Welcome to February. It can be a dreary month, often cold and grey, with either rain or snow depending on where you live in the Southwest. Time for some bright color to ease our heart!
Ease Your Heart
So here is the good news – February is the month we can easily grow one of the most heart-easing and cheerful flowers on the face of the earth – heartease. “Heartease” is one common name for Viola tricolor, best known as one of the mothers of the pansy. The simple beauty and delightfully friendly tricolored faces of heartease, pansies, and violets have long been admired by poets, artists, lovers, and cooks!
For cool weather you can’t beat pansies and their kin. And while plant breeders have bread for more cold tolerance, they have not been able to make pansies more heat tolerant. So these plants are something to enjoy now, and then replace with a warm weather annual later, once the days heat up.
For Valentine’s Day, consider a pot of these lovely flowers for your sweetheart. If you live in a cooler part of the Southwest, they will grow inside for a month or two until you can plant them outside. Just give them ample light and not too much water.
How to Grow Pansies
Compact and low growing, pansies are ideal for edging and for squeezing in between rock walls and paths. They are wonderful in containers, nicely complementing spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils. Ideal because after the daffodils fade the pansies will bloom on.
Light. Pansies bloom best in 6 hours of full winter sun. In desert gardens, growing them in containers helps prolong bloom because you can move them into part shade as the sun heats up.
Soil. Pansies are not considered fussy plants. They grow best in loose, rich soil with an acid pH around 6.0. Since our Southwest soils tend to be alkaline (pH around 8.0), this again points to growing them in containers with potting soil.
Remember I said the flowers are edible? I am writing about pansies as food for my food site this week, SavortheSW, and this link should work.
I put my containers of pansies up on a table with metal legs so the critters can’t climb up and eat my plants. This also helps rise these charmers up to where I can easily see them and enjoy their beauty. Harvest them too, when I’m making a dinner salad. Unfortunately if you have many quail in your neighborhood, the cute ruffians may find your pansies and enjoy a dinner salad themselves.
A Valentine’s Day Pansy Poem
Pansies come in red,
and yellow, violet, and blue
Their blooms are so sweet,
Just like you!
Cover photo courtesy of Wave Gardening.
If you live in Arizona, please come to one of my lectures that I mention on my Facebook page. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there we may get a few pennies.
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