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A Little Care Is More Than Enough for These Plants

October 15, 1994|SHARON COHOON

Despite their delicate appearance, pansies are tough customers, growers say. Get them off to a good start by planting in a location with plenty of sun and a nice loamy soil enriched by compost or a potting mix, and they will bloom practically nonstop until the heat of summer kicks in. The only additional help they'll need is regular watering and dead-heading (snipping off spent flowers to keep the plant from going to seed). You'll get better performance if you fertilize regularly, but if you're a lazy gardener, you'll be happy to know pansies produce quite generously without it.

If you've had problems with pansies before, here are some additional tips:

* Plant pansies a bit higher than usual so that the root ball is slightly above ground when the soil settles, suggests Larry Amling at Armstrong Nursery. This will help prevent stem rot, a common problem.

* Don't over-water once the plants are established, says Gary Hayakawa at Three Star Nursery. Over-watering is one of the prime causes of stem diseases. Once a week would be sufficient in many locations, he suggests, or perhaps twice a week in a hot, inland spot. But never water a pansy bed as often as you would a lawn.

* Consider adding a fungicide to your soil at the time of planting if you've had problems with damping off in the past, says Cristin Fusano at Roger's Gardens. Damping off is a fungus-caused disease that makes plants break off at the stems. It has no cure. Public gardens and commercial establishments use fungicides regularly to prevent losing large beds of annuals, she says. Ask at your local nursery for a product formulated for pansies.

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