Sowing pansies and violas for winter and spring displays
The cheery flowers of hardy violas and their semi - trailing habit make these pretty plants a must for winter and spring containers and hanging baskets.
Pansies and violas both belong to the same plant family and there are lots of different colours and mixes. These include flowers with blotched petals, pure single colours and bi and tri-colours. Some pansies come with ‘whiskers' on their petals or extravagantly frilled edges, while the flowers of smaller violas are usually more discreet but no less colourful or beautiful.
The normal sowing time for violas and pansies is between spring and mid summer but these hardy biennial plants don't know that! As long as they get the temperature they need the seeds will germinate.
All pansy and viola plants need good air circulation and careful watering to avoid problems from mould and mildew but if you can give the plants airy, cool but frost free conditions, they'll perform well from a late autumn sowing.
HOW TO SOW:
Sow seed thinly onto the surface of good free draining compost into individual cell trays.
Pansies and violas don't need high temperatures or bright light to germinate so they'll be perfectly happy at 15-17C/59-63F. Water the seeds carefully to keep the compost just moist but not wet.
When seedlings emerge, prick out any overcrowded seedlings into cells of their own.
Grow them on in cool, airy conditions, and plant out when they have formed strong plants with good root systems.
Allow good air circulation around pansy and viola plants, space them apart so plants aren't touching each other.
Clear away any plant debris to minimize the risk of fuzzy mould and mildew spores infecting nearby plants.
Keep a look out for signs of mould; this may appear as brown or grey spots of discoloration on upper and lower leaves.
•· Sow seed thinly into individual cell trays so you don't have to prick out lots of tiny seedlings.
•· A good way of sowing seed is to use the natural crease of your hand to guide the seeds onto the soil. With a bit of practice it's quick and easy and this is the tried and trusted method for many gardeners.
•· Alternatively open the seed packet very carefully and gently push individual seeds onto the surface of the compost.
•· If you fear you might be a bit clumsy with this open the packets over a tray- I say this from experience- because it is very easy to scatter seed all over the floor instead of on the seed compost!
•· It's best to err on the dry side when watering seedlings to avoid problems such as ‘damping off'. This is a fungal disease that causes the seedlings to collapse, sowing thinly and watering sparingly is the key to avoiding this problem.
•· Seedlings are ready to prick out when you see two true leaves appearing.
•· (The first pair of leaves that emerge are called cotyledon leaves, these help to feed the seedlings but they are not the plants' true leaves).
•· When pricking out or transplanting seedlings hold them by their leaves not by the stems which are easily damaged.