When do I plant pansy SEEDS?

tulips91(z6 MO)August 8, 2005

I read in a gardening magazine for the Midwest that early August is the time to sow pansy seeds, and that they will overwinter and bloom in spring. Every garden center I've been to recently has not one packet of any kind of seed. Our last few winters here have been very mild - rotating between slight freezes and degrees in the 60's. I need something to overplant my spring-flowering bulbs. Also, is it possible for pansies to survive (preferably thrive) in semi - full shade, or is this an absolute no no?

Forgive me if these are dumb questions, but I honestly don't know the answers to them. Thank you in advance for all responses!

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username_5(banned for no reason)

I rather doubt pansies will over winter for you outside as your zone is borderline for pansies overwintering. In your zone I would treat them as annuals. They tolerate light frosts, but not hard freezes. There are some hybrids that are semi tolerant to freezes, but while they survive they are injured and won't do as well.

They *might* make it, but I would treat it as an experiment rather than counting on them.

Buy your seed online, garden centers are clearing out their summer stuff and seeds are hard to find now.

Yes, pansies will do fine in sun to shade. When shopping online, take note of the descriptions and prefer those hybrids where cold tolerance and shade performance are noted. Check out Johnny's, Burpee and some of the smaller online catalogs.

In my opinion pansies are not the easiest to get growing from seed, but once they are established they are very hardy.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 12:06AM
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tulips91(z6 MO)

Thank you! Or perhaps I should start them indoors in flats? I'd be a little wary of doing that, because I have very little experience with starting them indoors - I killed my zinnias, which were my first try.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 6:34PM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

You will probably have better luck starting them indoors than out. I suggest using potting soil rather than seed starting mix. Avoid the use of the almost 100% peat mixes as they dry out and become difficult to re-wet.

I tried pansies from seed indoors and wasn't successful, but the reason was they grew very slowly and I made the mistake of using terracotta pots which dried too fast with peat as the medium. Top watering killed a lot of the seedlings as the dry peat ponded water on top and drowed the little things. I wasn't too concerned about them so didn't give them much attention (the wife brought home one of those 'kits' well after I had already planted out everything I wanted from seed).

I would recommend using a plastic flat like you see in nurseries, using regular potting soil as the medium and bottom watering. Keep the mix on the evenly moist side. I would probably move the flat outside without any cover as soon as they germinate and keep the tray with some water in it so the mix never dries. I would keep them as close to 70 degrees as possible, so in the shade if it is hotter out and back inside if the weather gets a really cold snap. I think the seedlings kind of need to be babied a bit until their growth rate 'takes off', but as I said, I only tried them once and I wasn't successful so prefer the advice of anyone who comes along and has had better results.

As far as your zinnias, I am not sure how you killed those as they are fairly easy/hardy for me, but it is all good, every failure teaches us something, even if we don't immediately understand the lesson. Try to never get too discouraged, everyone has their failures, I personally have had enough for the both of us ;-)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 1:55PM
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I have never planted pansies from seed, but I can tell you that I have had success overwintering them. I am also in zone 6. In fact, my pansies have usually had better success surviving the winter cold than surviving the summer's heat. They also do okay in shade, and I've found that they will last longer into the summer if they are in partial shade. I planted some last fall along my front walk, and they came back gangbusters in the spring. I think maybe the warmth from the concrete and slight shelter from being close to the house may have helped them, but they must have been pretty strong to survive the ice storm that we had. Some of them are still flowering now, even though we are in severe drought and highs every day in the mid-nineties. I deadhead mine religiously, as well, so that may be why they're still flowering for me. Some of them were turning yellow so I cut them back and they are starting to show new growth from the planting site.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 9:11PM
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tulips91(z6 MO)

Hello everyone -

Thank you all so much for your help. I may just try some indoors and some out and see what works bests (or what works at all!). The only thing now is where to get the seeds - I think I recently checked Burpee's or Park's (not sure which, Park's I think), so I might go with them.
As for my zinnias, I pretty much did everything you can do to kill them, though not on purpose - overwatering, then not watering, neglect, not enough light, and also my seed had been sitting around for some time before I got around to planting them in the flats, so the germination rate had gone down considerably. I think gardeners fall into two categories: Those on-the-dot, on-time, everything's planned, prompt, responsible, caring angels, and the, well... lazy gardeners, who recognize a problem and sort of say, "Well honey, I really do care about your powdery mildew case, and with a few minutes of care every day I could cure you, but at the time I'm kinda busy, so if you'll just wait a few weeks until I get my act together...". Unfortunately, I fall into the second one, although I do start with very good intentions! The main problem I have is lack of schedule. If I have a list of things to do, when to do them, and how to do them, I have [almost] no problem. So I'm working on that, and I appreciate the tolerance and help from those who are more experienced and who "have it together".
Jen, I see we have a few things in common - zone 6, b-days (mine is April 4), and it looks like you love bulbs.
Thanks again ya'll!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 2:11PM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

Hey Tulips, you might want to check out the winter sowing forum, Trudi is the resident expert over there and she can probably help you out if you want to have a good shot at success. If you aren't familiar with winter sowing it is basically putting seeds out in a pot during the winter, setting them outside and doing absolutely nothing with it. The idea is that the seeds will sprout whenever the weather is right for them. By doing this in covered containers the seeds are less susceptible to rotting or washing away in the spring. Maybe pick up an extra seed packet and give it a try, can't hurt and might be fun.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 2:21PM
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