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Viola tricolor ssp. hortensis
Viola x wittrockiana omega F1 blanc pur dsc00972.jpg
Habit: herbaceous
Height:  ?
Origin:  ?
Exposure:  ?
Water:  ?
USDA Zones:  ?
Sunset Zones:
[[{{{domain}}}]] > [[{{{superregnum}}}]] > Plantae > [[{{{subregnum}}}]] > [[{{{superdivisio}}}]] > [[{{{superphylum}}}]] > [[{{{divisio}}}]] > [[{{{phylum}}}]] > [[{{{subdivisio}}}]] > [[{{{subphylum}}}]] > [[{{{infraphylum}}}]] > [[{{{microphylum}}}]] > [[{{{nanophylum}}}]] > [[{{{superclassis}}}]] > Magnoliopsida > [[{{{subclassis}}}]] > [[{{{infraclassis}}}]] > [[{{{superordo}}}]] > Violales > [[{{{subordo}}}]] > [[{{{infraordo}}}]] > [[{{{superfamilia}}}]] > Violaceae > [[{{{subfamilia}}}]] > [[{{{supertribus}}}]] > [[{{{tribus}}}]] > [[{{{subtribus}}}]] > Viola {{{subgenus}}} {{{sectio}}} {{{series}}} tricolor hortensis var. {{{cultivar}}}

The pansy or pansy violets are a large group of plants cultivated as garden flowers. Pansies are derived from Viola species Viola tricolor and they often include hybrids with other viola species, these hybrids are referred to as Viola × wittrockiana or less commonly Viola tricolor hortensis. The name "pansy" also appears as part of the common name for other Viola species that are wildflowers in Europe.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Pansy. A favorite garden perennial, commonly grown as an annual; prized for the beauty and individuality of its flowers. The pansy is everywhere a familiar flower. There is much character in it. The flower is often likened to a face. It appeals to personal feeling. In fact, the word pansy is only a corruption of the French pensee, meaning thought. The old folk- name, heartsease, is also associated with the familiar place which the plant has occupied; it signifies remembrance. The pansy is one of the oldest of garden flowers. Parkinson mentions it as a flower-garden subject in 1629. When critical study began to be given to the kinds of plants, the pansy was so distinct from wild species that its specific indentity could not be determined with precision, and, in fact, this is the case to the present day. It is generally considered, however, that it has descended from Viola tricolor (see Viola), a small perennial violet native to the cooler parts of Europe. In its nearly normal or unimproved forms, Viola tricolor is now grown in gardens. It is a most interesting plant, because handsome-flowered and variable. The flowers of this violet usually have three colors or shades, mostly blue, whitish and yellow, but in the different varieties one of the colors strongly predominates. A form with very small and inconspicuous flowers (var. arvensis) has run wild in many parts of the country.

Pansies are perennial, but they are grown practically as winter or spring annuals. Commercial growers sow the seeds in fall, and sell great quantities of the seedling plants before winter sets in. These plants are flowered in frames or cold greenhouses, or they are planted in the open for spring bloom. Plants are also started indoors . in late winter for spring bloom. Pansies delight in cool, moist weather; hence the American summer is not to their liking, and they often perish. A new stock of plants is started every year.

The modern improved pansies run in strains or families rather than in definite varieties. These strains are maintained at a high grade by the best cultivation and the closest attention to selection. The seed of the best strains is necessarily expensive, for it represents much human care. The stock usually runs down quickly in other hands. It should be renewed from the seed-breeder each year if the best results are to be maintained. These fancy and high-bred strains require extra care in the growing. Most of the best strains are of European origin. They are usually known by the name of the breeder. The chief points of merit in the high-bred pansy are size of flower, brilliancy of coloring, arrangement of colors. The flowers may be self-colored (of only one color) or particolored. The parti-colored flowers are of three general types: two banner petals and three central petals of different colors; petals all margined with lighter color; petals all striped. There are all grades of intermediate differences. The colors which are now found in pansies are pure white, purple-black, pure yellow, different shades of blue, purple, violet, red-purple. Pansy flowers are now grown 3 inches across.

With the above account may be compared Gerard's description of pansies in 1587. He pictures the heartsease or Viola tricolor with small violet-like flowers, the petals standing apart from each other. The "upright heartsease," or Viola assurgens tricolor, is represented as a stouter and more erect plant, with rounder but scarcely larger flowers. These are described as follows:

"The Hearts-ease or Pansie hath many round leaves at the first comming up; afterward they grow somewhat longer, sleightly cut about the edges, trailing or creeping upon the ground: the stalks are weake and tender, whereupon grow floures in form & figure like the Violet, and for the most part of the same bignesse, of three sundry colours, whereof it tooke the syrname Tricolor, that is to say. purple, yellow, and white or blew; by reason of the beauty and braverie of which colours they are very pleasing to the eye, for smel they have little or none at all. The seed is contained in little knaps of the bignesse of a Tare, which come forth after the floures be fallen, and do open of themselves when the seed is ripe. The root is nothing else but as it were a bundle of threddy strings.

"The upright Pansie bringeth forth long leaves deeply cut in the edges, sharp-pointed, of a bleake or pale green colour, set upon slender upright stalks, cornered, jointed, or kneed a foot high or higher; whereupon grow very faire floures of three colours, viz., of purple, blew, and yellow, in shape like the common Hearts-ease, but greater and fairer; which colours are so excellently and orderly placed, that they bring great delight to the beholders, though they have little or no smell at all: for oftentimes it hapneth that the uppermost floures are differing from those that grow upon the middle of the plant, and those vary from the lowermost, as Nature list to dally with things of such beauty.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Cultivation, breeding and life cycle

A pansy flower

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

There are few plants more popular than the pansy. Every year the demand for the plants is greater. This flower has been cultivated for so long that its source is a matter of uncertainty. As seen at the present day, it is an artificial production, differing considerably from any known wild plant.

Pansies were probably first improved from the original type in Great Britain, where the cool and moist climate is well adapted to their cultivation, and new varieties gradually appeared with larger flowers, of varied colors. For many years, England and Scotland bore the reputation of growing the best pansies. About forty years ago, three French specialists, Bugnot of St.Brieue, and Cassier and Trimardeau of Paris, made immense strides in developing the pansy, and their productions were a revelation to the horticultural world. Such sizes and colors were previously thought impossible. Trimardeau developed a new race with immense flowers and very hardy constitution. His strain, crossed with those of Cassier and Bugnot, has given a pansy which is superseding the older English varieties. At the present day, Germany and France lead in introducing new varieties.

It is customary at the present day to make a careful selection of seedlings for new varieties, also to propagate by the means of cuttings. The spec-cialists are devoting much time to the improvement of the various types and strains. The flowers are being steadily improved in all points by which pansies are judged,—size, color, substance and form. Nearly all of the beautiful colors are to be found among the giant types, and the care that is being taken in the selection of colors makes it reasonably sure that, when the choicest seed is obtained, a large percentage of the plants will come true to color. The season of blossoming has been extended, the new early-flowering strains blooming five or six weeks earlier in the spring than the old varieties.

There are many beautiful varieties of pansies and it is difficult to make a selection, but the most popular for both amateur and commercial growers are the giant flowers of the Trimardeau type, the Cassier superb strain of blotched pansies, and the Bugnots. One of the newer strains is the "Masterpiece." a very large flower with curled or ruffled petals, which are so undulated and curled that many of its blossoms appear to be double. The new upright giant five-blotched pansy called the "Princess" by Ernest Benary is entirely distinct from all other pansy strains in its great compactness, its upright growth and its hardiness. Two other types which should be mentioned are the "Orchid Flowered," whose delicate orchid colors do not exist in any other strain; and the "New Early Flowering Giant" pansy, which blossoms in early March.

It is conceded by European pansy specialists who have visited the United States that the American pansy seed planted on the American soil, will produce larger and finer flowers than the foreign-grown seed of the same strain planted on the same soil.

Pansies degenerate very quickly; therefore it is very important to procure fresh seed every year from a specialist.

The four characteristics of the pansy required by the four leading pansy-growing people are as follows:

  • Germany: Color, substance, form, size.
  • Great Britain: Form, color, substance, size.
  • France: Substance, size, color, form.
  • America: Size, color, substance, form.

The success of growing a crop of pansies depends largely on having good fresh seed and on how the seedbed is treated the first six to twelve days; for if pansy seed becomes dry after once sprouting, it is dead; and if kept too close, it will damp-off.

A coldframe is a good place in which to sow the seeds if the boards are not full of fungus; or a box 9 inches to a foot high might be made on fresh ground that is a little sandy and was well manured for a previous crop; dig and make the soil fine and water it well before sowing the seeds. Sow in drills 3 inches apart and 1/16 inch deep. One ounce of seed will sow about 300 to 350 feet of drill, or 90 feet if sown broadcast. Cover the seed 1/16 inch deep with fresh sand or sandy soil, pat down or roll well and give a light watering. The surface should be dusted with sulfur or grape dust to keep the damping-off fungus from starting. Cover with boards, leaving space for ventilation; or they can be covered with moss, hay, or straw, being sure to remove the covering as soon as the seed is sprouted. Pansy seed will not sprout well if kept above 75°. After sprouting and until they have the second leaves, it is a good plan to cover them with the thinnest muslin, tacked on frames. Sashes may be used if well shaded and well ventilated.

To secure the best results, pansy seed should be sown from July 10 to August 25. If plants for cut- flowers are wanted, sow the seed the first part of July. The best plants for wintering over in the field for spring sales are from seeds sown from July 10 to 20 in the northeastern states. Five or six weeks after sowing the seeds, the plants are usually large enough to be transplanted in the field, in good rich ground. The soil can hardly be made too rich, and should be in raised beds so the water will not stand on them in the winter. Plant 7 or 8 inches apart each way. If a coldframe is used, from 50 to 250 plants can be set under a 3- by 6-foot sash. If pansy plants are transplanted the first time into the place where they are wanted to grow, they will have larger flowers; for every time the roots of a pansy are disturbed, the flowers will be smaller. Just enough mulch should be applied to hide the plants from view after the ground is frozen. This mulch is taken off as soon as the frost is out of the ground in the spring.

There are from 25,000 to 28,000 seeds in one ounce of pansy seed. Growers usually allow one ounce of seed for 4,000 plants. With good fresh seed and great care, 7,000 to 8,000 plants should be obtained from one ounce of seed. For commercial purposes, pansy seed should be planted in July and August, but at this time of the year, it is too hot for the seeds to grow well. Seeds planted in the fall or early spring will give double the number of plants and require less care.

If pansies for winter blooming are desired, transplant as soon as the plants are large enough to the beds or benches in the greenhouses. They will need about the same temperature as for violets, 40° to 45° at night, and 60° in the daytime in bright weather. Pansies are now being grown very extensively for cut-flowers in this country.

If wanted for exhibition purposes, keep the pansy plants in a low temperature till January; some freezing, even, will benefit them. Start them slowly into growth at a temperature between 30° to 40° at night, as a higher temperature will diminish the size of the flowers. A weak solution of guano or hen-manure once every two weeks will help them wonderfully. During growth and bloom, maintain a rather low, even temperature, without actual freezing, carefully avoiding extremes in temperature.

In favored localities pansies designed for early spring bloom receive no glass protection during winter, the plants from the August sowing being transplanted in the fall from the seed-bed directly into their permanent quarters. Good pansies can be grown out-of-doors without glass protection as far north as Nova Scotia. Generally, however, it is much better to winter pansies in a coldframe, especially the finer strains. Pansies in bloom should be partially shaded from the hot midday sun, particularly the fancy-colored strains, the petals of which are more delicate in texture.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



The pansy has two top petals overlapping slightly, two side petals, beards where the three lower petals join the center of the flower, and a single bottom petal with a slight indentation.

Pests and diseases

  • Stem rot - Stem rot, also known as pansy sickness, is a soil-borne fungus and a possible hazard with unsterilized animal manure. The plant may collapse without warning in the middle of the season. The foliage will flag and lose color. Flowers will fade and shrivel prematurely. Stem will snap at the soil line if tugged slightly. The plant is probably a total loss unless tufted. The treatment of stem rot, includes the use of fungicides such as Cheshunt or Benomyl , which are used prior to planting. Infected plants are destroyed (burned) to prevent the spread of the pathogen to other plants.
  • Leaf spot - Leaf spot (Ramularia deflectens) is a fungal infection. Symptoms include dark spots on leaf margins followed by a white web covering the leaves. It is associated with cool damp springs.
  • Mildew - Mildew (Oidium) is a fungal infection. Symptoms include violet-gray powder on fringes and underside of leaves. It is caused by stagnant air and can be limited but not necessarily eliminated by spraying (especially leaf undersides).
  • Cucumber mosaic virus - The cucumber mosaic virus is transmitted by aphids. Pansies with the virus have fine yellow veining on young leaves, stunted growth and anomalous flowers. The virus can lay dormant, affect the entire plant and be passed to next generations and to other species. Prevention is key: purchases should consist entirely of healthy plants, and pH-balanced soil should be used which is neither too damp nor too dry. The soil should have balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphate and potash. Other diseases which may weaken the plant should be eliminated.
  • Slugs and snails
  • Aphids


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