HOW TO TAKE CARE OF THOUGHTS IN WINTER

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A horizontal close up image of bright purple and orange bicolor flowers growing in the snow in sunlight photo on a soft focus background.

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Do you need a homegrown flower to stimulate you? Sunflowers, daisies, or dahlias may come to mind immediately. But I prefer thoughts!

I think of this daytime highlighter first, because it blooms in so many different jewel tones and sunny colors, and it has those cute little flower faces.

But even more importantly, these bloom in the fall and then burst back into a riot of color in early spring.

When grown organically, they also have edible flowers, so you can spread the cheerful color on a salad or rice and boost your mood, even when it's cold.

In general, pansies are easy to care for and hardy. In USDA hardiness zones 4-8 can be grown as biennials.

But to enjoy all the pleasant characteristics of this cheerful and hardy flower, it is important to give the pansies proper care during the winter.

With a few extra steps when you plant them in the fall, and as winter temperatures begin to set in, you can help your pansies survive frost and also produce more flowers in spring.

WHEN IS THE SEASON OF GROWING THOUGHTS?

All thoughts are members of the Violaceae family, and Viola tricolor plus the hybrid V . x wittrockiana are the most popular varieties.

A horizontal close up image of yellow flowers growing in a pot covered with a layer of frost rendered on a soft focus background.

Typically, plants of any of these species go to the ground in September or October in Zones 4-7. They will bloom for a time, go dormant in the colder months, and then bloom gloriously again in spring, usually one of the first flowers to do so.

However, they expire with heat. In warmer areas, expect your friendly violas to wilt and die in late spring or early summer.

In Zones 8-11, pansies can be grown only as annuals, planted in spring. If you live in these areas, you won't have to worry about winter care because your plants simply won't survive outdoors for multiple seasons.

Check out our guide on cultivating thoughts for simple and encouraging information tailored to your needs.

There are also a variety of these cheerful plants that are so cold hardy that they are known as "winter pansies." They are a different species, V. heimalis , and they bloom reliably during cold months.

A horizontal close up image of bright purple flowers growing in the snow, rendered on a soft focus background.

If they sound like something you would like to start up in your garden, you can read all about this one. kind of extra cold hardy thinking in our guide .

The most common types that bloom in the fall and again in the spring will be up to you, their gardener friend, to help them get through the cold season between these blooming episodes.

Read on to find out how you can help.

PANSY WINTER PREPARATION TIPS

Winter care for Pansy begins when you first plant them in the fall.

A horizontal close up image of a yellow and burgundy pansy flower growing in the snow.

First, you'll want to select the healthiest plants you can find, with strong stems and buds, not flowers.

If they haven't put their energy into flowering yet, plants can establish their roots, helping them through the winter.

These winter care strategies will ensure the healthiest plants and most prolific blooms in late winter:

PROPER PLANTING AIDS

Plant violas as early as you can in the fall, to give those roots a head start.

Space them at least six inches apart, so they have the level of airflow they prefer for optimal growth.

Pay attention to the ground as well. It needs to drain well.

These hardy cold-weather flowers don't enjoy standing in standing water, especially if it freezes, making it impossible for their roots to draw water in cold months.

For the same reason, it is recommended to plant violas a little above the soil line, maybe half an inch, so they don't sink and create an indentation where water can collect.

A horizontal close up image of a frost covered white, yellow and purple flower surrounded by foliage rendered on a soft focus background.

Finally, add some time-release fertilizer so your transplants don't need additional fertilization in winter. A 14-14-14 (NPK) mix will help strengthen your plants without encouraging them to produce leaves instead of flowers.

My home's resident landscaper, my husband Wade, recommends Osmocote for this purpose, and he has certainly produced magnificent flower beds in late winter and early spring for his clients over the years.

Another pro tip from Wade: don't use bone-meal for this purpose, because at squirrels love it . They will indiscriminately dig up your seedlings to get to the bone meal underneath them.

And keep in mind that if you didn't fertilize at planting time, you should probably go for a liquid fertilizer and apply it about once a month. When the soil cools, it is more difficult for the crystals to dissolve in the soil so that the roots can absorb them.

DEADHEADING

After you've enjoyed the fall color display, be sure to remove spent blooms before winter.

This helps the plants produce stronger roots, as does pinching back the top inch or two on any thin stems in late fall.

A horizontal image close up of frost on purple flowers and foliage.

Once temperatures drop below 25 ° F, plants generally remain dormant, so wilting may stop.

If you are lucky enough to live in a temperate zone where they bloom again during thaw periods, enjoy the show!

But don't worry about removing the flowers or thin stems when the hard frost resumes, as the roots of the plant have basically grown as long as they will.

At that point, stop worrying about deadlocks and spend a little time on these other strategies:

MULCH

Mulch helps the soil retain moisture. Thoughts are definitely opposed to dry dirt in winter!

While they can survive December through March in soil that is not moist enough, the stems and roots will not be as healthy as you would like in spring.

A horizontal close up image of a bright blue flower surrounded by mulch to protect it during the winter months.

I recommend applying an inch or two of straw mulch at planting time, being careful to keep the mulch a couple of inches from the main stems, so as not to encourage the emergence of certain soil-borne diseases.

Then, before the first frost, mulch an additional inch or two of straw again, this time covering the stems and flowers as well.

Some fans rake the straw after the threat of frost or ice has passed, but I generally leave it in place as the winter plants will simply walk through it to flower in early spring.

WATER

Many other flowering plants don't need water in the winter, but these early spring bloomers do.

They are developing growing stem and root systems and perhaps even producing flowers until temperatures plummet to 25 ° F or below.

A horizontal close up image of bright blue flowers surrounded by snow in the bright sun photo.

And even if a cold snap wilts the foliage, they need to stay hydrated to revive in spring or maybe even bloom again, or grow more roots if the freezing stops.

When their soil is dry, or it hasn't rained or snowed in a few weeks, take out the watering can and give them about an inch of water.

It's especially important to water them before deep freezing, so they can drink before the soil becomes so hard that the roots can no longer draw water.

If you missed the window of opportunity before a severe frost, you can still water dry soil after it subsides, to make up for the carelessness.

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