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