In the Garden:
Although they seem like cruel moves, snipping off flowers and spreading out roots are two ways to help pansies establish themselves quickly after planting.
There is a spot in every southern yard for fall-to-spring pansies, but often that spot is occupied until the first hard freeze spells doom for begonias, impatiens, and other summer annuals. It's not too late to plant pansies, especially if you use a few tricks to get them growing quickly.
Promoting Pansy Roots
Newly planted pansies need soil temperatures above 45 degrees if they are to develop new roots. When you are planting late, pick a sunny spot where the soil is quickly warmed by the morning sun. Or plant pansies in dark-colored containers, which warm up fast in the daytime and can be moved to a cool garage in frigid weather.
If you're renovating an existing bed, begin by pulling out the old flowers, roots and all. Then dig the bed as deeply as you can to fluff in air and sift out knots of left-behind roots. To make sure fertilizer or soil amendments are well mixed I spread them onto the soil surface before doing my digging. It's usually best not to lime a pansy bed, because a too-high pH invites problems with root rot.
Grooming and Planting
Old flowers need to be clipped off before plants are set in the ground, and it's important to spread out the bottom part of the plants' roots, too. I use my fingers to break apart the lowest third of the root ball, pulling it apart butterfly-style. Then I spread the root halves as widely as possible as I set the plants in place. When the planting is done, a deep soaking with a water-soluble fertilizer is the finishing touch. This time of year, unmulched soil is usually warmer than mulched soil, so I wait until December to tuck in my plants with fresh pine straw.
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