What’s not to love about pansies? The bright and colorful flowers certainly add cheer to any garden–all the more reason we’re sad to see the happy plants suddenly drooping! The easy-to-grow biennials are hardy plants with very few issues, although there is the occasional situation where pansies may wilt in less-than-ideal conditions.
The most common culprit behind wilting pansies is hot temperatures and water stress, easily remedied by adjusting your watering schedule and protecting the plants from the intense midday sun. If mitigating the watering issue doesn’t revive your pansies, pest pressure or a nutrient deficiency may also be to blame.
Continue reading to determine what conditions cause pansies to wilt, and how to revive drooping pansies in the garden.
Why pansies are drooping
Pansies are hardy plants, not prone to disease or pest damage. Pansies are short-lived perennials, technically biennials that live for two years before dying back. If your wilting pansies are from last season’s plantings, they could be nearing the end of their life cycle.
If your newly-planted pansies are wilting or starting to droop, the culprit is most likely temperature issues or watering stress, though there could be other factors at play as well.
Too much heat
Pansies are cool-season biennials that prefer the shoulder seasons of spring and fall to summer, especially in hardiness zones 7 and above, since these warmer climates have significantly hotter summers.
Pansies thrive in soil temperatures that stay between 45℉ and 65℉. These flowering plants prefer full sun–at least six hours of direct sunlight a day–for prolific flowering, but in hotter climates pansies appreciate some protection from the scorching midday sun. Plant pansies in an area of the garden that receives the cooler morning and evening sun, but is shaded during the hottest part of the day.
Not enough spacing
Pansies are bushy plants, and planting the plants too close together may stress the plants and cause the foliage and flowers to wilt. Pansies need at least six inches–ideally nine inches–between plants to provide sufficient spacing and increase airflow.
Disease and pests are more readily spread through plants that are too close together, so allow enough room between pansies for the plants to breathe, and the plants will flourish!
Whether container-grown or planted in the field, pansies that have to stretch for the light will grow into leggy plants that can’t support their own weight.
If your pansies have become so spindly that they’ve begun flopping over, cut the plants back to about six inches tall. Pansies will quickly grow back, producing healthy, new growth to replace the leggy growth.
If your pansies aren’t getting enough light, move the container or transplant them to a new location. Pansies transplant well, so long as you transplant them at the appropriate time and water them in well. Transplant pansies in the morning on an overcast day to allow the plants time and space to focus on building strong root systems.
Watering issues are the number-one reason that plants begin to wilt. It’s far more damaging to overwater pansies than underwater them, but both could result in serious issues.
Pansies prefer cooler temperatures, and watering is a great way to lower the soil temperature to one that pansies can tolerate. Water pansies in the morning when at all possible–watering in the middle of the day or in the late evening can cause problems with plant foliage. The chance of fungal disease is increased with evening watering and the cooler temperatures that the night brings.
If the leaves are curling as well as wilting, your pansies might be underwatered rather than overwatered. Give pansies about an inch of water a week for the majority of the season, upping their intake to almost two inches a week during the hottest summer months. Use a rain gauge to measure exactly how much water your pansies are getting.
Water pansies deeply but infrequently. While watering daily encourages shallow roots, deep, infrequent waterings force pansies to build healthy, robust root systems.
Overwatering pansies increases the chance of the plant developing root rot, a condition that results in a plant’s roots rotting and the eventual death of the plant. Root rot can be caused by the presence of a fungus that thrives in overly moist soil, or the moisture itself may cause the roots to rot out. Either way, look for yellowed leaves and wilting plants.
Like most flowers, pansies prefer well-draining, fertile soil. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient to promote flowering, so if your pansies are weak and won’t flower, it might be time to fertilize your plants. Use a balanced fertilizer, like an organic 4-4-4 blend, and fertilize once every four weeks. Be sure to water your plants before fertilizing, and add fertilizer in the early morning to avoid burning the plants.
Alkaline soil pH
Pansies thrive in slightly acidic soil ranging from 5.0 to 6.0. If you’re not sure whether your soil is acidic or alkaline, do an at-home soil pH test to find out. Add organic matter like compost to acidify your soil and give pansies the nutrients they need to grow strong and beautiful.
An unavoidable reality of gardening, pests are bound to come and go in the garden. While pansies are hardy plants that can survive minor pest pressure, if pest invasions begin getting out of hand in the garden you may see your plants beginning to wilt. Aphids and whiteflies are especially drawn to pansies, and these sap-sucking insects will cause pansies to look lifeless.
How to revive wilting pansies
It’s totally normal to see your pansies die back during the hottest summer months–pansies prefer the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. If you don’t suspect that warmer weather is to blame, there are a few steps you can walk through to identify the problem and remedy it.
1. Check water
Pansies prefer even and consistent moisture, so when you see your plants drooping the first order of business is to check the soil for moisture. If the soil is dry, the plants might just need more water–problem solved.
If the soil is moist and you’ve been watering daily, the issue may be just the opposite. Overwatering pansies is even more detrimental than underwatering them. Pansies aren’t designed to sit in soggy soil, so back off your watering regiment to deep waterings a couple of times a week. Ensure that your plants are receiving two inches of water a week and no more.
2. Check for root rot
If you suspect that your pansies have been overwatered, you’ll need to check the roots. Overwatering is nearly synonymous with root rot, and the symptoms are similar–wilted, discolored foliage and lifeless plants. Once you see these warning signs, dig down to find the plants’ roots–if they are brown and slimy, pull the plant and cut away as much of the rotted roots as possible with a clean pair of snips. Repot your pansies into a new container or, if the plants are outside, move them to a new location away from the contaminated soil.
If a plant is too far gone, you might consider discarding the entire plant to avoid spreading the disease to your other plants. Be sure to sanitize any tools and equipment that come into contact with the diseased plants.
3. Check for pests
Look closely for any signs of pest damage–pieces of leaves missing or discolored and dropped foliage. Look for the presence of pests themselves, and be sure to check underneath leaves and along stems as well. Smaller insects like aphids and thrips can be hard to spot – don’t hesitate to use a magnifying glass if you need it.
Fight pest invasions by using biological pest control like ladybugs or green lacewing larvae. Predatory insects are an excellent option for keeping pest populations well under control without introducing chemicals into your garden.
For moderate infestations, you can easily make a homemade pest spray using ingredients you might already have on hand. Add ¼ teaspoon (1.2 mL) of neem oil to a 12-ounce (354.9 mL) spray bottle, and fill with cold water. Add a few drops of liquid castile soap. Replace the nozzle, and shake the bottle thoroughly. Spray affected plants thoroughly in the early morning or evening, directly after watering.
For especially bad invasions, use organic insecticide like Pyganic as a last resort.
4. Adjust lighting
If you still can’t determine the cause of your wilting pansies, the plants may not be situated in the best location. Observe the pansies for a full day and see how much sunlight they receive, and when.
Morning and evening sun are perfect–but if the pansies are getting midday sun in the middle of summer the plants will inevitably struggle. Move flower pots to a shaded area to sit out the hottest hours of the day, from noon until 3 or 4 PM. Transplant pansies outside to another location that offers some protection from the scorching afternoon sun.
5. Deadhead and fertilize
Sometimes all pansies need to perk up is to be cut back. Spindly, sickly stems might lean over and give the appearance of a drooping plant–cut the plants back to half their size, and the pansies are sure to grow back stronger and more beautiful than before.
The ideal time to fertilize pansies is after the plants have been cut back and watered. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer per the above recommendations, and your pansies are sure to bounce back to life!
If your darling pansies suddenly begin dropping, all is not lost! Calmly take stock of the situation, paying special attention to temperature, sunlight, and water–often all pansies need is a sip of water, but the circumstances could be more sinister, so check the plant and its roots thoroughly to identify the issue and resolve it!