Grow Garden Pansy Flowers for Early Blooms

Updated: Mar. 16, 2023

Available in a variety of colors, cool-season garden pansy flowers are perfect in beds, containers and hanging baskets.

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pansy flowerCourtesy Caitlin Napper
Pansy flower after a spring rain shower

Is there a more cheerful flower than the garden pansy? With their big bold faces, brilliant colors ranging from bright yellow to deep purple with new varieties that even include splashes of pink, these flowers are a favorite in most cool-season gardens.

Check out our favorite early blooming spring flowers for your garden.

Pansy Flowers vs Viola: What’s the Difference?

Garden PansiesJill Staake
Pansy flowers are in the same genus as violas.

Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are part of the Viola genus. They are hybrids of Viola tricolor (commonly known as Johnny-Jump-Ups, heartsease, or just violas), crossed with other Viola species like V. lutea and V. altaica.

Pansies are differentiated from violas by their larger multi-colored flowers, though they are closely related.

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Pansy Flower History

Garden PansiesJill Staake

The garden pansy beloved today has only been around for about 200 years. In the early 1800s, Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet of Surrey, England, began gathering different varieties of wild heartsease and bringing them back to her family’s estate, where she worked with the gardener to begin cross-breeding them to create a wide variety of colors.

At the same time (and not far away), James Gambier was doing much the same thing with his own gardener. Over time, hybridizing violas become popular, leading eventually to the familiar large-flowered blotch-faced garden pansy we know and love today.

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Pansy Flower Care

Garden Pansy flowerJill Staake

Pansies are a cool season plant, usually treated as annual flowers. Some varieties re-seed readily. Gardeners usually plant pansies in the spring in northern zones, and in fall and winter in warmer areas.

Pansies like the cold, and can actually handle light freezes and even some snow. They dislike hot, muggy weather and will quickly rot when the heat of a southern summer sets in. They love full sun but can take some shade. Water pansies regularly for the best flowering.

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Where to Plant Pansies

Pansy flower Cool Wave White BloomBall Horticultural Company
Cool Wave White Pansy is a great choice for baskets and containers.

Garden pansies are a low-growing plants, perfect for borders. I also love pansies in containers, where you can get up close and appreciate their subtle spring-like scent and cheery flower faces. Mix them with other cool season flowers, like sweet alyssum, snapdragons, and their close relatives, violas. Or simply plant a big bed with a variety of colors and patterns.

Psst—did you know that pansies are edible flowers?

american robin Carol Keskitalo 001Courtesy Carol Keskitalo
American robin nesting in a pansy hanging basket

Pansy plants should be readily available at your local garden center when the right growing season arrives. Or you can order a packet of seeds to get an early start on the growing season. Try the Cool Wave series to attract early spring pollinators.

Next, learn why you should grow Beacon Impatiens in shade gardens.