Pansies and violas are "little bundles of joy" says Carol Guedalia, a horticulturist at The Greenery in Bluffton, South Carolina. She's convinced that no matter how cold the weather is, their bright faces will warm your day. Still, everyone wants to know one thing: What do you plant with them?
Keep It Simple
It's easy to create a bright welcome to your home with flowerpots. The important thing to remember is that the less complicated they are, the better. Place three to five pots of various sizes together for a bigger impact of color. Another benefit of grouping your pots is that they are convenient to groom, water, and fertilize.
When visiting the nursery, you will see many beautiful things, and you may want to take all of them home. The impulse is to buy one of each--don't. Pick a color scheme, and stick to it. The terra-cotta pots shown here relate to the warm colors of the brick steps. The selection of pots is varied but simple. The flower colors are in a warm range of yellows.
The Other Plants
So what else can you use in your pots? Think about what you would like the plants to do.
To soften the edges of containers, use trailing plants, such as periwinkles. Try selections with leaves that are multicolored, such as 'Variegata' periwinkle (Vinca major 'Variegata') and 'Illumination' periwinkle (V. minor 'Illumination'). For chartreuse leaves, use some creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia). Ivy is also a great choice, with many selections. Tip: When buying ivy, be sure to get plants that have been conditioned to the cool fall temperatures, and avoid ones straight from a heated greenhouse.
To fill in between the flowers, there are lots of options. Try using lettuce, thyme, parsley, coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea), chard, radishes, bronze fennel, red mustard, or kale. All provide a nice contrast to the blooms.
For height, add an old favorite such as variegated monkey grass, or use leather leaf sedge (Carex buchananii) or 'Ogon' golden sweet flag (Acorus gramineus 'Ogon'). Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) also works well.
Want more blooms to go with your pansies and violas? Consider using bulbs. Plant them in fall containers now, and you'll have beautiful blooms in spring. Smaller selections of daffodils, such as 'Jetfire,' 'Tï¿½te ï¿½ Tï¿½te,' and 'Topolino,' will not take up too much root room in your pot. Crocus, hyacinths, snowflakes and tulip selections (such as 'Pink Impression,' 'Apricot Beauty,' and 'Golden Oxford') will be welcome spring accents to the containers. Once they have finished blooming, just transfer them to the flowerbed when you change out your pots for summer. This is one of the easiest ways for you to add bulbs to your garden.
Still want more flowers? You can try snapdragons, sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus), calendulas, nemesias, and sweet alyssums. Just remember not to stray from your planned color scheme.
Loves the Sun
Carol says that light is the most critical factor when placing your pots. Choose a location that receives at least four to six hours of sunshine every day. Groom pansies regularly, removing spent blossoms to encourage new growth. Violas will not need to have flowers removed, as they bloom freely.
When planting in pots, good drainage is important. Use blood meal or Osmocote as a slow-release fertilizer, or feed with a balanced liquid 20-20-20.
On cold, gray winter days, your pansies and violas may rest a bit. When the weather begins to warm, they will again explode in glorious color to brighten the season. They will also provide another great gift--fragrance--a nice surprise at any time of the year.
"Colorful Fall Containers" is from the October 2003 issue of Southern Living.