The multi-colored Pansy (Viola Wittrockiana) with its broad laughing face is a cool weather favorite. The ability of these hardy outdoor plants to withstand chilly spring nights and the occasional late-season blast of winter air makes pansies a perfect addition to the early spring garden and a delightful choice for porch and patio planters. (Watch for pansies from Green Circle Growers in the fall too. The same attributes that make pansies a good choice for cool spring gardens also make them a popular fall favorite.)
A member of the viola family, pansies share attributes with their more petite cousins, violets and violas. Usually seen in stunning bi-colored mixes of purple, orange, maroon, blue, yellow and white, pansies have large, flat, overlapping heart-shaped petals. Unusual center markings give these low-growing blooms a whimsical face-like appearance. Most pansy mixes are hybrids, allowing growers to offer pansies in both colorful bi-colors and bold single colors. For an eye-catching front porch or patio display, fill a large basket with single-colored pansies. Pansy-filled pots in both solid and multi-colors also make an attractive and welcoming early spring display. March pots up one side of the porch stairs, one medium or two smaller pots to a tread.
Although pansies are a perennial plant, they are grown as annuals in the U.S. This is because of the pansies short growing season, along with the generally poor quality of blooms after the first season. Particularly if plants have been protected by dead foliage, gardeners may be surprised by a hardy self-seeding pansy when they begin spring gardening. Pansies grow well in full sun to partial shade and will bloom through early summer.