Plant of the Month

March Plant Of The Month

A close-up of a viola plant

Pansies & violas

According to the Horticultural Trades Association the names “pansy” and “viola” are interchangeable for many visitors to garden centres.

But the way to tell the difference is that pansies have four petals pointing upwards, and only one pointing down, while violas have three petals pointing up and two pointing down.




Pansies like to grow in well drained, moist soil. Mix some compost or organic fertiliser into the soil when planting for best results.


The garden pansy flower is 5 to 8 centimetres (2 to 3 inches) in diameter and has two slightly overlapping upper petals, two side petals, and a single bottom petal with a slight beard emanating from the flower’s centre. These petals are usually white or yellow, purplish, or blue. The plant may grow to 23 cm (9in) in height.


They grow best in full sun or partial shade. Pansies and Violas are perfect for planting in containers of all types, hanging baskets, window boxes, patio tubs. In fact, anywhere in the garden where there is enough room. Perfect in herbaceous borders or shrub borders which are lacking a bit of winter colour.


Pansies need to be watered at least once a week, possibly twice if the weather is hot.


In general, Pansies produce large flowers, up to 7.5cm (3in) and more across, but not many of them; Violas carry far more flowers but they’re smaller, sometimes less than 2.5cm (1in) across. Violas are tougher and more weather resistant; both come in a spectacular range of colours, colour combinations and patterns.


It’s best to plant them between autumn and late spring.


If you see that your Pansy isn’t blooming and areas are thick with stem growth, you should prune. Pruning the thick areas will allow the nutrients to feed the other parts of the plant and produce blooms.

Pansies need to be checked over every six weeks; this will help you discover any growth problems that may need combating and help you detect plants in ill health.

Remove all dropped leaves, blossoms and stems on the ground. Debris can trap moisture, which causes root rot and provides the perfect environment for pests.


They can be fed in spring and early summer with acidic fertilisers but don’t feed them later than the end of July, as this can lead to bud drop.


Pansies look wonderful in containers and pots, especially outside your front door. To keep them blooming as long as possible, you must ‘deadhead’ them. Deadheading is simply removing any faded or diseased blooms…

  • Cut off any blooms that are fading or have already faded using sheers or scissors. You must cut off the blossom stem just above the first set of leaves.
  • Cut off any seed heads that are forming or have formed. Pansies will not produce any more blooms if you let them go to seed.
  • Cut off any infected, yellowing blooms – do not put them in the compost if they are diseased.



Writer and expert