Pansies And Horned Violets: How To Plant And Care

Last updated on October 25th, 2023 at 11:04 am

Spring without pansies – unimaginable! Especially the smallest of the family conquer the hearts: the horned violets, which are as delightful as blooming. In this garden guide, you will learn how and when to best plant and care for the colorful messengers of spring.

Often you can see violets (Violaceae) as grave planting. But the pretty plants should not be reduced to that. Pansies have something romantic and playful about them, reminiscent of the art of Art Nouveau – and it is precisely this “vintage look” that makes the old-fashioned little flowers a little favorite for today’s trend-conscious gardeners. In addition to the wild pansy (Viola tricolor), the garden pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) is especially popular. Feel like planting some in your garden or on your balcony? We’ll show you how.

Pansies and horned violets: What’s the difference?

Pansies And Horned Violets: How To Plant And Care

Both belong to the genus of violets (Viola) and originated as cultivated forms from crosses. The history of the pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) began in 1813: the English Lord Gambier discovered some particularly beautiful wild pansies near London at that time, dug them up and gave them to his gardener to cultivate. Soon after, the pansy moved into many gardens. The horned violet (Viola cornuta), in turn, is descended from a wild form from the Pyrenees and the field pansy. The first variety, Princess, originated in the USA. In the meantime, you can find many varieties in the trade without names – but the flowers speak for themselves anyway.

Planting pansies correctly

The right location and soil
Pansies and horned violets are best suited for planting in pots, bowls and balcony boxes, but they thrive just as well in flowerbeds. They need a semi-shady to sunny location – the latter only when planted in autumn. The following applies to the substrate: it may be moist, but the plants react sensitively to wetness. In addition, the soil should be loose, nutrient-rich and humus. Planting can be done from March to October.

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Sowing: how to plant pansies?

In the spring from March to May, you can pre-cultivate the seeds in seed trays with growing soil. Place the whole thing in a bright location at a temperature of 18 degrees, so that about 10 days after sowing you will see the first seedlings. In late summer, the plants are then sown in the bed. Enrich the soil with humus or compost first, so that later the plant is well supplied with nutrients. Then place the pansies in the soil at a distance of 10 to 20 centimeters.

How long is the flowering period of pansies?

It depends on the time of planting. If you put pansies in the ground in summer or fall, you can enjoy colorful flowers from September to November, and then again from March to May. If you plant your pansies in the spring, you’ll ensure a blooming season from March through summer.

The special significance of the petals

The petals helped the pansy get its name. Thus, the largest petal, located at the very bottom, is called “stepmother”. The adjacent leaves are the “daughters”, which are slightly covered by the “stepmother”.

How hardy are pansies?

Pansies offered for spring planting are not hardy. This is because they have been pre-grown away from frost in a greenhouse. They can go outdoors from the middle of March. Pansies planted in summer or fall need protection to survive the frosty winter well. Cover bedding flowers with fir brushwood. If it snows, feel free to leave the decorative white on the ground; it will further warm the florets. If your pansies grow in pots, you should provide the plants with winter protection all around.

The 4 most important care tips for pansies and horned violets.

In everyday use, pansies and horned violets are pleasantly easy to care for. However, you should still take the following tips to heart:

  • You need to cut off the faded from time to time and remove thickened ovaries.
  • In heat and drought plus if your pansies grow in a very sunny location or under woody plants, you should water them regularly – with low-lime rainwater. Otherwise, precipitation is usually enough for them. Attention: avoid waterlogging at all costs. The substrate should preferably always be moist, but not wet.
  • If you have added humus or compost to the soil when planting, you do not need to fertilize your pansies. In the pot, the flowers will be happy if you add organic liquid fertilizer to the water once a month. Too much fertilizer is detrimental to root growth, among other things. So do not be too generous with the frugal little flowers.
  • If you prune the plants lightly after they have finished blooming, they will often sprout again, and next year you can enjoy their colorful flower faces once more.
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Planting: replace pansies regularly.
Although pansies and horned violets are actually perennials, they are usually cultivated as annuals and then need to be reseeded. This is because they lose their compact growth over the years.

Types and varieties of violets

Pansy varieties (Viola altaica)

Very popular varieties are especially those with large flowers. They were usually created by crossing the wild pansy (Viola tricolor), the Altai pansy (Viola altaica) and the yellow violet (Viola lutea). The Swiss Giant variety, which comes in various colors, is also well known:

  • Abendglut: deep dark or brown-red.
  • Alpensee: deep blue
  • Firnengold: golden yellow
  • Silberbraut: white

However, there are also cultivars such as ‘Cats Orange’, ‘Jolly Joker’ or ‘Fama Zitrin’, which no longer have a black eye typical of the pansy.

Horned violet varieties (Viola cornuta)

Horned violets are very perennial rock garden perennials that have smaller flowers, but also bloom more profusely. Example varieties are:

  • ‘Alba’: white flowers
  • ‘Kathrinchen’: lemon yellow flowers
  • ‘Baby Lucia’: sky blue flowers
  • ‘Fiona’: white with purple edge

Use in the garden

Pansies and horned violets can be planted as soloists in beds and pots. They also combine perfectly with all other spring flowers. Spring bloomers also look especially pretty in partial shade as underplanting evergreens and tall shrubs.

Common diseases and pests

Pansies can be affected by powdery or downy mildew. Waterlogging or basically too much moisture also occasionally causes leaf spot disease. If you cultivate the plants in the bed, slugs are the biggest enemy.

Pansies and horned violets: More things to know about the popular garden guests.

  • Pansies through the ages
  • Even our (great) grandmothers liked to decorate the garden with these uncomplicated graces – but they would have been amazed at the countless varieties and color diversity that breeders have developed since then. While until not so long ago mainly large-flowered, compact-growing pansies were in demand, now the smaller, small-flowered relatives – the horned violets – are getting more attention.
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Extra tip: Palate tickling pansies

Did you know that pansies and horned violets are also edible flowers? Simply sprinkle the pretty blossoms over your spring salad or garnish antipasti, cakes or desserts with them. Simply sweet!


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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