Fall Pansy and Viola Performance By Monica Kmetz-González and Claudio Pasian

Results from the 2002-2003 field trials at The Ohio State University.

When we started our fall pansy and viola trials three yearsago, our objective was twofold: 1) to provide information to growers, breedersand consumers about the performance of different cultivars and 2) to use thetrials as a vehicle for consumer education. The more the public is aware of thegardening potential of this crop, the greater the chances they will buy theproduct.

Since we started trialing and due to publicity of theresults, landscapers in our area have started realizing the potential of thecrop and are planting fall pansies. We have seen a small increase of fall pansybeds in public areas like shopping centers and city plantings. This past trialwas good for testing winter survivability due to lower than averagetemperatures.

Trial Site and Procedure

This trial, part of The Ohio State University LearningGardens, located just northwest of our departmental buildings on the Columbuscampus, marked the third year for our fall pansy and viola trials and the firstyear it was conducted in-ground. Our previous trials had been conducted inraised beds. Our new, in-ground site mimics more directly the “realworld” growing areas of homeowners, cities and commercial sites. The trialsite is in shade most of the morning, followed by approximately 6-8 hours offull sun. The area, formerly in grass, was amended with Kurtz BrothersProfessional Blend. Pre-plant fertilization with 20-10-20-at-300 ppm nitrogenwas performed via liquid feed on Aug. 27 and Sept. 9, 2002.

A total of 83 cultivars were evaluated. Of this, 63 werepansy (including six panola) and 20 were viola. Seed from the participatingbreeders and distributors was grown on for us by Bob’s Market & Greenhouse,Mason, W.Va.

Plants in 21/4-inch-cell packs were received in ourgreenhouses on Sept. 11, 2002. On September 12, a Rootshield drench was appliedto the plants, and transplanting to the in-ground site occurred on September17. Nine plants per cultivar were planted on 1-foot centers, and no mulch wasused. Post-planting fertilization with 20-10-20-at-200 ppm nitrogen occurred onSeptember 25 and October 9 and 21. There were no pest or disease problems.

Ratings are based on a 1-5 scale (1 = not acceptable, 5 =exceptional). Plants were evaluated for the following characteristics: lowerquality (aesthetics, color, health and appearance), flower number (1 = low, 5 =very floriferous), foliage (vegetative vigor, aesthetics/color, health andappearance), uniformity (1 = quality is variable from plant to plant, 5 =similar quality between all plants) and overall (rating for all plants in thecultivar grouping), taking all the above criteria into consideration.

Weather Conditions

The temperatures during the course of this trial allowed testingfor overwintering. Minimum and maximum temperatures from mid-September throughmid-May were recorded by a departmental weather station located in closeproximity to the trial plot (see Figure 1, below). Plants got off to a goodgrowing start with favorable climatic conditions in September and October. Thefirst night of freezing temperatures occurred on November 1, and overall, theplants looked good until the first very hard freeze occurred at the end ofNovember. The winter was punctuated by cold temperatures and some snowfallthroughout. The season low of -2° F occurred on February 1, a majorsnowstorm on February 16 covered the area with 18 inches of snow, and snowcover remained on the trial plants for the next three weeks before Á anymelting occurred. This snow cover was somewhat helpful in insulating plantsfrom the continuing freezing temperatures over the next month. The firstwarming trend took place in mid-March, and favorable spring weather conditionsfollowed.

Trial Results

The fall evaluation for pansies and violas (see Figures 2and 3, below) was performed six weeks after transplant by the trialscoordinator. Overwintering evaluations were done March 17 and 24 and April 14.A final winter survival count was performed on April 23. Seventy percent of thepansies trialed had 100-percent survival rate. All violas, except ‘Penny YellowJump-Up’ (both 89 percent) and ‘Sorbet Orange Duet’ (89 percent), had100-percent survival rate. Overall survival rate for the trial was 94.4percent. The final spring evaluation for pansies and violas (see Figure 4,below, and 5, page 50) was done by our core team of evaluators on May 1. Plantswere pulled on May 12 to make way for our summer annuals trial.

In addition to the top 15 pansies and seven violas (seesidebars, page 46 and 50), many other cultivars performed very well. Violas, bynature, perform more vigorously in this area. Of particular note in this trialwere the panolas, which combined the flower number, plant Á vigor andcold hardiness of the violas with the larger flower size of the pansy. Of thesix-panola cultivars tested, five placed in our top 15 pansy list for thespring evaluation.

It is clear that most pansies and virtually all violas cansurvive a tough Midwest winter and thrive the following spring. Some cultivarsflower very early, even before daffodils and tulips. One possible reason whyfall pansies have not become a popular crop among customers may be the factthat, in our geographical area, they have to be planted in mid to late September.Later plantings do not allow enough time for good establishment, possiblymaking plants more cold susceptible. In addition, at this time of the year,most spring/summer annuals are still in good shape, and homeowners may bereluctant to remove them to make room for pansies or violas.

The authors would like to thank Annette Duetz for soil bedpreparation and the Annuals Team of Master Gardeners who assisted in all phasesof this trial; Bob Barnitz of Bob’s Market & Greenhouse for seeding andgrowing on the transplants; and Ernst Benary of America Inc., Goldsmith Seeds,PanAmerican Seed, Sakata Seed America, S&G Flowers and American Takii fortheir participation in this year’s trial. All results and photos can beaccessed at http://floriculture.osu.edu/archive/aug03/pansyviola03trial.html.

Monica Kmetz-González and Claudio Pasian

Monica Kmetz-Gonzalez is research associate and Claudio Pasian is associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Horticulture & Crop Science at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. They can be reached by phone at (614) 292-9941 or E-mail at pasian.1@osu.edu.

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