Colorado State University Research Offers Water-Conscious Gardeners a Chance to Maintain Winter Color

Recent drought conditions have people thinking about conservation but still desiring a little color in their gardens. Research conducted at Colorado State University may offer gardeners a new solution.

Pansies offer a valuable solution to environmentally-minded Coloradoans who want colorful winter plants. Colorado State’s research found that 95 percent to 99 percent of the 206 varieties of pansies tested could survive Colorado winters.

"With this research, we are able to offer Colorado gardeners another option for year-round color and enjoyment," said James Klett, Colorado State Department of Horticulture and Landscape professor and Cooperative Extension specialist. "Pansies are able to survive the winter while retaining color and using a small amount of water. The variety of colors and growth habits are able to please most gardeners."

Klett tested the different pansy varieties, donated by Welby gardens and bred from numerous seed companies, for durability and watering needs from November 2002 through April 2003.

During this period, the pansies were watered 16 times every 10 to 14 days. The plants were watered adequately after they were initially planted in November and as needed afterwards.

Despite minimal watering and winter conditions, the pansies survived. Klett recommends planting pansies in plastic, not clay, pots. For the experiment, each plastic pot grew a total of 32 small plants – eight four-packs – one of each pansy variety.

Plants were located in fairly sunny areas from late September to early October and all had some color throughout the winter and into the spring.

Ideally, pansies should be planted in late September to early October in Colorado.