Pansies grow when soil temperatures reach between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures fall below 25F, the foliage wilts and turns an unappealing gray, indicating the plant’s reaction to the cold weather. Pansies grown in areas with mild winters make beautiful winter specimens that bloom in the fall and in the spring as long as you care for plants exposed to the cold.
Apply two inches of mulch around your pansies as soon as they get exposed to the cold. While mulching works best when done before a freezing spell, adding the mulch after a cold snap still helps protect the plants from further damage.
Cover the bed of pansies with two to four inches of straw to further protect the plants from extremely cold weather. The straw helps keep heat trapped in the soil and prevents the plants from freezing. An alternative way to cover the plants requires the use of special frost protection fabrics, useful when temperatures are expected to drop below 20F for a few days. The fabric works best when winds are also expected, since the breeze dries out the plants, making them more susceptible to the cold.
Remove the straw as soon as the weather warms up again and the threat of cold temperatures goes away. In the south and in other mild winter areas, you may remove the straw in the winter, but be prepared to cover the bed again if another cold streak is forecast. In the north, the bed of straw should stay on the plants until early spring.
Prune all frost-damaged flowers from the plants after a cold spell to make the plants look better and to stop seed pods from forming and using up all of the plant’s energy.
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