Pansy problem

redecoratingmom(8 GA)November 16, 2011

Hey guys,so I finally got my front bed replanted so thank you guys for all your help with answering questions about gravel problems, soil amending, etc. I planted some pansies in that area and they have been there for about a month but there seem to be only a few blooms on the plants. Also many of the flowers that are present are droopy/floppy, meaning that the stems are not upright but more out to the side (kinda like they've been stepped on) so the flowers are flopped over and facing down. The foliage seems to be healthy and appear to be getting bigger but I don't see the flower output I was expecting.

As a matter of fact my mother and I bought six packs of pansies from the same place. She planted hers in pots about a week before I planted mine in the ground and hers have many flowers and are more upright and taller than mine are. What could I have done wrong? I prepared my bed with the amendments you guys suggested, mixed in some granular 10-10-10 fertilizer, and mulched with pine straw. The bed is in an area that gets a mix of part and full sun with the pansies planted in the sunniest area. I just fertilized 3 days ago with a water soluble all-purpose deal (24-8-16). I know they will need a nitrate nitrogen fertilizer when it gets colder here. Now thinking about it, I'm wondering if I should have used something with less nitrogen and more phosphate? I water about every 2-3 days. Where could I have gone wrong? What can I do to make it better?

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Adding a lot of nitrogen strongly discourages flowering, in most plants, while encouraging vegetative growth. Also, fertilizing twice in one month sounds like possible overkill (pun only partly intended).

Also, keep a check on the moisture levels of your soil (not just on top, but down a few inches). If you are watering regularly, it's possible that the soil is too wet.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 1:16PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Nothing kills plants faster than too much love.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 1:18PM
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redecoratingmom(8 GA)

Thank you Brandon. I think you are right about too much love. I've been so worried about not doing enough I think I did too much. I've kill quiet a few plants by neglect and was determined not to let that happen this time and think I went for overkill. I haven't watered in about 8 days although it did rain one day, and you know what, the pansies are starting to look better. They are less floppy now and more upright.

I've been so tempted to fertilize again with a different fertilizer with less nitrogen but I'm gonna try to heed your words and wait for a month. What do you recommend that I use as a fertilizer to encourage more blooms,and does it matter if it is water soluble or granular?
thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 6:15PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Fertilizing needs to be done ONLY if the nutrients NEEDED by the plant are missing or present in INSUFFICIENT amounts. If the nutrients are present in sufficient amounts, fertilizing is, at best, useless and often harmful. A few different things need to be considered when adding fertilizer.

The type of plant is very important in considering fertilizing options. Most woody plant and perennials often do well with existing nutrient levels common in most good topsoil (without any additional nutrients added). Many fast growing plants and annuals do benefit from higher levels of nutrients. It's worth stressing that, although some plants are better off with nutrient levels higher than levels ideally suited for other plants, that doesn't meant that the more fertilizer you use, the better off your plants are.

Another thing to consider is the existing level of nutrients. A good way to gauge this is with a soil test, but decent guesses can sometimes be made by examining how plants are performing. Slow growth or other symptoms may indicate a need for a certain nutrient. One must also consider nutrients already added (i.e. slow-release fertilizers, compost, etc used previously).

The purpose of fertilizing will also determine which nutrients are needed. Nitrogen (the first number of fertilizer ratings) produces vegetative growth, phosphorous (the second number) produces flowers/fruit, and potassium (the third number) is responsible for various aspects of building strong and healthy plants. If you want to encourage flowering, reduction of nitrogen (that first number) is probably your best bet (unless existing nitrogen levels are unusually low).

There are various types of fertilizer and it's hard to give universal guidelines based solely on physical form (granular, etc), so check the bag or container. Frequently, slow-released/time-released fertilizers tend to be granular/pelletized. The water soluble stuff (like Miracle-Gro) are usually quick-release to give fast results but don't last as long.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 7:35PM
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redecoratingmom(8 GA)

Such a thorough answer, thanks! I'm just gonna back off of the TLC and let them do their thing. I think I was just fertilizing because I've read that you should do so every month. I honestly believe the plants are in a well prepared bed with plenty of nutrients. I added lots of soil conditioner, top soil, and manure. Not to mention the 10-10-10 when I planted. I'm gonna back off and let them be for a while. Like I said they appear to be doing better already since I've left them alone. I'll keep all you said in mind to determine when and if I need to do more.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 10:17PM
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rosiew(8 GA)

One more thought. The root system hasn't had the time to develop much beyond the original size in the 6 packs. My violas were drooping and I realized the nursery potting mix was dry dry dry. I've been watering each plant, not a lot, but just at the crown/into existing roots. Agree that you should cut back on the fertilization, especially the nitrogen.

HTH, Rosie

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 6:58PM
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