How far apart to plant pansies sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Anyone who's ever picked up a six-pack of marigolds for the yard knows how to space annuals: You look on the label for their eventual width, or spread, and plant them accordingly. Ah, but there are differences between summer annuals and pansies set out for fall and winter color.
Sure, you can spread them 10 or more inches apart. But unless you live in a climate with very mild winters, pansies aren't actually going to grow much, if any, over winter. And winter is when you want them to make an impact in your yard -- because little else does.
Unfortunately, widely spaced pansies -- in most Zone 6 to 8a climates, where temperatures dip to and below freezing during the winter -- will fill in about the middle of June, when you already have summer annuals putting on a show.
So, to have them look great during fall and winter, you toss the old rules out the window and plant pansies close together so they look good during autumn, winter, and spring.
If you do that, a flower bed filled with pansies will be a charming tableau of yellow, purple, and burgundy, not a picture of brown soil dotted with what appear to be insignificant plants.
Sure, they will grow together in spring, but that looks fine, too. And after all, you're going to dig them up and replace them with warm-weather annuals in late spring anyway, because they don't last through summer.
This makes sense, right? So I hope that those of you in climates where fall pansies are de rigueur will help spread the word. Pansies are lovely plants -- they deserve to be the center of attention and not "lost" in a sea of soil.