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Tired of Mums? Plant Pansies This Fall

Penny Orange Jump Up Violas are a delightful change from fall colored mums. (Courtesy Photo MSUCares)

It's officially autumn and that means chrysanthemums are taking over the Hamptons. They're in window boxes, pots and planters, seasonal displays with pumpkins and hay bales—this time of year we see them all over the place. If you're looking for some different colors in your pots or gardens this fall, plant pansies!

Yes, you can plant them in fall, not just spring. Garden centers and nurseries have a good selection now.

We love pansies for their early-spring color when it seems like winter's chill will never end. But if you plant them in autumn you will get two seasons of bloom from them in most years. They'll bloom this fall right through frost, until the weather turns freezing. Then they'll be back very early next spring to brighten the garden before the perennials break their winter dormancy. You won't have to freeze your fingers planting pansies when they arrive in garden centers next March or April.

Pansies come in a rainbow of colors: bright golden yellows, rich blues and purples, red, burgundy, orange, pink, lavender, white, mahogany and dramatic dark purple-black, for starters. Some of them combine two or three colors: blue and yellow, for instance, or burgundy with black markings and yellow highlights. The varietal mix Imperial Antique Shades comes in a lovely pastel assortment of soft pink, rose, peach, lavender and cream. Some pansy flowers have distinctive dark markings in the center that remind us of faces; others have just a small yellow center.

How to Grow Them

Pansies are a snap to grow. Plant them in containers or in beds and borders. If you had New Guinea impatiens along the front of your flower beds this summer, you can pull them now and replace them with pansies.

Pansies like a spot that's sunny much of the day, but they'll also bloom in partial shade. For the best performance, give them fertile soil that drains reasonably well, but water them when the weather's dry. They love cool weather (summer heat will finish them off).

Two tips for success with pansies: 1) snip or pinch off the old, faded flowers to keep the plants blooming, and 2) spray them regularly with deer repellent if you've got those four-footed interlopers in your garden.

Plan Ahead for a Spring Display

If you want a great pop of color early next spring, plant some daffodils in the garden now, then plant blue or violet pansies around and among where the bulbs are planted. You'll get color from the pansies now, and in spring you'll enjoy a jazzy blue-and-yellow combo when they bloom again with the daffodils!

And for now, if you just can't live without those mums, how about making a mixed tub garden combining mums, flowering kale or cabbage, some pansies, and maybe a small pumpkin or ornamental grass (such as Pennisetum 'Little Bunny')?

Happy Autumn!

Anne is a writer, editor and professional gardener, and the author of 17 garden, home and nature books. She lives in Hampton Bays.

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