By Dr. Gary Bachman
The Meridian Star
As much as I’ve tried the last few weeks to encourage you to give summer annuals a chance to put on one last show, it’s time to start thinking about cool-season color. Probably the most recognizable cool-weather bedding plant is the pansy, a tough and reliable garden performer.
I really like the Cool Wave series of trailing pansies. If you think the name “Wave” sounds familiar, you’re right. Cool Wave pansies were bred by the same folks who brought the popular Wave petunias to many Mississippi gardens.
These plants have a unique spreading and trailing growth habit that makes them must-haves in your garden. Cool Wave trailing pansies are much more vigorous than the standard pansy varieties. The plants are well branched and will fill a landscape bed or hanging basket with good color all the way to next spring.
The flower colors are very attractive. One color I’m really impressed with is the white selection. The pure-white petals surround a bright, golden-yellow eye. Violet Wing is a bicolor of white and rich, deep violet-purple. All of the flowers have yellow eyes with whisker lines radiating from the center that resemble the delicate brush strokes of an artist.
I am particularly impressed with the cold tolerance of pansies in the garden and landscape. Cool Wave trailing pansies are no different. These plants are hardy through U.S. Department of Agriculture Zone 5, so they are well adapted to our Mississippi growing zones.
During really cold weather, these plants will look like they have frozen solid but will display only minor damage when temperatures increase a bit. The most visible effect will be some purpling of the foliage. Any flowers open during these temperatures will be goners, but flowers will return quickly with rising temperatures.
Grow Cool Wave trailing pansies in at least six hours of full sun each day for the best flowering and growth. It’s important to maintain consistent soil moisture in the fall and winter, as these months can be dry.
Many gardeners don’t realize that all pansies are heavy feeders and will stop flowering when soil nutrition gets too low. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks to maintain good plant growth.
But I want to add a word of caution. Many times gardeners buy plants on impulse, me included, without having a definite plan where these plants will grow in the landscape.
Last year, I bought Cool Waves at the Fall Flower and Garden Fest in October, and they sat in their containers for several weeks. They had stretched out when I finally got around to them, so I pruned them back quite heavily. This was a big mistake, as it took several weeks before new growth started to emerge. The plants looked great in the end, but I paid a price for not planting them right away.
So go out and buy some Cool Wave trailing pansies for your enjoyment. They are a fantastic plant that will look great in your landscape, but make sure you have a plan before you go.
• Dr. Gary Bachman is an assistant Extension research professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.