Starting PansiesOn February 1, 2022 by Three Brothers Blooms
Pansies and Violas. I passionately adore them. I keep vases full of them around my home all year and tuck them into every bouquet I can at my markets. As with any flowers, I encourage you to do what works best for you when starting them. It may be this way, it may be another way. Starting environment and an appropriate climate are vital to how flowers grow and thrive. I am in zone 8b, at the southern end of an Island in the Pacific Northwest with a constant sea breeze flowing through my garden. Our temps tend to be a few degrees milder than the areas around us. Our frosts come later and stop sooner than those just across the water. This plays into the success of our flowers that enjoy cool nights such as sweet peas and pansies. I’ve tried several methods for starting them and this is what brings me the most success under my growing conditions.
Keep in mind, pansies need darkness to germinate. To accomplish this, many growers place their trays in a dark room or use paper to cover them. Some companies also make germination domes that are blacked out. I prefer to cover my seeds by hand with a fine bit of soil to let them be in a natural darkness.( I have found the tip of a landscape staple the perfect tool for the job.) The reason I prefer this method over the others is that I have found once the pansies emerge through the soil they shoot up quickly desperately looking for light. If you miss moving them from darkness in time, you will have weak spindly seedlings. As I grow mine for cutting flowers, I need them strong and healthy right from the start. If you are good at checking on them regularly throughout the day (which I am not), these other methods will likely work great for you. Pansy and Viola seeds are tiny, so be sure to use a fine seed starting soil. I prefer 72 cell trays.
- Pansy seeds can be chilled for a week in a 40 degree cooler or refrigerator before sowing. (Be sure not to freeze them.) I have tested germination with pre-chilling and without, and I have found the pre-chilled seeds did sprout a bit quicker although all seeds did eventually germinate both ways. You can start them up to 12 weeks before your last frost for spring and summer flowering.
- Sow 1-3 seeds per cell on the surface of the soil and either cover them very lightly by hand or create darkness as you prefer. Use a humidity dome and place them somewhere between 60-70 degrees until germination is achieved.
- Pansies like it cool. I immediately move mine to my unheated greenhouse after germination, although I do have a small heater that keeps my greenhouse from dropping below 45 degrees. They grow best at temps around 50-55 when getting started.
- Water often. Pansies love particularly cool damp soil that their roots can stretch down towards. If you find your pansies are leggy, they are likely not getting enough light. Although pansies are happy with some some shade when mature, they do need ample light when first growing.
- They can then be transplanted into the garden a few weeks before the last frost depending on your zone. Pansies are hardy and can withstand mild frosts and even snow. I have many growing in full sun and some in partial shade. Be sure to water deeply if needed, so there is always cool damp soil at their root base and deadhead often. Deadheading ensures continuous blooms.
- If you want to achieve long stems on your pansies so they are suitable for bouquet work, I recommend planting them closely together in a raised bed.