Pansies, violas thrive in La. winter landscapes

Sorbert violas - Allen Owing photo

Pansies are our most-popular landscape flower for late fall through early spring, but violas are gaining more market share." - Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulturist
Story provided By ALLEN OWINGS, LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND — The ideal planting time for cool-season bedding plants in Louisiana runs from now through early December. Some of the common cool-season flowers prefer the earlier planting dates while others prefer later dates.
Pansies and their dwarf cousin violas do better when they’re planted after temperatures have cooled off. The LSU AgCenter recommends late October through early December as a planting window. When properly cared for, pansies will last into late April and early May in most years.
Pansies are our most-popular landscape flower for late fall through early spring, but violas are gaining more market share. You see more violas in home and commercial landscapes these days.
New pansy varieties that have been introduced recently will change the way we use them in the landscape. The most prominent of these are the trailing types, such as the Cool Waves, WonderFalls and Freefalls.
Cool Wave pansies debuted in 2012. Their development involved more than 10 years of breeding. Cool Wave pansies have a trailing habit and do well in baskets, containers and landscape beds. They have “twice the spread” and “double the color” of older pansy varieties.
Cool Wave pansy flower colors are yellow, violet wing, white and frost. You can also purchase a mixed combination. More colors are being added to this great new group. Cool Wave pansies have the flower numbers found in violas, the weather tolerance of violas and an ideal medium flower size.
Two other trailing pansies new in 2012 are the WonderFalls and Freefalls. Growth habit for both is similar to the Cool Wave. Each offers a wide array of flower colors, and the WonderFalls are being advertised as having the largest flowers in any trailing pansy series.
If you like violas, you’ll love the Sorbet series — one of the Louisiana Super Plant cool-season selections from 2012. These are highly recommended plants by the LSU AgCenter. Extremely vigorous growing, the Sorbet series can be planted now — the same time as pansies — but they will last one to two weeks longer into next May.
Plant them in the landscape in masses or use them in containers. Plants reach only 6-inches tall and are 12-inches wide. You can get Sorbet series violas in more than 20 colors and seven mixed-color combinations.
To enjoy pansies and violas all season long, you have to consider landscape bed preparation, fertilization, soil pH, irrigation and more.
Properly prepare the landscape bed to allow for good internal drainage and aeration. If you purchase soil, make sure it comes from a reputable supplier. Cheap soil often is not worth the price you pay.
Make sure landscape beds for pansies and violas have a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.0. Pansies and violas require more acidic growing conditions than some other bedding plants.
You can add fresh, nutrient-rich, finished compost to landscape beds to provide nutrients. Compost also is a great source of organic matter. For a traditional fertilizer approach, apply a slow-release fertilizer at planting. Most slow-release fertilizers for home use are three- to four-month formulations.
Pansies and violas do best when planted in full sun, but they can tolerate a few hours daily of partial shade. Be aggressive and plant them in masses for the best visual enhancement. Space individual plants 8- to 10-inches apart and at least 3- or 4-rows deep.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond.

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