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Winter warriors: Pansies breathe life into gardens during cold months

This can be a bland time of year in the garden. Shades of brown compete with a few evergreens or the occasional azalea.

Pansies are the antidote for many gardeners. Their facelike petals bear bold shades of purple, orange, blue, red or mahogany, or pastel lavender, pink, apricot or yellow — cheerful accents in a wintry landscape.

“It’s all about color. What color do you like? That’s what will work best for you,” said Beth Patterson, owner of Green Thumb Nursery in Gulfport.

“There are hundreds of pansy colors, so there’s something for everybody,” she said.

Georgia Stafulis, owner of Beatline Nursery in Long Beach, also noted the wealth of colors available.

“There are so many colors — blues, lavenders. Also, reds and rusty scarlet shades,” she said.

Some pansies are solid, others boast petals of different shades. For example, both the yellow with purple wing and the Matrix Morpheus pansies bear bold purple and yellowgold, perfect for this time of year.

“Mardi Gras is especially early this year, so they’re great for now,” she said. Their variation comes from the intensity as well as the “whiskers” on Matrix Morpheus, while the wing pansy has a more traditional blotch “face.”

Some gardeners like to plant all one color, while others like to combine colors or plant a cheerful mix of shades.

“They all go together — you can’t go wrong,” Patterson said.

Not only are they colorful, pansies play well with others. While a pot of pansies is beautiful, mixing them with other plants creates visual interest with height and texture variations. For example, pansies can be potted with alyssum and dianthus, or with snapdragons and cabbage.

“They also do well in hanging pots, strawberry pots and wall planters,” she said.

They’re also hardy.

“They’re very easy to grow,” Patterson said. “This is the very best time of the year for them, but they grow from September through April.

“And they can take the cold,” she added. “I can’t remember when it’s been too cold here for pansies. I know it’s snowed on them and they’ve been fine.”

Patterson recommends keeping pansies deadheaded. They also benefit from liquid food every two weeks, she said, and their ideal daily sun intake is six hours.

“And they can take damp feet. Pansies are pretty forgiving,” she said.

The Majestic series is taking off well with gardeners, she said. Matrix pansies are relatively new and were designed to take more heat.

At Beatline, Majestic Giants is the most popular series, with Matrix, Delta and Dynamites also favorites with gardeners.

“Yellow is the most popular color,” Stafulis said. “It’s the most showy.”