The bright faces of pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are a familiar sight, with their bright, multicolored flowers. The large flowering hybrids are traditional bedding plants and can be grown from seed planted the previous spring or fall, or bought from the garden center and planted in the year they are to flower.
Pansy Life Cycle
Pansies are biennials, meaning they have a two-year life cycle. They grow from seed but only produce leaves and stems in their first year. In the second year, pansies produce flowers and seeds and the plants then die. Garden centers sell 1-year-old pansies as bedding plants for spring or fall color. The flowers are 1 to 3 inches in diameter and can be single color or streaked, with colors including white, pastels, deep blue, violet, brown and maroon. If you leave your pansies in the garden following flowering, you may find they become leggy. It's best to remove them after flowering.
In the first year, pansies grow from seeds. If you want to grow your own pansies, buy seeds from a reputable company. Plant the pansy seeds directly into garden beds, spaced in rows 4 to 6 inches apart. Alternatively, you can start the seeds indoors and they will begin to sprout after five to eight days. When the seedlings have developed six to eight leaves, transplant them into their permanent garden spot.
During the second year, pansies bloom and produce seeds. If you prefer to grow pansies as annual plants, buy plants from a garden center. Plant these directly into the garden. Pansies have a compact, spreading habit and grow in sun or shade. Remove faded flowers to encourage more blooms and stop seeds forming. Dig up pansies when blooming has finished.
Pollination and Propagation
Pansies need insects to pollinate them if they are to produce seeds. They will self-seed within the garden, if you allow seed heads to develop. Allowing flowering pansies to set seeds will result in new pansy seedlings, but the new plants are unlikely to look like the parent plant.