Starting Pansies from Seed

August 16th, 2008 by Donna Wheatley Leave a reply »
Growing these pansies from seed was easy, and saved money!

Growing these pansies from seed was easy, and saved money!

Pansies are my favorite annual of the year. They bloom all fall and winter, and then really crank up for spring. I love them!

We had about 50% success rate our first time growing pansies from seed.  Not too bad, but well do better next time.

We had about a 50% success rate our first time growing pansies from seed. Not too bad, but we'll do better next time.

They’re also the most expensive annuals I plant, because I plant eight plants per square foot in my beds. Yep. I put two plants in each hole and plant each pair six inches apart. Try it one time and you’ll never want to plant them any other way. They completely cover the bed with mounds of gorgeous color for months.

So, I start my pansies from seed. Pansy seed is on the pricey side too. But, if you plant alot of pansies like me (20 flats or so a year), you can buy them in bulk. I got my seed this year from Hazzard’s Seed. It is a wholesale seed company that will sell to anyone. They have seeds in packages of 250 and 1000.

Pansies are easy to grow from seed, once you know the secret. Here’s how.

If you recycle your containers, be sure to wash them and dip them into a strong bleach and water solution, then rinse well. Fill them with a good potting soil, but not one with moisture crystals in it. (That will stay too wet and promote rot.) Press the soil firmly into the pot, leaving enough headroom for watering. Then sow the seed right on top of the soil. I sow into four inch pots and put two or three seeds per pot. That way I have my two plants for each hole already growing together. Water the pots very very well and let them drain for a good half hour. You want the soil to be thoroughly moist, but without water dripping out. Then put the pots into an airtight container: ziploc bag, saran wrap over the flat, inside a plastic box with a lid, under a plastic milk jug or softdrink bottle that have had the bottoms cut off, deli containers, etc. The idea is to create a mini greenhouse that keeps the moisture inside the box. Since I start so many seeds, I have invested over the years in clear plastic rubbermaid storage boxes that will hold a flat in each container. I set the flats in the lid and then the box becomes the dome.

Now, the secret. Put your pots inside their mini greenhouses in a cool, DARK place: a closet, under the bed, in a basement, etc. Start checking for germination in seven days. As soon as you see germination happening, move your plants out of their greenhouses and into a cool lighted place. I grow mine in my basement under flourescent lights. A bright window in an airconditioned house will work well too, just don’t put the plants too close to the window. Water amd give half strength fertilizer weekly until the plants are stronger and the temps outside cool enough. Harden the plants off and set them in the ground.

I planted twenty flats two weeks ago. The first ones germinated in seven days, and I have moved at least one whole flat into the light every day since then. I have three flats left that have not germinated yet. Although both seeds in a pot do not germinate at once, I move it into light when the first one does. The second seeds follow shortly thereafter. Naturally, there will be some skips. I filled one flat with soil and sowed extra seed in it so that I have some extras to move into any empty spots.

I normally plant my pansies in late October at the earliest, to mid November at the latest. The weather is cool enough for them (daytime highs below eighty), but there is still time for them to get established before the weather gets cold.

Here’s another great article on growing pansies from seed on a Blog in the U.K. and another by professional grounds keeper Glenn Bronner on starting lots of pansies from seed. Here is a Publication from NCSU on Commercial Production of Pansies.



  1. Ed says:

    Saying you plant in October, and have time for the plant to mature, would mean more if we knew where you were talking about???

  2. rajath says:

    its been 10 to 15 days since i sowed pansy seeds!! the still have not germinated !! :( do i have to be extremely patient with pansies especillay?

  3. Tracey says:

    I actually have a question…I am wanting to grow pansies from seed. They have been in my cool basement since Feb. 6th and they still havent done anything…should I just be more patient or are they not gonna come up? One is a can can mix and the other is a matrix sunrise pansy. I brought them up from the basement and put them under lights, but now I am second guessing that move…what do I do???!!!

  4. Mali D. says:

    Donna i got these seeds from a general store… and guess waht they have a new way to germinate em. In the thin plastic cover tear a small hole and put few drops of water in the hole and leave them in a dark place for a few days they may germinate like in paper towel

  5. Laurie – Thank you for the kind comments.

    About your eggplants – I’m no expert, but the people at Texas AMU are, and in the TAMU publication on eggplant I found this:

    Q. The fruit on my eggplant was delicious during its early production. Now, the fruit we harvest is bitter and has brown areas on it.

    A. The bitter fruit is caused by plant stress and subsequent slow growth stimulated by hot, dry weather. The brown area is caused by sun scalding. If the scalding is not too severe, it can be removed and the eggplant eaten.

    Q. What causes eggplant fruit to become misshapen and odd colored?

    A. Poor-quality eggplant fruit are generally associated with low moisture and high temperature conditions. Also, overmature eggplant fruit will become dull colored and often develop a bronze appearance. For maximum production, remove the eggplant fruit before they are fully mature to allow additional fruit to develop.

    Excessively hot and dry conditions seem to be your problem. Try to choose a more sheltered place to grow them, or plant them in the shelter of a taller mid season crop (maybe sweet corn) and of course avoid water stress during hot weather. Hot temperatures together with wind can really be hard to deal with.

    Good luck

  6. Laurie says:

    I literally stumbled across this website and I LOVE IT!! I love the detail in plain language. LOVE LOVE IT! :) I am trying to figure out how to garden where I live. It’s a coastal area right by the waterway with lots of wind and sunshine in my backyard. The front is covered with oak trees and no grass. I want to plant black and green mondo grass in the front (wish I knew someone who had some). This summer I tried growing eggplant and herbs out back. At first they did fabulously, but during the heat of the summer, the (black beauty) eggplants began to turn orange and striped. Once it became cooler again, the new ones were black. Very odd. The local extension agent couldn’t tell me why. My herbs also turned yellow and were a mess. I personally thought they were getting sunburned and windburned, so I moved my herbs to the front porch (no direct sunlight) and they turned a deep dark green in just a week or so, and grew much better. Do you have an explanation for that? Everyone tells me plants can’t get sunburned (ones that love the sun anyway), but one of my neighbors had the same exposure and some of the same issues iwth her herbs. Her citrus is doing great.


  7. Donna says:

    You want to keep the lights as close to the plants as you can without touching the leaves. Leave the lights on for sixteen hours a day.

  8. David says:


    1) When growing the tiny plants under fluorescent lights how close should the lights be to the plants?

    2) How many hours a day do you leave the lights on? I know that some plants produce vegetative growth best with a long day length (18 or more hours) while others will be stressed. On the other hand many fall-flowering plants will grow poorly and try to produce flowers prematurely if the day length is too short.

  9. Donna says:

    It’s not unusual for them to be long stemmed. The instant they germinate, they are searching for light. Unless you are checking them like twice a day, they will elongate a bit before you get them out of the dark. The plants will be fine.

  10. Donna says:

    Once they germinate you can take them out of the box and put them into light. I water them about every fourth day (inside the house). When they have their first set of true leaves, begin to fertilize them once a week. I fertilize with Orchid food.

  11. Shirley says:

    One more question, do I leave the tops on my containers once they are peeping up? It has been a week, and I am proud of the amount coming up, we are moving them out today and watering at 1/2 strength, but I wasn’t sure if I should leave the lid on or take it off. They do look a little leggy, is that normal?

  12. Donna says:

    I wouldn’t advise putting your pansies in temps that are higher than 80. They really prefer mid seventies or lower. Higher temps will cause their stems to elongate and flop, and then begin to yellow and die. If you can keep them inside in airconditioning until the temperatures fall in your sunroom, that is what I would advise.

  13. Donna says:

    Oh yes, one other thought. If you choose to sow the seed in flats, be sure to handle the baby plants only by their leaves when you prick them out. Their stems are very fragile and if you damage them, they’ll surely die.

  14. Donna says:

    Tiny seeds can pose something of a problem, but believe it or not I’ve seen much smaller seeds than pansies.

    When I was sowing mine, I would sprinkle a few into the palm of my hand and then use a slightly damp finger to pick them up. I sowed two seeds for every one plant I wanted.

    Alternatively, you can mix a little sand into the seed and sprinkle the seed/sand thinly into flats filled with soil. Then they all come up together. You wait until they have one or two sets of true leaves and then “prick them out” (transplant) into their own pots.

    This method has plusses and minuses. The plus is you don’t have pots that have no plants coming up in them. The minus is once the pansies begin to germinate they need to be moved immediately into light. Since they germinate over a period of 3 to 4 weeks, there may be a good many that never germinate because of missing out on the darkness they need.

    Neither method is perfect, but that’s all I know! :)

  15. David says:

    Any tips on handling those tiny seeds?

  16. Shirley says:

    We have a plant room, it has daytime temps in the low 80’s, would you put your plants in there? Or should we leave them in the house in the windows? We can put in the plant room on shelves not in direct sunlight, David thinks this is the best place, what do you think? We bought our seed from Hazzard’s Wholesale Seeds, we bought the Ruby color. I can’t wait to see them.