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How to Grow and Care for Pansies in Australia

Pansies are, without a shadow of a doubt, the most recognisable, iconic, and useful, bedding plant. It’s a sweeping statement, much like the sweeping carpets of colour they provide, but one that’s very much earned. 

Delicate and intricate details hide within bold and blousy blooms and are often disregarded as too overt, or brash. But, with gardens increasingly needing to offer respite from the world around us, it’s well worth leaving prejudices at the gate and having a go at growing these vibrant bedding plants yourself.

To get you started, we’ve set out a comprehensive guide to growing pansies below, including information about their breeding, and a few incredible varieties that will really thrive in Australian gardens.

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Viola x wittrockiana, commonly known as pansies

Family:

Violaceae 

Genus:

Viola 

Species:

Viola x wittrockiana

Common Names:

Pansy, Garden Pansy

Origin:

Hybrid from Viola (wide native range)

Location:  

Outdoor

Type:  

Herbaceous perennial (usually grown as annuals)

Growth: 

8 m tall

Sun requirements: 

Full sun or light shade

Foliage Colour: 

Green

Flower Colour: 

Pale pink

Flowering: 

Late winter

Edible Parts: 

Edible petals

Maintenance level:

Low

Poisonous for pets: 

Non-toxic to cats and dogs

What are Pansies?

First and foremost, all pansies are violas, but not all violas are pansies. Pansies are grouped within a hybrid cross of viola called Viola x wittrockiana. Technically, pansies are short-lived perennials, but they flower most vigorously in their first year so are treated as annual plants. 

The easiest way to get good displays at home is to buy plug plants from garden centres, but they are surprisingly simple to grow from seed too.

Key identifying features of pansies include the tightly packed but delicately lobed symmetrical leaves, which are slightly larger than other violas. Their flowers have two overlapped petals at the top, with typically frilled petals on either side and beneath the flower centre.

Colouring varies hugely on all cultivars, but most have darker centres that fade out into colourful petal edges.

Pansiesn in a pot

Viola x wittrockiana's Natural Habitat

Pansies are a specific hybrid of violas: Viola x wittrockiana. Their flowers are larger than most violas, and they get their colour, and flower patinations mostly from Viola tricolour, a European wildflower that flowers famously well through winter.

Its inconspicuous natural parent is gorgeous in itself and has been bred and cultivated into hundreds if not thousands of named varieties, but pansies, as they are today, are prized for their variety as well as their easy going nature.

30 Pansy Varieties That Thrive in Australian Gardens

Pansies are intensely varied in form, but all grow in identical conditions, which we’ll cover later in this guide. So, if you’ve had success with one pansy, you’ll have no problems growing any of these incredible and vivacious pansies in your garden.

1. Pansy Black Moon F1

While it might come up more purple than black, Black Moon is a gorgeously frilled pansy, with a bright yellow eye and a charm unlike any other. It will grow just like any other pansy, and with regular deadheading can keep flowering for months and months.

2. Pansy Poker Face F2

Like most cultivated and named pansies, there are some variations in colour, even within a named type, but Poker Face will always offer something unique, not just with each plant, but with each individual flower. It will always come up with gorgeous purple base colours, but the orange coverings on the inner petals tend to be harder to predict.

3. Pansy Envy

The dainty flowers of Pansy ‘Envy’ are one of my favourites. They are more reliable than violas in some ways, but share a similar flower texture, and offer slightly larger blooms. The burst of deep russets from the centre of the flower fades into creamy yellow fringes on tall upright stems.

4. Pansy Frizzle Sizzle Orange F1

This intensely frilled pansy is just a joy to grow, bringing pleasure and fun to any garden that is graced by its jolly presence. The vibrant orange petals of Frizzle Sizzle Orange help to elongate the spring and summer colour pallets in gardens with Welsh poppies or California poppies, making them an incredibly useful plant for many gardeners.

5. Pansy Mystique Denim F1

There are a few cultivars in the Mystique Pansy group, but Mystique Denim is one of my absolute favourites. The rich indigo blue, with washed-out, faded, denim tones in the centre of each bloom is so calmingly delicate that it will quickly become a fixture in your winter garden.

6. Pansy Inspire Peach F1

Inspire Peach is a particularly unique pansy, with rhubarb and custard tones, which fade beautifully once the flower opens, but develop from deep purple buds.

Every plant, therefore, has this dazzling display of alternating colours as flowers are developing through winter, and with regular deadheading, that same peachy spectacle can be carried right through to spring.

7. Pansy Xtrada Pink Shades With Blotch F1

I love how popular cultivation plants, particularly those with a rich tradition of breeding end up getting these bizarrely descriptive names, pretty much because the breeders ran out of clever ideas. However, if you overlook the on-the-nose name, this gorgeous pansy goes well beyond what it offers on its seed packet.

Its pink shades tend to be littered with yellow, faded, blotches that bleed out of the central blotch that lends the flower its name. The result is this delicious mess of garish colour, and I wouldn't be without it in my hanging baskets.

8. Pansy Nature Antique Shades F1

Pansies last for longer into summer than most violas, so it's only natural that breeders have tried to recreate some of that natural colouration in these hybrid plants. Natural Antique Shades is just that, offering simple, gentle tones of pink, peach and red that fade unevenly across each bloom to offer simple but effective calm tones that are best suited to pots and containers.

9. Pansy Strawberry Sundae F1

Strawberry Sundae isn’t exactly subtle, but it is an incredibly enjoyable flower, with mixed tones as the flowers go through different stages, from rich reds to faded whites, all with a gorgeous yellow centre, and elegantly long stems that make them perfect for cutting.

10. Pansy Nature Mulberry Shades F1

The Pansy Nature range is a fairly big one, and it keeps growing. It’s distinct from others in the softness of its pallet, with smaller colour pallets in the flower centre and around the eye, coupled with gentle fades across all petals.

They are low-growing pansies, but with considerate pinching out and deadheading, you can get quite impressive stem lengths.

11. Pansy Cameo Cream F1

Cameo Cream takes its name from traditional cameo rings, with their orange agate-coloured stones. The creamy antique orange petals are soft and delicate, with many similarities to naturally occurring violas.

12. Pansy Flamenco Soft Azure Limonetto F1

If you’re a fan of frilled pansies, and enjoy the blousy impact they can have on container gardens, then Flamenco Soft Azure Limonetto is definitely worth growing. The multi-tonal flowers range from purple to cream, with yellow and orange centres, and deep veining.

They are prized amongst show growers for the sheer detail each petal can bring to a display.

13. Pansy Flamenco Terracotta F1

Flamenco pansies are known for their deep veining, and Flamenco terracotta is no different, but it’s the other flamenco trait that really shines through in this bold cultivar; the frills. Like a flamenco skirt, they ripple with energetic movement and a burst of colour from their centre.

14. Pansy Frizzle Sizzle Yellow Blue Swirl F1

Frizzle Sizzle Pansies don’t have the same energetic frills as Flamenco Pansies. They are generally more uniform, but their crimped petals are really quite special.

Particularly with Frizzle Sizzle Yellow and Blue Swirl, there is some exceptionally clear veining that reliably shoots out from the eye of each pansy and, as they develop, they even out to smooth but subtle indigo blue.

15. Pansy Joker Light Blue F2

Joker Light Blue has that iconic pansy centre. It’s that face that stares out from the screen of chaotic pansies in Alice in Wonderland, and the picture most of us think of when we think of pansies.

Its pale aquatic blue is hard to find in garden plants, particularly bedding and annuals, so if you’ve got it, cherish it.

16. Pansy Matrix Lemon F1

Pansy Matrix Lemon is outstandingly even, with the only hint of tonal change happening right at the eye of each flower. Across each petal, a pale canary-yellow tone coats everything in one single matt wash.

The petals of Pansy Matrix Lemon are huge too, so once it begins to flower it completely covers the foliage beneath for a uniform dome of colourful blooms.

17. Pansy Swiss Giants Ullswater Blue

Swiss Giant is a dramatic range of pansies. They are uniformly huge, with flowers each spanning about 7 cm across, and boasting some of the bulkiest foliage of any pansy cultivar group.

Ullswater Blue is a deep, ocean trench blue, that borders on black in the centre other than a bright yellow eye. If you want pansies that stand out from a crowd, these are them.

18. Pansy Beaconsfield

Pansy Beaconsfield

One especially tidy pansy cultivar is Pansy ‘Beaconsfield’. It’s a standalone cultivar, with cleanly divided colours. The top petals are crisp white, with very occasional purple fades, and the lower petals are nearly always a matt purple colour.

They are very low-growing, rarely reaching taller than about 5 cm, so not great for hanging baskets, but ideal for small pots.

19. Pansy Black Star

Black Star, with its geometrically aligned twinned petals, is a really neat cultivar that works wonderfully by itself or mixed into other pansy arrangements to help other flowers pop. This deep black pansy has been a staple in our home for years, growing in the same spot every year with a little help from saved seeds.

20. Pansy Mystique Purple and Yellow F1

Mystique Purple and Yellow has that perfect pansy form, with patterned lower petals, and richly coloured upper petals. In the centre, the traditional angel shape wraps around the eye, with veins reaching out over the generously sided flowers.

21. Pansy Cool Wave White F1

Cool Wave White are spectacular pansies. Their crisp white petals have the most delicate eyes imaginable with carefully crafted veining beneath the custard-yellow eye guiding pollinators right to the centre of the flower.

It works amazingly in hanging baskets and trails generously over a long flowering season if given plenty to drink.

22. Pansy Matrix Red Blotch F1

Matrix Red Blotch needs to be broken down as a title in order to explain this pansy. Matrix describes the shape (uniformly aligned petals, with overlapping top petals visible in a V above the eye).

Red describes the overall colour. And blotch suggests there should be a deeper colour in the centre. Pansies are increasingly named in this manner, with descriptive lists, but it does get confusing.

23. Pansy Ruffles Dark Heart

I’ve never grown Pansy ‘Ruffles Dark Heart’ but I have wanted to for a long time. As of now, it’s on order and will be growing here next year in pride of place. It’s the lineation of the outer petals, wrapping around that deep, dark purple centre that creates the initial impact with these cultivars, but there’s more depth than that. 

On closer inspection, Pansy ‘Ruffles Dark Heart’ has this stunningly gentle purple underside to each petal, which, thanks to the ruffles, shows through, forcing texture and layering to the front and centre of their appeal.

24. Pansy Ruffles Yellow

Pansy Ruffles Yellow

We grew Pansy ‘Ruffles Yellow’ last year, and it was lovely, but the ruffles, at a distance, get lost in the even colour of each petal. For window boxes and eye-level displays, it’s a really special flower, but if you’re just growing pansies in pots there are plenty of black and yellow cultivars to choose from.

25. Pansy Matrix Morpheus F1

Matrix Morpheus missed a bit of a trick when they didn’t breed it to be red and blue, but it’s a gorgeous flower nonetheless. This oddly shaded pansy has this wonderful purple fade on the edge of its lower yellow petals that seems like the leftover colour from a previously bleached flower.

It’s really captivating and set off even more by the branching veins that leap out from its eye.

26. Pansy Colossus Fire Surprise F1

I’m a little bit in love with Pansy ‘Colossus Fire Surprise’, and not just because of its fiery tones. It’s a huge flower on delicately small foliage, so it makes an incredible impact in containers, even if just planted by itself as a single plant in a small pot to show it off.

It’s not one to add to a  natural-looking border, unless you want to add contrast, but for a perfect specimen pansy grown for show, or the joy of collecting, ‘Colossus Fire Surprise’ is very worth growing.

27. Pansy Moulin Rouge F1

Moulin Rouge is a great example of pansy breeding, with one overarching form, but the ability to adapt and seed in various forms. It’s an F1 so will never develop truly from seed, but every plant sown from new seeds will have a slightly different colour, with pots of the same hybrid containing yellow, purple, pink and white flowers in equal measure.

28. Pansy Colossus Neon Violet F1

Neon Violet is a gorgeous pansy, offering incredibly rich purples and blues, paired with occasional white imperfections of pearls, that just add to its appeal.

They grow on fairly long stems too, so make lovely cut flowers, and will grow quite happily in any container.

29. Pansy Cool Wave Blue Skies F1

Cool Wave is a great choice if you want impact from your pansies. It spreads out well and creates dense mounds of impactful blue flowers, which last for months with proper care.

The flower might not be much to write home about up close, but on mass, when it gets going, there are very few pansies that can have the same thuggish resilience and rapid growth as the Cool Wave series.

30. Pansy Inspire Violet F1

Inspire Violet and Inspire Deluxxe White Violet are similar cultivars, but the white ring around the petals of Pansy ‘Inspire Violet’ is more gently faded, and stands out more from the deeper purple base. 

Both are excellent plants with large blousy flowers for any container though, and well worth growing.

How to Grow Pansies in Australia

Pansies in a hanging pot

Ideal Conditions for Planting Pansies

Pansies need fairly well-drained soil but with adequate water retention. Provided they get good sunlight and aren’t exposed to extreme winds, they will generally thrive and flower in the cooler months.

These relatively small bedding plants might not look it but they are quite needy plants if you want to make the most of them for as long as possible. Prolonging pansy flowering requires some attention to detail, with regular deadheading and consistently checking soil conditions or adding fertilisers as required. 

With the right care, pansies can flower for up to six months in parts of Australia.

Soil and drainage

For plug plants or young pansies, planting them into pots, containers, or the ground couldn’t be simpler. They’ll need good moisture retention paired with reasonable drainage.

The best way to achieve this on most virgin soil is to add a simple soil improver like rotted horse manure or leaf mould – but any store-bought soil improver will help restore balance to unworked soil.

While the soil should drain (pansies hate sitting in really wet conditions and rot quickly) it should hold some moisture as they also don’t like drying out and are distinctly not drought-tolerant. Add a thin layer of compost or bark chippings around plants after planting to help hold in some moisture.

Pansies planting location

Pansies prefer full sun but will grow in part shade, even under awnings. For more vigorous flowering and healthier foliage, choose a bright, sunny spot, ideally with some dappled light in the early afternoon.

Water requirements for pansies

Pansies might like drainage, but they’re also thirsty plants. After planting, water them in generously, making sure their roots have good contact with the soil. 

Growing Pansies in Hanging Baskets and Pots

The most common way to grow pansies is in pots, but they work wonderfully in hanging baskets. In both cases, you’re automatically providing better drainage than they would get in the ground, so a good moisture-retentive compost is a must. 

The pots will dry out quicker, even in winter, than the ground and straight compost offers enough nutrients to get them right into early flowering stages – but you’ll still need to feed with liquid fertiliser or drip feeds after that to extend the flowering season.

How to Propagate Pansies

While you can sow pansies outdoors in Australia, it’s not the most reliable method and requires precise timing to get the flowering time just right. For best results, sow pansies indoors, in trays, and keep a close eye on moisture levels, light and temperatures as they germinate.

Like any soft-stemmed plants, particularly those like pansies that are grown primarily as annuals, they are very susceptible to damping off if the sowing soil is too damp at the surface, or their location is particularly warm and humid.

Propagating pansies

Avoid this by sowing in a ventilated window, or a bright room with good ventilation. Greenhouses are fine, and will help to control moisture, but are best for winter sowing as they can heat up too much in summer.

  1. Use any seed or cutting compost you can find, preferably quite a sandy mix, and half-fill a seed tray. 
  2. Sow pansies thinly across the surface of the compost, and then cover with 5 mm of the same compost.
  3. Place the seed tray in a tray of water until the surface of the compost is visibly moist, and set it to drain. 
  4. Finally, place it somewhere shaded at about 15°C, and water lightly until they germinate.
  5. After germination, allow young seedlings to develop two or three sets of leaves before pricking them out into individual pots or module trays.

Note: Pansies germinate best with controlled darkness. Some growers place a sheet of cardboard or black plastic over seed trays, but covering it with 5 mm of compost is usually sufficient.

When to Sow Pansies

Pansies are naturally winter and spring flowering plants, but they can flower in late summer with some clever timing. However, in most parts of Australia, they will need to be planted in slight shade and watered more regularly to maintain them as flowering bedding in summer.

Growing Pansies for Spring and Winter Flowering

Sowing pansies in early summer or late spring is actually more accurate to their natural habitat (or, I should say, their ancestors’ natural habitat). Sow from July to October to get pansies started and they will grow plenty of foliage, but few flowers in their first year, then die back and flower again in late winter the following year. 

This can even produce half-hardy pansies that can even be treated as perennials as long as they don’t get too wet in early winter.

Growing Pansies for Summer Flowering

For summer flowering pansies, which will grow and flower within a couple of months, sow in seed trays or individually in module trays from November to December. They will need shade during germination, and reasonably cool conditions around 15°C if possible.

Sown around this time, pansies can be held back until you want to plant them out simply by pinching out developing flowers, which will bush out each plant and create a better shape for quick and effective summer bedding.

Caring for Pansies

Pansies can be low-maintenance plants, but not if you want to keep them blooming for longer. For the absolute best pansies and longest flowering seasons, they need regular fertiliser, slow-release feeds, constant deadheading and plenty of water right through blooming. 

Growing pansies in Australia

Mulching Pansies

Pansies do quite benefit from mulching, provided it’s with good organic materials like leaf mould or compost, which double up as a nutrient source too. On more moisture-retentive ground, pansies can be left without mulch, and in pots, decorative mulches like bark chips do more than compost, so play it by ear, and add mulches relevant to the setting.

What Fertiliser to Use

Any slow-release fertiliser is useful for pansies, whether it's drip feeds or granules. They are incredibly hungry plants, particularly when grown as annuals.

There are two schools of thought on feeding pansies. The first is that feeding produces better flowering, which is true. The second is that feeding exhausts the plants, which is true. Basically, if you plan on growing pansies as low-maintenance perennials, don’t feed them. 

If you’re happy to replant each year and want really striking flowering plants, feed, feed, and feed again. The choice is yours, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it, provided it works for you.

Deadheading Pansies

Deadheading isn’t technically essential for pansies, as their flowers will drop, and their seed heads are fairly inconspicuous. However, the more you pinch out spent flowers, the more flowers you’ll get.

Pansies respond wonderfully to deadheading, and a weekly routine can keep them flowering all the way through winter and into spring, sometimes for up to six months.

Pansy Tea as an Herbal Remedy

What most people don’t know is that pansies can be used to create great herbal remedies. They are often used as a skin treatment and are excellent in helping combat conditions like acne and eczema.

The flowers can also help treat lung-related conditions such as bronchitis and whooping cough. One of the ways to reap these herbal benefits is to make a tea from the pansies and drink it.

How to Make Pansy Tea

Making pansy tea is quite easy. First, go out and find some pansies in the wild. They should be dry. So go after the sun has evaporated the morning’s dew. Once you find some nice looking pansies, take them home and gently wash them off to remove any dirt. After you have washed them off, use a paper towel to gently dab them dry.

You now have two choices. You can either dry the pansies to use to make tea later or you can use them raw as they are now. The choice is yours. Both ways may be effective in releasing the pansies’ natural healing properties.

If you choose to dry your pansies, use the standard method for drying herbs and let them dry for at least a week. Now, take five to ten grams of the flower and place it inside two hundred millilitres of boiling water. Allow the water and the flowers to sit for fifteen minutes. Lastly, strain the tea.

You can now drink your pansy tea. If you drink three cups a day for a week, you may see a change in your condition as a result of the pansies’ healing properties.

Pansies Pests and Diseases

Slugs, mites, aphids, caterpillars. If you can name it, it will try to eat pansies. Thankfully, pansies are quite resilient to pests, and a gentle evening stroll with a torch will allow you to remove unwanted slugs. 

The same can be done during the day to pick off hungry caterpillars. Just pop them all on the bird table and they’ll be organically disposed of by your local wildlife. If your pansies are drooping, developing brown leaves, or yellow tips, that’s when you’ve got a problem. 

Sometimes this can be caused by pest damage, but most growing problems are a result of fungal infections caused by overly damp soil, or humid conditions.

Yellow leaf tips can be one of two things - an early sign of root damage, or an indication of underfeeding. If your soil is particularly dry, or the nutrients have been used up, simply add liquid feed next time you water. If your soil is damp, add drainage holes to pots, or aerate the ground around pansies with a garden fork.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pansies 

Garden with pansies

How long do pansies last?

Pansies will nearly always last for about four months, regardless of how they’re grown or when you plant them. For best results, treat them as winter flowering plants, and feed and deadhead them into spring.

Do pansies flower all year?

Pansies can flower all year round, depending on when they are planted, but any one plant will generally have a limitation of 4-6 months of good flowering.

How long do pansies last in a hanging basket?

Pansies grown in a hanging basket will last for around four months in full bloom, but with more regular feeding, and daily watering through summer, they can go on much longer.

How do I stop pansies from growing leggy?

Leggy pansies are a result of low light. If they are in a container, simply pinch them back to a node and move them somewhere brighter. If they are light shade in the ground and can’t be moved, pinch them back by about half and, if possible, thin out overhanging branches to let more light in.

How many pansies can you put in a pot?

In a pot or hanging basket (usually about 25-30 cm across) you can fit about 6 pansies. Don’t be tempted to overfill your pots or your plants will compete and underperform.

Do pansies like to be rootbound?

Pansies don’t like being rootbound. Check over pansies in containers before you buy them, and choose plants with roots that are just reaching the edge of the pot and not spiralling around.

What pairs well with pansies?

Pansies are a simple plant for companion planting, and while they don’t offer much in the way of pest deterrents, nutrient support, or soil improvement, they look stunning alongside perennial plants with well-paired or contrasting foliage like Heuchera or Coleus.

Wrapping Up Our Pansies Growing Guide

The humble pansy might not be the most groundbreaking addition to modern gardens, but its long-lasting appeal makes it just as at home in a cottage garden as it does in a contemporary setting. Their blooms come in all shades, from bullish violets to subtle creams and luxurious tans, so there will, absolutely, be a pansy to suit you and your garden.

And while sowing and growing your own pansies is cheaper than buying them, they are never extortionately expensive to buy ready-grown, and even cheaper to buy as young plug plants. However you choose to start your pansies off, they’re simple to grow, a little bit picky, but a complete pleasure to have and enjoy.

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About the author 

Lorri Hopkins

Hello Aussie Green Thumb community. I am Lorri Hopkins from South Australia and proud to be collaborating with the wondering team here at AGT to bring you practical gardening advice for Aussie gardens.

I have been gardening and growing vegetables since before I could walk, and the joy of spending time in my family garden with loved ones lead me to start my own hobby farm many years ago. I get to enjoy the fruits of my gardens daily and also volunteer at my local garden centre.

I started with Aussie Green Thumb as a fun project, sharing gardening advice with the team and collaborating on a few articles. Now my main role at AGT is to review the information provided here to ensure we are covering all bases and providing the best advice we can to gardeners all over Australia.

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