I have a problem with Pansies. The lower leaves become discolored and purple and the plants fail to thrive. Someone once said it's a pH problem, but how do I fix it?
Do you know if phosphorus deficiencies are common in your area? The symptoms sound very similar to those of phosphorus deficiency -- you might try getting a soil test done through a state or county agricultural extension service or a local university if they offer testing, but if a lack of phosphorus is the problem, the remedy may be as simple as fertilizing with a product that has a high middle number (such as 10-60-10). The middle number indicates the phosphorus content in a nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) ratio. Phosphorus binds tightly to organic matter and clay, so once you've added it, you may not need more unless once the problem is corrected, unless your soil is very sandy, in which case you would probably need to add more periodically. There is another possibility, that an excess of some other mineral or the pH itself is causing the plant to be unable to absorb enough phosphorus; then a soil test would be a very good idea, and you can still use the fertilizer as a foliar feed (spraying it onto the plants' leaves) in which case the soil chemistry won't interfere.
I did add bloom food, so that should have helped, but the problem continued on the afflicted pansies. I had some in an area in which I had really taken out a lot of sandy soil to give to a friend, and then I added bagged compost and those did not get the problem, but the others were just like getting more and more purple. We had a lot of rain, but I have had this problem with the purple leaves many times over the years. It never gets better, and I usually end up discarding the plants. I guess I could try some super phosphorus, but it might be too harsh on the other plants that are not afflicted.
It's possible that if other plants aren't being affected, it might be something else -- maybe nematodes. There might not be any reasonable cure for that other than growing your pansies in soil that's been heavily amended with organic matter, but not being from Florida, I'm not aware of current research into that particular problem. I still think that you best bet might lie with contacting someone from county/state agricultural extension and discussing your difficulties with them. Florida soil issues are often fairly unique, at least in this country.
I am not from Florida, I am from San Francisco. Check my profile. I found that contacting agencies never works, not in California. No one will ever contact you back. I wish people would stop suggesting that I contact a various agencies. I post on garden web because, I want input from other gardens with similar problems.
I'm very sorry, I should have thought to check your profile; however, most people don't seem to be in the habit of posting their locations there when they don't include it with their zone, or omit it from their question. It's also unfortunate that the agricultural agencies in California aren't responsive to people. If you want California-specific advice, you might try a California gardening forum. This one doesn't get enough traffic to pull in very many Californians, generally.
The Florida connection happened in my mind because you mentioned the sandy soil -- this is a prevalent issue in parts of Florida and it is associated with nematode problems, which can be controlled through the (repeated) addition of organic matter. In that hot climate, soil organic matter is decomposed at a break-neck pace, so adding more of it regularly is necessary to obtain its benefits. In your cooler climate, I'd think you might be more lucky, if nematodes are indeed a problem for you.
Your problem may be one thing, or several things, and if you can't find an answer from someone else you might just have to experiment a bit, or look harder. I understand your frustration, but snapping at those who try to help is not generally a productive exercise. Please try to be patient.
It's not what you think, it's only that contacting agencies has not resulted in any help. Maybe in Florida they are more responsive. There is not really a place that give out free gardening advice. The budgets are very tight, and no one is paid to do this kind of thing. You don't have to read any emotion in to it. I am just trying to solve a problem that has been off and on for years with the pansies. I had great pansies in 2002, but I never been able to recreate a successful season of pansies. Maybe they were too old when I bought them had been in the cells for too long one year? It's hard to be able to get them when they come fresh from the grower in Hawaii who supplies them, before they get sick from the transition from Hawaii. You don't know how long they may have sitting in the nursery in tiny cells.
It may have been caused by too much water, due to the el nino. Now the leaves are recovered, but they turned yellow instead of purple and died.
Two years later I still have pansies with this purple discoloration. I am now more inclined to believe a fungal diereses is causing the problem and not a ph imbalance. My soil test at a ph of 7, and I have added a lot more homemade compost, but the problem still remains. It only affects pansies and not violas. I may just give up on pansies.
In 2002, I had great pansies, but now that I use even more compost all my pansies look horrible. It is not just the discoloration, but when they get the purple discoloration on the lower leaves they also look limp as if they were under watered. I think the compost may be a carrier of the fungal problem. We have had a lot of rain lately, I think the over watering from the spring rains makes the problem worse
Here is a link that might be useful: I used to have great pansies
Could you post a photo of your "horrible" pansies? I have contacts at pansy breeding companies in CA who may be able to specifically address your problem. :-)
I don't have a photo of the discoloration, but it is mostly at the bottom of the plant. Now the weather is warmer, I am not seeing the discoloration at this time. The edges of the leaves turn purple and the whole plant appears to be limp and not vigorous. I think it is some kind of fungal disease.