Last year I had pansies in a pot. When it was time for the first frosts, I brought the pot indoors. I kept the plant in a south-facing garden window.

I was surprised it survived the winter. It wasn’t the best look, but it worked. When spring came, I put him back outside. It survived the summer and now I’ve brought it back indoors.

I wonder how long I can keep this up. Thank you.

– Jerez

Pansies, part of the coleaceae family (Viola x wittrockiana). They feature bright colors and large, heart-shaped, overlapping petals. Useful in pots, borders or even as groundcovers, they are reliable cool-season flowers and pair well with other flowers with similar needs.

Pansies are biennial plants that have a two-year life cycle. As a rule, they are grown for only one or two seasons, like in the spring and, if watered and shaded, again in the fall.

Those sold as winter or ice varieties are planted in the fall, die back, and come back in the spring. However, they are hardy in zones 3 through 8 if they survive the summer heat. Never met a reliably heat-resistant variety. Pansies usually either die in the heat or look miserable.

Lovers of cool weather, pansies don’t seem to mind the cold. Frost, even very cold, often survives. The flowers wither, but some plants bloom again.

What makes pansies happy? Planted in early spring or autumn.

For the earliest flowering, buy transplants. Seed germination takes up to three weeks, depending on soil temperature, and should be started about 10 weeks before the last spring frost for spring flowers and in late summer for fall blooms.

Pansies are edible and make great additions to salads, entrees, and desserts, but they should be grown from seed or purchased edible to avoid ingesting unwanted chemicals. Also, do not treat with chemicals not recommended for food plants,

They are planted in the spring, when the ground becomes workable and small frosts are expected. New plants can survive a frost or two, but won’t do well if you leave too early.

These plants prefer moist, rich and well-drained soil. Place in an area that receives full or partial sun but needs protection from late afternoon heat. In spring or autumn, expose to the south side, in summer – to the east.

Space them about seven inches apart when they spread 9 to 12 inches across. Mature plants are six to nine inches tall.

If you choose to grow pansies in containers, use regular potting soil recommended for containers. Keep pots small, 12 inches or less, if you need to move the planter to a cooler location as spring and summer progress.

After planting, water pansies regularly, especially those in containers. Fertilize with any universal mixture. But avoid plants with a high nitrogen content, as they may develop many leaves and few flowers. Deadhead plants to encourage re-blooming and a longer flowering period.

Pansies face quite a few problems: powdery mildew and powdery mildew, crown and root rot, mosaic viruses, rust and gray mold, slugs, slugs and aphids.

The main problem of wintering plants outside in pots is the temperature. The soil remains warmer than in the pot.

why? The air temperature is usually lower than the soil temperature. Plants in pots lose the thermal insulation of the surrounding soil and are considered at least one zone cooler than beds.

Looking at the taro, remember how it survives the winter. Thin plastic cracks become brittle and break. Terracotta and ceramics don’t fare much better. Baby containers have very thin walls and offer little protection.

Look for thicker plastic or composite mixing containers.

Move the pots to a protected area – in general, the foundation of your house is one of the best places. Move them out of the wind, away from the normal path of local deer, and close enough that you can water them during a warm drought.

When your plants are dormant, they can be stored in low light areas such as under decks or in unheated garages. However, non-dormants – evergreens, for example – still require light in winter.

Large pots or groups of pots can be wrapped with burlap or bubble wrap – around the containers, not on top. If you have the space and energy, pots can be dug into trenches. To do this, you need to dig a ditch in which you can place the pot, and fill it up around it. Fill only to the very top of the pan.

Your containers will need to be watered, but with light touches and fairly infrequently. Dormant plants still need water. If the soil is moist, fine; if dry, water lightly.

Do not encourage new growth. Avoid fertilizing and pruning stored plants. New growth is not very cold-resistant and is easily damaged.

My technique is to stack the pots in an old wooden sandbox that is easily accessible with a watering hose. Apart from a few deer visits, most plants survive reasonably well there, but it depends on the winter. Unprotected plants in thin pots can survive a mild winter.

Deep snow can act as insulation from cold winter winds. But if you want your plants to survive, take a few simple steps to protect them.

Sue Kittek is a freelance garden columnist, writer and teacher. Send questions to the Gardener at or by mail to: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, PO Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.

Landing: Use asters, kale, winter pansies and other fall garden favorites to brighten up your fall landscape. Add pumpkins, gourds, straw or corn for seasonal displays. Protect plants from frost for longer color. Finish planting spring-flowering bulbs, garlic and shallots, asparagus and rhubarb, perennials, trees and shrubs. Sow seeds that need a cold period to germinate.

Seasonal: After freezing, clean the mushy foliage. Remove spent annuals and vegetable plants from pots and beds. Keep paths clear of dead plants and leaves. Remove and store your Halloween decorations after the holiday. Clean, inspect, repair and store jewelry, discarding any that are damaged. Dig up and save other tender bulbs as the foliage dies from cold weather or frost. Allow the last pair of flowers to go to seed. Many provide food for birds and small mammals in autumn and winter. Plan Ahead: If you’re buying a live Christmas tree in a pot or bag, find a suitable planting spot, dig it up, and store the soil in a garage, under cover, or in a container.

Lawns: Rake, blow, or mulch leaves on your lawn. Matted leaves cause problems with mold and can prevent water from reaching the soil. Keep newly seeded or mowed lawns watered; additional rain in weeks with less than an inch. Fill in holes and low spots in the lawn.

Household chores: Watch out for frost. Protect tender plants and get several more weeks of color. Stop circumcision. Mark beds, new plantings, plants late to come out of spring dormancy and tender plants. Stay away from them when decorating or clearing snow.

Cut to the ground: The onion is colorful, slightly processed. Prune bleeding hearts, blanket flowers, hardy cranesbills, and Shasta daisies so that the basal foliage (lower clump of leaves) remains. Remove flower stalks or stems from: daylilies, liatris, yucca. Order or buy mulch for the winter, but don’t apply it until the ground freezes. Stop watering the amaryllis bulbs. Allow the bulbs to dry and go dormant. Store in a cool, dry place until they germinate in about 8-10 weeks. Check the seed supply for late crops and fall planting. Harvest regularly, at least every other day. Remove spent plants and compost. Drain standing water and remove anything that may collect rainwater to help control mosquito populations. Water all recent plantings and containers whenever less than an inch of rain falls during the week. Repair damaged screens and caulking around windows and doors in preparation for the invasion of overwintering insects and rodents.

Maintain deer, rabbit and marmot protection for vulnerable plants. Reapply taste and odor repellants. Clean and refill bird feeders regularly. Clean the spilled seeds and the empty shell. Empty, clean and refill birdbaths at least once a week. Use a small heater to keep water liquid in cold weather.

Clean gutters and direct rainwater runoff away from your home’s foundation.

Tools, equipment and materials: Clean and service your summer inventory, then put it in storage or send it in for repair.

Check winter/fall gear, repair or replace if necessary.

Security: Check the wiring before installing any seasonal light displays. Clear lawns of debris before mowing or mulching leaves.

Make sure pets, children, and other people are well away from the mowed or blown area.

Keep garden chemicals indoors, away from pets and children. Drop off your old ones at local chemical collection events. Take photos of storm damage before cleaning or repairing insurance claims and file immediately. Whenever you are outside and the temperature is around 50°F or above, keep an eye out for tick bites. Use an insect repellent containing Deet on your skin. Apply permethrin to clothing. Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, hats, and long pants when gardening. Stay hydrated. Drink water or other caffeine-free, non-alcoholic beverages. Even in cold weather, apply sunscreen, wear hats, and limit sun exposure. Wear closed shoes and gloves; use eye protection; and use ear protection when using any loud power tools.