From Academic Kids

5-petaled purple, white, and yellow pansies
5-petaled pansies
Scientific classification
Species:V. tricolor
Subspecies:V. t. hortensis

Template:Taxobox section trinomial botany


Viola × wittrockiana

The Pansy or Pansy Violet is a cultivated garden flower. It is derived from the wildflower called the Heartsease or Johnny Jump Up (Viola tricolor), and is sometimes given the subspecies name Viola tricolor hortensis. However, many garden varieties are hybrids and are referred to as Viola × wittrockiana. The name "pansy" also appears as part of the common name of a number of wild flowers belonging, like the cultivated Pansy, to the violet genus Viola. One or two unrelated flowers such as the Pansy Monkeyflower also have "pansy" in their name.


Development of the Pansy

All across Northern Europe in the 1800s amateur gardeners crossed and recrossed the wild Heartsease (Viola tricolor) with another native violet (V. lutea) and eventually one from the Near East (V. altaica), to produce a host of bigger, bolder pansies. As a result of extensive cross-breeding in the 1820s and 1830s, named varieties became very popular. By 1835, 400 varieties were available. By 1841 the pansy had become a favorite show plant.

With the explosion of greenhouse-building in the Victorian age (due in large part to the availability of affordable, low cost steel) the bold flowers familiar to modern gardeners appeared.

Pansies for Underplanting

Pansies are suitable for planting under shrubs; acting as living mulch, they inhibit the growth of weeds.


Pansies start blooming in the spring in the Northern Europe and the north of the United States, and in winter in warm climes. They are often cultivated with sweet alyssum as they produce a pleasing colour combination and bloom at the same time.

Pansies are edible and have been used to dye mordanted fabric.

Breeding and Life Cycle

Missing image
Pansy Flower

Pansies have been bred in a rainbow of colours, ranging from gold and orange though to purple, violet, and a blue so deep as to be almost black. They are quite a hardy plant, growing well in sunny positions. Pansies are technically biennials that normally have two-year life cycles. The first year they only produce greenery; they bear flowers and seeds in their second year of growth, and afterwards die like annuals. Most gardeners buy biennials as packs of young plants from the garden center and plant them directly into the garden. Gardeners interested in rarer cultivars can plant seeds indoors in early November for plants ready in the spring. Regular deadheading can extend the blooming period. Under good conditions, pansies and viola are perennial plants, although they are generally treated as annual or biennial plants because they get very leggy and overgrown after a few years. The mature plant grows to 9 inches (23 cm) high, and the flowers are two to three inches (about 6 cm) in diameter.


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

Diseases and Pests


Stem rot or Pansy sickness

The plant may collapse without warning in the middle of 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.

Soil-borne fungus. Possible hazard with unsterilized animal manure.

Use Cheshunt or modern Benomyl fungicide prior to planting. Destroy (burn) infected plants.

Cheshunt Recipe

2 parts finely ground copper sulphate 11 parts fresh ammonium carbonate

Mix thoroughly and stand for 2 hours in sealed container. Dissolve 1 ounce (28 g) in a little hot water and add this to 2 gallons of cold water and use immediately.


Puccinia aegra fungal infection. Yellow-brown spots on leaves and stem. Spray with Benomyl or Sulphide of Potassium (1 ounce to 2 1/2 gallons)

Leaf Spot

Ramularia deflectens fungal infection. Dark spots on leaf margins followed by a white web covering the leaves. Associated with cool damp springs. Spray with fungicide.


Oidium fungal infection. Violet-gray powder on fringes and underside of leaves. Caused by stagnant air. Can be limited but not necessarily eliminated by spraying (especially leaf undersides).

Cucumber Mosaic Virus

Transmitted by aphids. Fine yellow veining on young leaves, stunted growth, anomalous flowers. Virus can lay dormant, affect the entire plant and be passed to next generations and to other species. Prevention is key: purchase healthy plants, use ph-balanced soil which is neither too damp not too dry. Soil should have balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphate, potash. Eliminate other diseases which may weaken the plant.


Slugs and Snails

Lay sharp, gritty sand or clinker around plants. Top-dress soil with chipped bark. Clean area of leaves and foreign matter.


Spray with diluted soft soap (2 ounce per gallon)

Aphids are microscopic and lay eggs.


Pansy flowers
Pansy flowers

The Universal Plus series of 21 cultivars covers all the common pansy colors except orange and black.

  • Antique Shades

3 inch wide flowers
Silky sheen, pastel colors

  • Crystal Bowl Mix

2 1/2 inch wide flowers
Faceless, clear colors

  • Flambe Terracotta F1 Hybrid

medium sized flowers
Terracotta shades

  • Flamenco F1 Hybrid
  • Jolly Joker
  • Mambo Mixed F1 Hybrid
  • Orchid Blotch F1 Hybrid
  • Padparadja (named after the orange sapphire)

2 1/2 inch wide flowers
Faceless, deep orange
A 1991 All-America Selections Winner[1] (

  • Pandoras Box F1 Hybrid
  • Pandoras Children F1 Hybrid
  • Petite Mixed F1 Hybrid
  • Raspeberry Ice Cream F1 Hybrid
  • Springtime Black

All silky deep purple and apparently black

  • Thompson & Morgan Black
  • Total Eclipse F1 Hybrid

Faceless, orange, yellow, black

  • True Blue

Faceless, sky blue

  • Water Colours Mixed F1 Hybrid
  • Zorro

Name Origin and Significance

The pansy gets its name from the French word pensée meaning "thought". It was so named because the flower resembles a human face and in August it nods forward as if deep in thought. Because of the origin of its name, the Pansy has long been a symbol of Freethought and has been used in the literature of the American Secular Union. Humanists like the symbol also, as the pansy's current appearance was developed from the Heartsease by two centuries of intentional cross-breeding of wild plant hybrids. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) uses the pansy symbol extensively in its lapel pins and literature.

As a Woman's Name

Pansy is occasionally spelled "pansie" and can be a woman's name. In the United States, the name is popular among African Americans. In the Harry Potter books, there is a character named Pansy Parkinson.

The word "pansy" can also be used as an insult, questioning the masculinity or courage of the person.

Pansies in the Arts and Culture

In 1827, [[Pierre-Joseph Redout靝 painted "Bouquet of Pansies".

In 1926, Georgia O'Keeffe created a famous painting of a black pansy called simply, "Pansy". She followed with "White Pansy" in 1927.

D. H. Lawrence wrote a book of poetry entitled Pansies: Poems by D. H. Lawrence.

In William Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" the juice of pansy blossom ("before, milk-white, now purple with love's wound, And maidens call it love-in-idleness") is a love potion : "the juice of it, on sleeping eyelids laid, will make or man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees." (Act II, Scene I see also: Oberon at II, i). Since the cultivated pansy had not yet been developed, "pansy" here means the wild Heartsease, and the idea of using it as a love potion was no doubt suggested by that name. The folkloric "language of flowers" is more traditional than scientific, with conventional interpretations, similar to the clich鳠about animals such as the "clever fox" or "wise owl". Ophelia's oft-quoted line, "There's pansies, that's for thoughts", in Hamlet (Act IV, Scene V) comes from this tradition: if a maiden found a honeyflower and a pansy left for her by an admirer, it would mean "I am thinking of our forbidden love" in symbol rather than in writing.

There is a queercore musical band called Pansy Division, drawing on the fact that Pansy has indicated an effeminate male since Elizabethan times. The word "ponce" derives from it, and did not originally have its current meaning of a prostitute's controller; "poncey" still means effeminate.

The pansy remains a favorite image in the arts and crafts, from needlepoint to ceramics.


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