Pansies are short-lived perennials, popular for using in colourful pot and border displays. Their colourful flowers are often prettily marked in the centre and look like faces – sometimes with darker blotches, or ‘whiskered’, or plain. An enormous range of flower colours and variations includes blue, mauve, pink, purple, red, yellow, and white, they’re often bicoloured with a mixture of shades too. Pansies flower all year round but are particularly useful in winter, when little else is in bloom.
The pansy’s botanical name is Viola x wittrockiana. This can cause confusion as there are many violas also widely used for pots and borders. Generally, ‘pansy’ refers to viola varieties with much larger flowers, while violas have smaller blooms but produce more of them. Of the two, pansies are best for flowering in autumn and winter, while violas tend to bloom better in spring.
Plant breeders have developed many new varieties of pansy with improved colours and garden performance, including trailing pansies that are particularly good in hanging baskets and window boxes.