The Perfect Plant for Thrifty Gardeners

There’s a perfect flower to plant right now and it’s not a perennial or even a shrub. This unassuming little annual is one of my favorites and I think it is underutilized in most home and commercial landscapes. I’m talking about fall pansies.

Fall pansies are fabulous. For some reason, many people either don’t know about them, or haven’t been excited about these little gems. They love cooler weather and will bloom from now until we have hard freezes and won’t mind a light frost or two. Then they’ll winter over much like perennials do and come back to be one of the first bloomers next spring, giving you two seasons of color for your money. If you’re thrifty, this is a plant for you!

Pansies provide instant color in areas where other things in the garden have already died or perhaps been hit by frost. They are available in the same color palettes as the spring plants so you should find a wide variety from which to choose.

One of the things I like best about using these flowers in my garden is the fact that I can plant them now as the yard work is slowing down and I don’t feel to be in such a rush to get them in as I often do in the springtime. The air is a bit cooler making it pleasant to work out in the garden, but the ground is still warm from the summer sun, which not only makes it fun to dig, but also encourages them to root in well before winter arrives.

Plant them in any place that you would normally plant spring pansies or other annuals. Well drained soil is preferred, but I’ve seen them survive in poor soil as well. Adding some compost if your soil has become compacted over the summer will be helpful as it will add nutrients back into the beds and aerates the soil giving the roots room to grow. Finishing the bed with a layer of mulch will help retain moisture, protect against temperature fluctuations, and allow them to get established while the weather is still favorable.

Snow will not bother these plants. In fact, the more snow the better, as it acts as an insulator from the cold temperatures and a good bit of snow will produce healthy plants in the spring with an abundance of flowers. I’ve had them come back in the spring with as many as 50-75 blooms on each individual plant.

I don’t advise planting pansies in containers unless you want to treat them as a one season annual. Since containers in the form of patio pots or even raised beds will freeze solidly during the winter months, they generally won’t sustain the plants for two reasons. If the freezing doesn’t kill the roots, many folks forget to water during the winter months so the roots of the plants also dry out. Even if you remember to water, when it freezes hard, you will end up with a pansy-sicle.

Add some instant color to your garden with the addition of fall pansies, then enjoy them again next spring. They’re the perfect plant for thrifty gardeners who want to keep enjoying the show!