Are you feeling adventurous this spring? Want to add a splash of color to your flowerpots?
Get to know pansies!
They’re an early spring flower you can plant to add a BIG pop of color to your Colorado garden — especially if you’re ready to kiss winter goodbye.
You may be thinking, “Wait, can I plant flowers in pots in March? It seems a little early.”
You can plant pansies in March, April and May in most of Colorado, even though we can still get snow and yo-yo temperature swings. (Weird, right?)
If you live in another western state, your timing may vary just a little, but timing aside, all these tips apply!
Pansies can handle cool temperatures.
They’re surprisingly tolerant of our wacky spring weather.
Typically, March and April are good times to start planting pansies at our lower elevations in Colorado.
If you live in the mountains, I’d probably wait until May, depending on how cold your temperatures are and how much snow you have.
What growing conditions do pansies like?
Pansies grow well in dirt (or “soil” in garden lingo) that drains well and is rich in nutrients.
In western states with intense sunlight like Colorado, a great spot to plant your pansies is a patio, front porch or garden that faces east. Look for a spot that gets morning sunlight.
If you’re planting pansies in a spot that gets afternoon sunlight, find someplace that gets some shade too (like a western-facing porch that has some cover).
I plant my pansies in a western-facing garden that gets afternoon sunlight, but as soon as temperatures heat up, they start looking stressed. I would likely get a little more mileage out of them in an east-facing garden.
Here’s what to do when you bring your pansies home.
It’s a good idea to help your pansies adjust to outdoor conditions — chilly temps, wind and sunlight — before you plant them.
Chances are they’ve been growing in a cozy, warm greenhouse. They’ve been living large in spa-like conditions, and they’re tender. Gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions can help them toughen up. Otherwise, they may struggle.
Think of this like preparing for the start of ski & snowboard season. Sure, you could hit the slopes without getting your legs ready, but if you haven’t been working out, your legs are going to be ON FIRE after your first day out! You may be too sore to ski the next day.
If you cross-train first, your muscles will be in much better shape.
The same is true with pansies. Give them a little cross-training before you plant them.
In garden lingo, this is known as “hardening off” or “acclimating” your plants.
Here are ways to gradually introduce your pansies to the outdoors on days above freezing.
If this sounds intimidating or like a lot of work, just do what you can do. You’ve got this!
- Put your pansies outside in a protected spot for a few hours. What’s a protected spot? Look for someplace that doesn’t get direct sunlight and is sheltered from the wind, like a covered porch right up next to your home.
- Then, bring them back inside or into an attached garage. To make it easier to move your flowers in and out of your home, you can put them in an open Amazon box, a laundry basket, etc.
- Give them a little more exposure to wind and sunlight each day as the week goes by. For example, add an hour each day. You’ll build up their endurance and “harden off” your pansies, so they’re ready for planting. (If you head to a job during the day, no worries! It’s all about getting creative. Start cross-training your pansies on the weekend. Then, if you’re going to leave them out all day during the week, start with protected spots.)
- Try to keep your pansies from getting dried out. They like moist soil. If you pick them up and they feel light in your hand, they may need a little water. But if you see a few leaves turning yellow and they feel heavy when you pick them up, they may be getting a bit too much water. 🙂
I know this may take some effort, but it’s worth it. Do the best you can do!
And think about ways to make it easier — like scheduling reminders on your phone or setting an alarm to remind you to bring your pansies back inside. (That alarm can be so helpful for remembering.)
Before you plant your pansies, keep your eye on the temps. If the weather forecast shows multiple days when temperatures are going to dip well below freezing, hold off on planting them until you get through that cold spell.
Pansies can handle cold temps, but they DO have their limits.
Pansies that are healthy and have been planted a while can usually handle quick dips into the teens and single digits.
But newly-planted pansies can be more sensitive.
After a warm, sunny day in Colorado in the early spring, it’s easy to forget how cold it can get at night, so watch those nighttime temps.
While newly-planted pansies can usually tolerate a light frost, it helps to protect them (keep them warm) if your temperatures are going to drop below freezing.
Pansies don’t like hot weather.
Let’s say you live someplace with blazing hot summers, like our lower elevations in Colorado and Utah.
When temperatures start to rise, it’s a good idea to replace your pansies with flowers that are happier in the heat. Think of this like changing out your wardrobe from your spring clothes to your summer clothes.
For example, when summer arrives, I replace the pansies in my western-facing garden with spreading petunias, which can handle the hot afternoon sun.
Do you have to replace your pansies?
Nope … but they’ll probably stop blooming in the heat, and they may look stressed.
(Translation: They won’t look very good!)
Pansies are treated as “annuals” in western states like Colorado.
This means you’ll enjoy them for one growing season, but it’s unlikely they’ll return next year.
Hey, want more color from your flowerpots?
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