When to plant pansies – for a backyard filled with long-lasting color

Discover when to plant pansies to enjoy their cheery color in spring through winter

When to plant pansies
(Image credit: Getty Images / Westend61)

They bloom through winter and the following spring, but you might be asking when to plant pansies to enjoy their extravagant and long-lasting display. 

Growing pansies extends the season with bold, bright flowers that fill the backyard with color. Pansies are short-lived perennials, popular for using for your container gardening ideas and garden edging. Their colorful flowers are often beautifully marked in the center and look like 'faces'.

'An enormous range of flower colors and variations includes blue, mauve, pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, and white, they’re often bicolored and tricolored with a mixture of shades too,' says Rachel Crow, Homes & Gardens' gardening expert. 'Pansies flower all year round but are particularly useful in winter, when little else is in bloom.'

Our guide has the details on when to plant pansies to get the most from these colorful, perennial flowers. 

When to plant pansies flowering perennials

(Image credit: Getty Images / YuriF)

When to plant pansies

Plant pansies from late summer to mid/late fall to bloom through winter and the following spring. They can also be planted in spring to early summer to bloom through the growing season. Planting pansies from late summer to early fall is ideal as there will be time to for pansies to become established before winter. 

How to sow pansies

Although you can sow your pansies directly (they are hardy perennials, so can withstand the cold), you will get more reliable results undercover. 

Scatter the seeds thinly over pots or trays of dampened seed compost, covering them with a little compost or vermiculite. Add a lid to the tray, or seal the pot in a clear plastic bag, and set the seeds on a warm, light windowsill. 

Once the seedlings show through, remove the lid/bag and grow them on until they are large enough to transfer to individual pots. If you would rather start them off in your borders, sow in soil that has been raked to a fine tilth and cleared of roots, stones and weeds. 

In the fall, harden off and plant your undercover pansies outside, avoiding areas where they (and violas) have been growing previously, as the soil may contain leaf-spot fungal spores.

Why plant pansies?

At this time of year, it’s easy to add instant color to a patio or garden. Even one container display can make a dramatic focal point. In fact, one large pot can make more of an impact than lots of small pots scattered around the place. For around half an hour’s planting time, you’ll be rewarded with months of color. Garden centers and nurseries will have a good choice of bright inexpensive pansy plants between March-May.

Look for plants that flower for several months to avoid having to change the display every few weeks. Pansies are an inexpensive way to pack color into pots, and provide masses of flowers all summer. Flowering perennials, like pansies, may cost a little more, but when they outgrow the pot they can be planted out in the garden. If you want to plant pansies from seeds, this Pansy Seed Mix (opens in new tab) from Amazon is a good place to start.

Where to grow pansies

Pansies are very versatile and ideal for growing in pots, containers, window boxes and within planter box ideas, either massed in a pot alone; mixed with other plants or used to underplant large shrubs. 

They do best in full sun to partial shade. In garden borders and edges, pansies can make a display on their own or mixed with other flower bed ideas. They’re also a vibrant option for filling bare or neglected patches in the backyard. They make perfect partners with spring bulbs such as tulips and dahlias, as the bulbs grow up through and between the flowering pansies.

Jennifer Ebert
Deputy Editor (Digital)

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.