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Pansies

Pansies are probably the easiest flower to grow. So they're a great choice for a children's garden.

Pansies are part of the violet family. They have bold, beautiful colors and often two tones, which makes them highly sought-after for a fancy splash of color in the garden.

They are able to survive outside in cool spring weather, alone among annual flowers. Mostly, in early spring, only crocus, daffodils and tulips can withstand low night-time temperatures, but pansies are hardy right there with them.

Pansies are typically the first annual flowers planted in the spring, since they are able to survive, and since they come in so many colors, you'll often see them in containers on people's front porches in late March and April, before all the other annual flowers get going.

Pansies are also some of the longest-lived plants in the fall garden. They can survive a light frost and keep growing into October, though a hard freeze will kill them, and then you can pull them out and put them in your compost pile and start planning next year's pansy patch.

You can purchase pansies in April in a garden store, loosen the soil a few inches down and plant them in a container or the ground, water them just a little, and enjoy care-free color for six months.

For an even more economical pansy show, you can start pansies from seed six to eight weeks before the last frost in your area, which in Omaha is mid-May. So start pansy seeds in mid- to late March.

Cover lightly with a scant 1/8" of soil. Water thoroughly, but water just once. A heated germination mat is a great idea for pansies and other delicate seeds started indoors. Germination will take quite a few days, but you can help it along by keeping your flat of pansy seeds on the dryer or other extra-warm place.

Germination is keyed to soil temperature more than light, so you don't even really need a light source for your pansies until they're up. At that time, a hanging grow light right above your seedlings will help them grow.

Whether you have decided to sow your pansy seeds outdoors when all danger of frost is gone, or are transplanting your seedlings, or purchased starts from a garden store, where and how should you place your pansies?

§  In full sun or partial shade.

§  Pansies don't like heat, so partial shade is probably the best idea for Nebraska's hot summers.

  • Space them 6" apart or a little closer if you're planting in a container.

  • Plant with a good general-purpose fertilizer, and re-fertilize once a month during the growing season.

  • Water them in on planting day, and two or three times a week for the first two weeks.

  • Pinch off spent blooms to encourage new blooms, and make the plant look nice.

By Susan Darst Williams • www.KidsGardenClub.org • Plants 01 © 2010

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