’t have weather that is too cold, you can successfully grow these cheerful flowers throughout the winter as you wait for spring to arrive.
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Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.
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