Violas, pansies ideal cool-season plants
By ALLEN OWINGS
HAMMOND – The ideal planting time for cool-season bedding plants in Louisiana runs from late September through early December. Some of our common cool-season flowers prefer the earlier planting dates and some prefer the later planting dates.
Pansies and their dwarf cousin, violas, prefer planting after temperatures have cooled off. The LSU AgCenter normally recommends late October through early December as a planting window. When properly cared for, pansies will last into late April and early May most years.
Pansies are our most popular landscape flower for the late fall through early spring, but violas are gaining more market share. You see more violas in home and commercial landscapes these days. In addition, new pansies have been introduced recently that will change the way we use pansies in the landscape. The most prominent of these are the trailing types, such as the Cool Waves, WonderFalls and Freefalls.
If you like violas, you will love the Sorbet series – one of this year’s fall Louisiana Super Plants recommended by the LSU AgCenter. They are very vigorous growing. The Sorbet series can be planted now, same time as pansies, but they will last one to two weeks longer into May next spring.
You can plant them in the landscape in masses or use them in containers equally well. 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.
Cool Wave pansies are the new pansies for fall 2012. The development of these pansies 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.
Initial flower color offerings in the Cool Wave pansies are yellow, violet wing, white and frost. You can also purchase a mixed combination. Cool Wave pansies have the flower numbers found in violas, the weather tolerance of violas and an ideal medium flower size.
Another new trailing pansy for fall 2012 that is similar to the Cool Wave is the WonderFalls. The WonderFall series is available in six colors and is being advertised as having the largest flowers in any of the trailing pansy series. Freefalls are similar plants and come in similar colors.
To enjoy pansies and violas all season long, you have to consider landscape bed preparation, fertilization, soil pH, irrigation practices 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 5.5-6.0. Pansies and violas require more acid-soil 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 8-10 inches apart and at least 3-4 rows deep.
Visit www.lsuagcenter.com /hammond for more information.