Caring for Pansies During the Winter Season

— Written By and last updated by Tamara Carawan
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picture of white and purple pansy

Article credit: Jessica Strickland, Horticulture Agent Wayne County

Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are a remarkable winter annual, capable of surviving temperatures down to the single digits, freezing solid, then bouncing back with vigor when warm weather returns. Pansies are planted by the millions in the Southeast and are one of the top-selling bedding plants for landscapes.

Pansies are usually planted in our area from late October through November. These tough little plants do best in well-drained soils which can reduce chances of disease or root rot. Incorporating organic matter, like compost, into the soil before planting can improve soil and allow for better drainage.

Just because it is winter, does not mean you should forget about watering pansies during dry spells. However, it is just as important not to over water plants, which can quickly encourage disease problems. A good rule of thumb to remember is to water any time we have less than an inch of rain in a week. Avoid watering pansies in evenings or late afternoons because this does not allow enough time for the water to dry off of leaves before nightfall. This can promote disease development by exposing plants to longer periods of humid growing conditions that encourage growth of pathogens.

Fertilizing pansies is important to helps plants flourish during the winter. Options for fertilizing pansies include slow-release (organic or granular coated products) and water soluble (mix easily into water, inorganic) types of fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizers allow nutrients to be released into the soil over a longer period of time, while water soluble nutrients are in a form that plants can utilize immediately after application. Slow-release fertilizers can be applied in two applications, once at planting and again midway through the growing season. Water soluble fertilizer should be applied every 1 to 4 weeks. Remember to always refer to the fertilizer label for directions on correctly applying fertilizer.

There are a couple of additional hints that can make your pansies perform well. One is to mulch around pansies to reduce weed problems and to help conserve moisture in the soil. Also, do not forget to deadhead pansies during the growing season. Deadheading is the simple process of removing old flowers. Removing the old flowers allows the plants energy to be redirected back into producing more flowers instead of producing seeds. Deadheading pansies will encourage greater bloom production over the long winter season.

Following a few basic practices like proper watering and fertilizing, can allow you to successfully grow pansies throughout winter until warmer weather arrives in the spring. To learn more about growing pansies you might consider reviewing this Clemson University Extension note, Pansies and Johnny-Jump-Ups Factsheet. This South Carolina note is applicable to our region and contains additional information on growth and variety selection. Additionally, if you would like to learn more about controlling weeds in annual pansy beds, you can review the NC State Extension note, Weed Control in Pansy Beds.

If you have additional questions or would like more information on growing pansies, then contact Daniel Simpson at 252-745-412 or