The Pansies of Autumn

It is my contention that Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are underused, and Chrysanthemums overused, as fall annuals.

Flats of orange Pansies ready for planting.

I’ve purchased several flats of orange Pansies this fall. I think they look appropriately seasonal.


Of course, they look better bunched together in a flat than they do when they are first planted out. However, they gradually fill in the space around them. Pansies like cool weather and tolerate light frosts. In my experience their blooms last longer than those of Chrysanthemums.


Chrysanthemums are not really annuals, but that is how they are used by the million: purchased as a dense floral mound in a pot, then thrown away. I’ve never really liked Chrysanthemums, but I bought a few this year anyway. I wish now that I hadn’t.

I think the Chrysanthemums in these pots fell prey to voracious slugs, or maybe earwigs.

I’ve always considered Chrysanthemums a rather stiff and artificial-looking flower. It’s hard to put into words why I feel that way, I just do. They are also vulnerable to a number of pests.

I considered calling this post “Chrysanthemums Are Stupid”. It occurred to me, however, that such a title may not be consistent with the elegant prose for which this blog is known.

I wondered if it was worth buying autumn annuals at all. They could all be blasted by a hard frost and that would be the end of them. However, we haven’t had a frost yet (October 15th is traditionally considered the average first frost date here) and temperatures aren’t predicted to go anywhere near freezing for the next ten days. So what the heck.

Have you planted any Pansies or Chrysanthemums for fall?

71 Comments on “The Pansies of Autumn

  1. I’m with you on the Chrysanthemum front. It’s just that they are everywhere. However, same goes for the pansies, over here. So I usually don’t buy extra autumn flowers.I have a few autumn bloomers out like thimbleweed, that’ll have to do.

    • You don’t usually see Pansies for sale at the big box stores here in the autumn – it’s all mums, all the time. There are a few garden centers where you can find them.

  2. Well, fortunately I’m planting spring flowers at the moment, and pansies are a top priority, but I don’t plant them much in autumn, so thanks for putting me onto that idea. I do think Chrysanthemums are a little stiff looking, but they are very hardy plants in our garden, so they have earned their place.

  3. I promote Asters over mums. I guarantee you will hear from Chrysanthemum organizations and lovers.

  4. Your orange pansies are going to look wonderful over the winter. I agree with you where chrysanthemum’s are concerned, never grow them myself!

  5. I like both – but you are so right about the pansies. I used to always have little violas in pots around the front door in Britain because they tended to bloom sporadically through a mild winter and then have a wonderful final flourish in spring when the bulbs in the pots were flowering. Chrysanths are beloved in France because of Toussaints (All Saints) on 1 November. There are some really dazzling (and no doubt costly) public displays in towns around this time. It was when we lived in Alsace that I was converted to Chrysanths. As someone who has worked under glass I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw what they had wheeled out to follow the summer bedding for only TWO WEEKS!!! Unfortunately I wasn’t taking pictures for my blog then, but you have to take my word for it when I say that any gardener would have been in awe. Hope you enjoy your pansies for weeks/months to come!

    • There is a massive display of mums at the Longwood Gardens conservatory in late fall and early winter. Yes, they can be impressive in masses. It’s hard to resist gigantic swaths of bright colors, at least for me.

      • Too right – and it just fills me with admiration for someone else’s hard work!

  6. I have found just one very pretty and slightly floppy orange Chrysamthemum for a pot on my front steps, but apart from that I have only made up one pot with Carex and Ericas, and added a couple of blue violas to gaps. I always wonder the same: is it worth it? But always end up buying something anyway! No frosts here yet either….

  7. My Chrysanthemums survived in the garden last winter although I also took cuttings and kept those in the cold greenhouse, they are just about to open their buds.

  8. I’m not a fan of chrysanthemums either – I think they look too artificial and over-engineered. I like pansies, they’re cheerful, but David doesn’t so there’s no autumn bedding here! Your pansies are a pretty colour.

  9. I love pansies. I don’t grow chrysants, even though there are some marvellously showy Shoesmith chrysanthemums. I am still at a loss as to why you bought a plant you hate! Did it leap unbidden into your shopping trolley?

  10. I haven’t bought either – too much money for too little time in my part of the world. But, if I was going to buy something, I love pansies and could care less about chrysanthemums. I do have some asters blooming that are kind of pretty, and I don’t have to buy them every year. When they are done blooming, I’m going to divide them and spread them around a little. Happy planting, and I hope you have many weeks before a hard frost. 🙂

  11. I’m not a big chrysanthemum fan either, as they seem so stiff and round to me. Too formal for my relaxed gardening ways! 🙂 I do have perennial Sheffield chrysanthemums, but I just let them run and they are much looser than the traditional chrysanthemum. I love pansies, but I don’t buy a lot of annuals so I probably won’t be buying them this year. I do have some wild violets blooming here and there now, though.

  12. Love, love, love pansies. I’ve never planted them in the fall, but someday I might, if I can find them in central Maine.

  13. My first violas are in with pansies to follow. In most years they survive our winters. My Arranger insists on a chrysanthemum or two (in a pot) here and there, but I don’t plant them.

  14. The violas I planted in the spring are still going strong. Buying mums is kind of a ripoff…I have yet to have any come up the next year. We were outside Menard’s and a lady had a cart full and was asking how to get them to come up next fall. She had never had any luck either. Read on another blog that she planted asters instead…

    • The big box store sell mums by the million around here. I can sort of understand their appeal when you see masses of them blooming together at the store.

  15. Huh, I love both! Chrysanthemums in a vegetable garden are actually pest deterrents (they contain premetherin which is used in commercial pesticides). Large, poofy football mums are beautiful and come in some interesting colors. Those are generally not the ones offered at nurseries, however. They are also perennial, not annual, but people don’t know that, and there wouldn’t be such a big market for it each year if people did. Pansies are equally lovely and delicate looking. Maybe I just love flowers!

    • In general I love flowers also. There are mums that are hardy here, but I think most of the mums sold at nurseries and big box stores are not.

  16. Next time, I’d go with “Chrysanthemums Are Stupid.” It opens up possibilities for a series on “Stupid Flowers.”

  17. Retailers around here bring in chrysanthemums for fall containers at the end of July already…it makes me so sad. Granted, we usually get snow in September (and we’re guaranteed to have it in October) so I guess the timing isn’t as crazy as it first appears. I’m not a big fan of them, although they can sure create some decent curb appeal if used properly. Pansies, on the other hand, are exquisite, but I don’t plant them in the fall. I can barely get my bulbs in before the ground freezes, lol.

  18. Pansies are to rabbits what hosta are to deer. I am tired of feeding them. Thanks for sharing your pics. May my beautiful purple pansies rest in peace – probably in rabbit poop someplace.

  19. The one time I potted up a bunch of pansies, they soldiered on through snow and ice. Don’t ask me why I never repeated that success.

  20. Like Indie, I have grown the single chrysanthemum “Sheffield” for at least a decade. It is a sort of salmon pink colour and is a very late bloomer– mid October until frost. It’s blooming now with white Japanese anemones and Russian sage.
    Love your apricot pansies. They do add cheer to the garden in fall and early summer.

  21. I love those orange pansies. I’m not a big fan of using Chrysanthemums as annuals either. I have several clumps of a perennial Chrysanthemum called Sheffield Pink, which flowers very late, it’s just starting now. Too late to really enjoy.

  22. I am not purchasing any mums or pansies. I have one mum that is blooming beautifully. I will just have to enjoy it while I pass by in the garden. I have noticed more of those orange pansies for sale this fall. They are a temptation. They just don’t last long enough. By the time I get in the mood to purchase them frost is in the forecast.

  23. Our first frost date is Oct. 3 but we generally don’t get a real freeze until November but I’m too busy (or lazy…depending on how you look at it) to plant annuals in the fall. I don’t really have an opinion on chrysanthemums (although I do really like pansies) as it seems that every plant/flower that I consider “ho hum” is seen in a totally different light once I see them in a garden where the gardener is passionate about them. This year, my opinion of coleus did a complete 180.

  24. I bought some “winter hardy” pansies. We shall see. I have white nicotiana that is blooming furiously, and my ancient rose bush has put out fresh buds and blooms. Here in St. Louis, in a south-facing, brick house-backed garden, those lucky plants are almost in a zone 6!

    • My ‘Cassie’ rose is still blooming. In one of our old houses we had a vegetable garden against the south-facing brick wall of a garage. Those were some happy tomatoes!

  25. OK, first, thanks for the giggles…or I should say laughs. I had to read your paragraphs about “Chrysanthemums Are Stupid” aloud to the fishman because I was laughing so hard and had to explain myself. Love it. Next, I really like Pansies, too. Great idea to put them in hanging baskets. I might have to borrow that idea next spring.

  26. I bought a few pots of mums for a splash of bright yellow, but they were very root bound so water just ran out the pots. By the time I repotted them, the blossoms were kaput. Lesson learned. I’ve tried planting them in the ground before, but despite being called “hardy”, they are not, succumbing one by one over the next few years. Maybe I’ll try pansies next time.

  27. Hello Jason, I don’t like Chrysanthemums, they don’t feature in the garden and probably won’t for a long time. As for the pansies, I love the bright orange ones but I’m trying to not get into the four-season planting where summer bedding is thrown out for winter bedding, which is thrown out for spring bulbs and so on, it’s just too much work and I’m lazy.

    • I doubt that you are lazy. I just can’t help myself. Though I do limit the seasonal annuals almost entirely to the containers. The only annuals I grow in the beds are teh Tithonia and a few Cosmos.

  28. They would probably do well in my climate right now, as we are back in the cool rainy season. Definitely too hot in summer here. I used to grow them back east.

  29. You do make me smile! I totally agree re the chrysanths, they do look unnatural somehow, almost as though they are dyed or something. Your pansies are a lovely colour, here’s to you getting to enjoy them before the first

  30. I am going to be snickering inelegantly all day over “Chrysanthemums are stupid”! 🙂 I don’t like them either but, like you, I bought some this fall. The chipmunks promptly burrowed into their soil and I thought they’d die but they have rallied as our weather stays mild. I never see pansies for sale this time of year. I love them and now that you have reminded me about them I’ll be sure to look for them next fall.

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