The invincible pansy

Basket of pansies

Rows of baskets filled with plastic pots of pansies await sale at a garden nursery in spring. Shot in April, 2014, in Oakville, ON.

Are we there yet? Has spring arrived? Jaded gardeners in Southern Ontario know full well that, even though it’s April, we haven’t seen the last of snow, hail, ice, slush or general smeg. Resisting the urge to plant some kind of posey is hard. But we don’t have to. There are pansies.

The reasons why pansies can handle the cold are complicated. It has to do with osmosis, white frost vs. black frost and ice forming between plant cells. The bottom line is that even if you expect temps to dip down as low as -5C, you can still plant out a pot of pansies with little risk of killing the bunch.

Don’t plant pansies directly into the still-frozen ground. They’ll be much happier nestled in a container of fresh potting soil. Situate the pot in part shade. A sheltered spot, say, next to your front door, is ideal in case you do get hit with some nasty weather.

Besides, every time you go through the door, you’ll want to have a good look at those lovely faces peering up at you and nodding hello/goodbye.

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