How to Care For Pansies – The Full Guide

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Pansies show early in the season, which brings much-needed color to your beds and borders in spring before everything else wakes up. The growing season for pansy isn’t long but they are lovely flowers to kick off your gardening for the year. Nothing brightens up a garden after winter than a flush of bright pansies blooming in the garden beds. We have the full guide on how to care for pansies so you can grow healthy vibrant pansy plants in your gardens.

pansy flowers isolated on white background

Grow Pansies in the right environment

As it is with almost every flower, the trick to growing Pansies is to ensure the proper environment for the flowers to thrive. Pansies make excellent bedding plants and with proper care will produce colorful flowers all season long.

You can get pansies in a wide variety of colors, with some plants displaying multiple colors per flower.


The pansy is an annual plant (or biennial, depending on variety) that grows best in regions where the summers are cool, making them a great flower for Northern gardeners. They will survive the cold weather if covered well with mulch or dry leaves, all the way down to around -10 degrees Celsius, or 15 degrees Fahrenheit.


Pansies like the sun, but they don’t like to get too hot. If you are in a climate with cool summers they can be planted in full sun, but otherwise, plant pansies in partial shade. In very hot areas you may have better luck planting pansies in your shade garden.


Pansies will thrive in rich, well-draining fertile soil high in organic matter. A 2:1 loam/peat moss mixture works well. Ideal soil PH should fall between 6 and 8.

Planting Pansies

Pansies are early spring bloomers. As the air starts to heat up in early summer, the pansy starts to decline, so it’s best to start off in early spring with healthy well-grown plants. This means either purchasing grown plants from your local garden center or sowing at the end of fall for the following spring.

Growing pansies from seed is easy, the tricky part is the timing. You need to sow those seeds at the end of summer to give them a bit of time to grow before winter sets in.

Pansies viola tricolor flower in plastic pot, isolated on white

Planting out established pansies

If you purchase plants from a garden center, choose plants with tightly closed buds that are short and bushy. Pansies have a very fine, fibrous root system, so go gentle when removing them from their pots. Just before planting time pinch off any flowers to encourage the plant to put its effort into establishing roots.

planting seeds outdoors

If you want to grow pansies outdoors from seed, choose a well-draining or mounded bed to avoid any possible standing water. The best time to sow seeds is in late fall, then cover with enough soil to keep them in darkness through the winter months. Cover with hay or dry leaves, and uncover in spring. If you live in warmer zones, you can plant in late summer. Seedlings will start to grow in the fall, and they can be protected with hay or leaves over the winter.

starting pansy seeds indoors

To start pansy seeds indoors, start in the late winter, about 10 weeks before the last spring frost date. Sow moist seeds in a flat, about 1/16in deep. Put them in the fridge for 4-5 days, then take out and keep them between 60F and 70F (15-21C). They can take anywhere from 8 to 20 days to germinate. Transplant and set out about 4 weeks before the last frost date in spring. Make pansy beds of flowers especially for spring by planting your seeds or plants en masse in a single location.

A Pansy Container Garden

Pansy flowers do very well in raised flower beds, window boxes, or pots. Make sure that your soil is well-draining, and there are holes in your container to prevent the pansies roots from sitting in water.


Planting and caring for pansies in a white pot.

Caring for Pansies

Pansy plants actually fare better with light frost than they do in prolonged heat. If you live in warmer climates where summer temperatures rise over 85F, make sure the pansies you choose are a heat-resistant variety. Deadheading, or even picking blooms for bouquets, will encourage more flowers to grow, making your pansies full and colorful.


Don’t let pansies dry out to the point where they start to wilt. They will do well with about 1/2 to 1 inch of water per week (from rain or watering).

If you find that your pansies stalks are covered in small warty growths, making the affected tissue brittle, your plants probably have “wart disease”. This is actually not a disease at all, but a symptom of overwatering poorly drained soil, or overcrowded beds that hold too much moisture. Keep your pansies spread out with good drainage to keep them healthy.


It’s a good idea to work compost or a slow-acting fertilizer into the soil when you plant your pansies. If you want your pansies to bloom like crazy, supplement with light slow-release fertilizer about once a month with liquid fertilizer. Extra fertilizer during the booming season will encourage better growth and healthy plants.

Flower Cuttings & Drying

Cutting pansies for bouquets helps the plant grow more flowers, so don’t be shy about cutting some for bouquets! The stems are a bit on the short side, but they can still make beautiful arrangements, especially when used with other flowers from your cut-flower garden.

The best way to dry pansies is with silica gel. Leave about an inch of the stem when you cut them, and cover the entire flower with silica. Once dry use a soft artist’s paintbrush to brush off the excess silica.

For more on drying flowers, check out our full guide.

Spring transplant pansies. The box with flowers, pot, scoop on a wooden background.

Common Insect Pests

Pansy plants have a few pests that like to chew on leaves and ruin your efforts. But there are ways to combat pests in your gardens if you know what you’re up against.


Aphids will distort the growth of any plant they infest. The leaves may be curled or stunted.

Plants infected with aphids have poor stunted growth with curled, puckered, or stunted leaves. Leaves may turn yellow, brown, or die. 

You can manage the light Infestations of aphids with a blast of forceful water every few days. If that is not effective, you can spray the plants with insecticidal soap every 4-5 days for up to 3 weeks.


Cutworms are greyish-brown caterpillars that are mostly active at night. They completely sever the stem of seedlings at or just below the soil’s surface, almost as if someone came through with a pair of tiny scissors and cut off each seedling, leaving it laying on the soil.

Unfortunately, once cutworms have done their damage, it can’t be reversed. All you can do is prevent them from getting to the remaining seedlings by placing a 3-inch collar made from plastic or stiff paper around each seedling.

slugs and snails

Similar to cutworms, slugs and snails will take seedlings right at the soil’s surface. The difference is that slugs and snails will eat the entire seedling, rather than cutting it off and leaving it on the surface. They will also go after full-grown plants, leaving large ragged holes in the leaves. Slimy trails in and around your garden are a sure sign that you’ve got a slug or snail problem.

Slugs and snails need a place to hide during the day – boards, rocks, dead leaves, and other debris all make great hiding spots for them. Keep your garden clean and clear of hiding places.

Slugs can be hand-picked from their hiding spots, or while active at night, and dropped into a water/insecticidal soap mixture.

There are also a variety of DIY and commercially available slug traps to help keep their population under control.


Nematodes are tiny, microscopic parasitic roundworms that can cause all sorts of health issues for your plants. Pansies are susceptible to a variety of nematode species.

Fern nematodes cause distorted or stunted growth by attacking new growth. Fern nematodes are likely the culprit if you see short and swollen leaf stalks that sort of look like cauliflower.

If your plants are wilted, stunted, and sickly, pull one out and check the roots. Small warty growths on the roots are a likely sign of root-knot nematodes. However, if your roots have brown, sunken lesions, it’s probably meadow nematodes.

Pull out and dispose of any plants suspected of nematode infestation. Do not compost them. To prevent nematode infestation, be sure to work lots of organic matter, compost, or leaf mold, into your beds before planting. Helpful bacteria and fungi will feed on nematodes and keep their population in check. Nematode infestations can lead to diseases like root rot.

spider mites

Tiny yellow dots are a sure sign that your pansies are infested with spider mites. Spider mites are small pests that eat the chlorophyll out of the leaves. Unfortunately, they inject the leaves with toxins (double whammy!), which causes distorted and discolored leaves.  

You may also see the plants coated in fine silk webbing either under or over the leaves.

Spider mites can be controlled using a forceful blast of water to the underside of leaves every other day to knock them off. If that doesn’t work, insecticidal soap can be used every three to five days as well.

It would be best if you destroyed severely infected plants. Do not add to your compost bin.  

violet sawfly

Violet sawflies can affect plants in the eastern US and Canada. The flies lay eggs on the leaves, leaving blisters on the undersides. The larva will skeletonize the underside of leaves before consuming the whole thing. Larvae can be hand-picked and dropped into soapy water. They can be tough to find during the day but can be found with a flashlight at night when they come out to feed.

Hand-picking is often enough to take care of them, but if not an insecticidal soap will work as well.

beautiful pansy summer flowers in garden.

Common Diseases that Impact pansies

Pansies have a few disease problems that can cause issues for the gardener. We’ve added information to help you identify the problem and solutions for helping deal with the infections.


If leaves become marked with brown or grey blotches surrounded by black margins, you have anthracnose. The petals of infected plants will develop abnormally, and seriously infected plants will die. You can use cultural controls to fight back against anthracnose. Keep your garden clean by picking up and destroying any infected leaves as soon as you find them. Remove the entire plant and the soil grown in for seriously infected plants and do not compost. Instead, wrap the infected plant in a plastic bag and dispose of or burn it.

Sterilize any garden tools you used to cut away infected plants with Anthracnose after use.

Leaf Spot

General leaf spot is caused by a variety of fungi species. While the anthracnose variety is more harmful to the plants, other leaf spot fungi can still cause issues and are unsightly. Leaf spot is characterized by transparent, brown, or black spots on the leaves.

Treat leaf spot as you would treat anthracnose, pick and destroy any infected leaves as soon as you find them, remove severely infected plants and soil, and keep the garden clean and clear of debris. Infected material should be disposed of or burned, never composted.

mix colorful pansy flowers in garden

caring for pansies

Pansies can fill a garden or flower pot with wonderful colors early in the season. If you take care of them properly, pansies will give a burst of color to your garden when other flowers are just getting established.


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