When to Plant Winter Pansies
Plus how to care for pansies through the winter months
At DIY Gardening, we publish helpful guides and insights learnt from years of experience. We also independently test and review related products. If you buy something via links, we may earn a commission. Learn about our testing process here.
When and Where to Plant Winter Pansies and How to Care For Them
Welcome to another entry in our blog, be sure to check out more of our plant and garden guides.
The backbone of any winter garden, winter-flowering pansies out bloom any other bedding plant during the colder months and add dazzling garden colour at a much needed time of year.
Unlike their summer cousins, winter pansies are cultivated specifically for cold weather and are hardy enough to survive light frosts and even a dusting of snow.
The key to ensuring your winter pansies not only survive the cold snaps but flourish and continue to bloom, is the plant location, the time they were planted and the ongoing care they’ve received during the winter.
The Best Place to Buy Winter Pansies
Jersey Plants Direct has a huge nursery on the Atlantic coast of Jersey (see photos below) and has been selling plants for decades.
If you’re looking to buy plants online then we recommend Jersey Plants Direct.
For winter bedding plants such as pansies, we suggest buying the larger plugs which will be more developed and more likely to flourish in the colder months.
For summer bedding plants, the smaller plugs are just fine if purchased early enough.
The Best Time of Year to Plant Winter Pansies
Winter pansies won’t last long if they’re planted too early, either the heat and sunlight will kill them, or they’ll set seed early and then die off naturally.
Plant them too late, and the roots and top growth won’t have enough time to develop before the cold sets in and the pansy will either perform very poorly through the winter or die off completely.
For winter pansy plugs we recommend you plant them around September assuming the weather is typical for the time of year. If it’s unusually hot, hold off until the heatwave has passed.
By getting your winter pansies in place when the soil is still warm, you’ll encourage enough growth which ensures plenty of flowers through the winter.
Alternatively, buy the larger plugs which are garden ready even in mid-autumn.
What to do if You Plant Too Early?
What should you do if you plant the winter pansies a little too early and the weather warms up unexpectedly?
You don’t want the pansies to set seed as they will then stop growing and won’t have enough roots developed to survive the winter.
Should the weather stay unusually warm, you can encourage growth by deadheading and removing any seedpods in September and October.
What to do if You Plant Too Late?
If you plant small winter pansy plugs in October or November, you should still see some blooms. Still, the plants won’t be as developed, so space them closer together to improve density and avoiding shaded areas of the garden where possible.
Larger plugs can be planted later while smaller ones require an extra month or so of growth to cope with the cold.
Avoid over fertilising the plants at this time of year, there’s no point, and it won’t make up for planting too late in the season.
The dilemma for many gardeners is what to do with the summer bedding plants they already have in their garden.
With regular watering, deadheading and good weather, many summer bedding plants will survive well into autumn and sometimes even into early winter.
Removing healthy, flowering summer bedding plants just to plant a winter variety is nonsensical as it will leave the garden looking sparse at a time of year when you’ll still be enjoying the outdoor space.
The solution is to buy the winter pansies in September and pot them up from trays to 5″ pots and let them develop until the time is right (usually October) for transfer to their final location for the winter. Alternatively, buy the larger plugs but expect to pay much more for them.
Where to Plant Winter Pansies
While too much heat is a bad thing for winter pansies, they do need plenty of sunshine so a sunny garden spot would be ideal.
Winter pansies will still flower if placed in a spot with only partial sun, but you won’t see much growth. For plants grown in shaded areas, we suggest planting them closer together to improve density.
In general, winter pansies can be grown in pots, troughs, hanging baskets or even flowerbeds.
We recommend you ensure there is adequate drainage for the pansies, frozen water at the root level is likely to kill off the plants. Elevated flowerbeds should be fine, although all pots, containers and troughs should be lifted off the ground with feet. Hanging baskets should have drainage holes at the base.
There are no specific changes you need to make to your growing media; you can add coconut coir, perlite and grit to aid in drainage and aeration though, just as you might in the summer. Good multipurpose compost will provide enough nutrients for the winter pansies at least until the final spurt of growth in early spring.
Caring For Pansies Throughout Winter
You shouldn’t need to apply any fertiliser in the autumn if you’ve planted the Winter pansies in a nutrient-rich growing medium such as compost or manure etc. In early spring a top-up of fertiliser can aid the final spurt of growth though.
You will need to keep the winter pansies watered, and an occasional finger test in the ground or compost will reveal how much moisture is present. Pansies grown in hanging baskets or window troughs are often shielded from the rain by the roof overhang and may remain dry even when the rest of the garden is soaked.
Regular deadheading will promote new growth, so it is essential.
Throughout the winter do keep an eye on the weather forecast and where possible bring containers, baskets and pots to a sheltered location during periods of extremely cold weather.
For border plants, consider sheeting or covering them for protection during very cold snaps, which generally don’t last long in the UK.
Winter pansies can survive temperatures to just below freezing but only for a short period of time.
Winter Frost Fleece
A frost fleece, also known as a horticultural fleece, is a protective cover that can be deployed temporarily around pots, containers and even over flowerbeds. It protects most plants from the worst of the frosts.
Fleeces are cheap and there are many thicknesses and sizes to choose from, they last for years and can be reused each winter.
Protection down to minus 6° is advertised.
More Recommended Products
Planning on growing winter pansies for the first time?
Check out our recommended products:
These lightweight secateurs are razor-sharp so are ideal for deadheading pansies. They have a comfy ergonomic handle and are geared for ease of use.
We’ve tested these baskets & they get a 5-star rating from us. Perfect for summer or winter, they have side slots which are ideal for creating long trails
How many times have you torn roots or damaged garden plugs? With this cheap and simple tool, you can remove winter pansy plugs from trays without damaging them..
Companion Bedding Plants
It’s easy to add winter colour to any garden in the UK, there are plenty of autumn plants that flower late and many spring plants, such as bulbs that bloom early.
By adding winter pansies and some of the companion plants below, we’re confident you can create plenty of winter colour to keep the interest going all year round.
Our guide to creating a colourful winter garden is also a great read and you’ll find plenty of shrubs, grasses and bulbs that produce colour in cold weather.
The most popular winter pansy companion plant is polyanthus. A compact, mound-forming plant with short stems, expect plenty of interest throughout the winter and also into early spring. Buy from Amazon UK.
We love the button-like flowers on these spreading daisies which compliment winter pansies wonderfully. You can expect a double hit of colour, first in the autumn and again in spring. Buy from JParkers.
Crocus is one of the earliest flowering bulbs and arrives just before daffodils and tulips. Bury a layer of crocus in front of your Winter pansies for a colourful early spring delight! Buy crocus bulbs here.
Violas flower from May all the way through to January the following year and are the perfect all-rounder. Find out more about this versatile, colourful bedding plant over at our viola plant growing guide.
More From Hannah Miller:
This guide to winter pansies was created by Hannah Miller and was posted to our blog on the 1st of November 2020.
Hannah is a keen amateur gardener, mother and a former NHS administrator.
She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and likes to share her knowledge with others.
EXPLORE MORE OF OUR CONTENT BELOW:
From problem-solving and product reviews to plant and garden suggestions plus much more, visit our new blog here at DIY Gardening. Start here
How to Grow French Lavender
Discover why so many gardeners in the UK are now ditching traditional English Lavender and growing its beautiful French cousin instead. Start here