The pansy is a delicate looking flower often with a "face." The pansy is quite durable and a "flower for all seasons." Pansies are growing in gardens during the winter in the South or Southwest and during the summer in the North. The fragrant and edible blooms are desirable in gardens. Pansy popularity increases possible due to its ease of growing. Whether grown from seed or bedding plants, pansies are relatively disease and pest free blooming prolifically for the gardener's enjoyment.
Species V. tricolor
Subspecies V. t. hortensis
The Pansy or Pansy Violet is a cultivated garden flower. It is derived from the wildflower called the Heartsease or Johnny Jump Up (Viola tricolor), and is sometimes given the subspecies name Viola tricolor hortensis. However, many garden varieties are hybrids and are referred to as Viola × wittrockiana. The name "pansy" also appears as part of the common name of a number of wild flowers belonging, like the cultivated Pansy, to the violet genus Viola. One or two unrelated flowers such as the Pansy Monkeyflower also have "pansy" in their name.
The pansy has two top petals overlapping slightly, two side petals, beards where the three lower petals join the center of the flower, a single bottom petal with a slight indentation.
The pansy gets its name from the French word pensee meaning "thought". It was so named because the flower resembles a human face and in August it nods forward as if deep in thought. Because of the origin of its name, the Pansy has long been a symbol of Freethought and has been used in the literature of the American Secular Union. Humanists like the symbol also, as the pansy's current appearance was developed from the Heartsease by two centuries of intentional cross-breeding of wild plant hybrids. The Freedom From Religion Foundation
(FFRF) uses the pansy symbol extensively in its lapel pins and literature.
Gardeners can choose pansy varieties based on the size of bloom and color combination. The size of a pansy bloom will fall into three categories:
- Large-3 to 4 inches (9 to 11.5 cm.)
- Medium-2 to 3 inches (6 to 9 cm.)
- Multiflora-1 to 2 inches (4 to 6 cm.)
Another quality of interest to gardeners is fragrance. Some pansies have a delicate perfume-like aroma. Once you have smelled and identified the pansy scent, it is unforgettable, but it is not always easy to perceive. Pansies seem to exude more fragrance at early morning and dusk.
To have fragrant pansies in your garden, grow or buy the most aromatic pansies. The yellow or blue pansy flowers seem to have the strongest scent. Second, you may wish to grow yellow or blue pansies in mass plantings or numerous plants in a patio container. The idea is to concentrate the bouquet of many plants in one area. Lastly, go in search of the fragrance. Lean down to the plants to encounter this subtle pansy aroma. This wonderful fragrance may be another reason that pansies continue to increase in popularity.
Plan to sow pansy seeds indoors in the North about six to eight weeks prior to setting out. Pansies thrive in cool weather and will tolerate light frost or cold night temperatures.
Pansies can be grown very successfully in the South for fall and winter flowering. Sow seed indoors in mid-summer, six to eight weeks before transplanting. The pansies can be transplanted into the garden once the summer heat has been broken and cooler weather arrives.