The season of pansies is about over, but what a glorious one it turned out to be. This is thanks to a mild winter with good stretches of springtime temperatures that have delighted both people and plants.
So, we can say both thanks and good-bye to pansies and their smaller cousins, the violas, and prepare to replace them with something great for the hot months ahead.
Since most people use pansies as edging for beds or in pots, window boxes and hanging baskets, this is not a huge, expensive job. But it is one you should get going on so that the plants get settled down and growing before the real heat clamps down on us in a few weeks.
The choices are amazingly varied, particularly among color, size and texture. There are also choices to be made governing the form of the plant, whether it is tallish and upright, wide and spreading or trailing. All three are useful, particularly for container gardens.
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What to plant
Late spring offers a huge range of possibilities that allow gardeners to enjoy more variety and even experiment a bit. For example, a 12-inch pot that held eight or nine pansies can take on a completely different look with a mix of several different kinds of annual flowers. I find these combinations, such as petunias, trailing verbena, celosia or torenia, rich in color and texture and a delight to select and plant.
Before you choose, however, it is essential to know the environment. Spots, such as a flower bed or porch steps that get full sun through the winter and into April may turn quite shady once the trees are in full leaf. Without trees, this sunny spot may turn very hot for plants at midsummer.
Shady spots call for plants such as impatiens, begonias and torenia. Impatiens can grow quite large and should go solo in smaller baskets and containers. They can easily make a good edging for a flower bed and you would need fewer plants than you did with pansies because impatiens grow larger.
Begonias are another top choice for shady containers and edges because they bloom almost constantly, grow rather fast and cause no problems. For the shadiest spots, choose begonias with green foliage, for brighter, sunnier spots, the bronze-leaved ones perform better in partly sunny spots.
An edge of pansies in a hot, sunny spot can be readily replaced with scarlet sage, a wonderful summer flower. The bright red form is one of the best choices and makes a nice change, especially if the bed was filled with pastel colors through the winter.
When selecting annuals for mixed containers, take care to choose a variety of forms. This actually expands the space you have with vertical plants rising above the others and trailing plants that spill over the sides, creating a larger effect.
Q: The foliage on my daffodils is yellow now. Can I get rid of it and plant something else there?
A: The foliage should come up easily now. You can plant annuals over them, but great care must be taken to avoid hurting the resting bulb. Don’t use a shovel to dig the soil. Just use a trowel and very gently to set out small plants that won’t require deep digging. Even if the bulbs were set 7 or 8 inches deep, the top of the bulbs would be a few inches higher. A really safe choice would be a spreading annual such as lantana or verbena. They could add the color you want, and you would set the new plants just outside the area where the bulbs grow.