Pansy Pick-me-up Tricks for Winter

Use these tips to keep your flowers looking great in cold weather.
Ellen Ruoff Riley / Photography Joseph De Sciose

Winter takes a toll on your looks. One peek at your pansies will show you they're in the same boat. Most likely, they're too wet, too dry, or suffering from cold nights, harsh winds, or maybe just a little neglect. Don't despair; it happens to even the best. A few minutes of attention, and they'll be back and blooming before you know it.

A Manicure and a Marvelous Meal
It's true; nothing feels better than a little pampering. If you're a pansy plant, being covered with spent flowers is like being in need of a good haircut. You just want it all to go away. Remove old blooms and their stems because they sap energy from the new growth.

Next, take off those damaged, curled up leaves. They have to feel just plain yucky to your plant. Snip them off, and things will get better. Small scissors are the perfect tool for trimming foliage.

Finally, after all this preening and clipping, your pansies may be looking thin and hungry. Nourishment is in order. Mix up a batch of water-soluble, liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food 15-30-15, and give them a substantial meal. Moisten the soil with plain water first, and then pour on the fertilizer.

A truth about gardening and dessert: Fertilizer and chocolate have nothing in common. While one chocolate is good, two are infinitely better. This is not the case with liquid fertilizer and pansies. Mix it according to label directions; a stronger solution does not make plants bloom faster. In fact, the salts in the fertilizer damage the plants when mixed improperly.

All Dressed Up
Now that your pansies are sitting pretty, remember their basic needs.

  • Give them a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight.
  • Feed them with a water-soluble, liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks.
  • Remove old flowers.
  • Water plants prior to a hard freeze. This is especially true for pansies in pots.
  • Provide a light pine straw cover to reduce damage during a hard freeze.

"Pansy Pick-me-up Tricks for Winter" is from the January 2006 issue of Southern Living.