Pansies remain popular bedding plants and come in a staggering range of bright or pastel shades; including pink, blue, yellow, gold, orange, purple, violet, red, russet, white and even black. They are available in clear single shades as well as bi-colours. Many are painted with black blotches around a yellow eye, with lines radiating from the centre, like cat's whiskers. The flowers range in size from small to enormous, with petals that are soft and velvety and often ruffled and frilly. Varieties vary in growth habit, height and spread, so you are sure to find the perfect one to suit your needs.
Pansies and violas are perfect planted in hanging baskets and containers of all kinds and combine beautifully with spring flowering bulbs for a brilliant display. They also combine well with other annuals and make a delightful border to the vegetable, flower or herb garden.
Pansies and violas can be sown and planted in autumn or spring, but are not very heat-tolerant and therefore best if planted in autumn and winter. They are grown as annuals in South Africa but can be kept blooming for months and months if they are cared for correctly and protected from excessive heat and wind. In winter they grow best if planted in full sun but in warmer weather, they will last much longer in a cool, semi shaded position.
These delicate looking little plants are remarkably hardy to cold and frost, surviving freezing weather, even when they are in full bloom. In extremely cold regions, place a thick mulch of straw or bark chips around their roots to protect them from freezing. It is vital that pansies and violas are planted in very well-drained soil to avoid root-rot. They must be watered regularly but never overwatered. On frosty winter mornings they will droop as if they need water - don't water unless they are dry - as soon as the sun warms the earth your plants will perk up again. Also, never transplant your seedlings deeper than they were in their trays and ensure that no soil is covering the crown, or the plants will wilt and die. Pansies and violas need little further attention, beyond removing the dead flowers to prolong blooming and an occasional feeding with an balanced feeder like 3:1:5. They vary in height from about 15 to 20cm. Pansies must not be planted in the same soil season after season as harmful organisms can build up in the soil and eventually kill the plants.