Everyone loves getting flowers. Consider brightening someone’s day soon with flowers. The choices are endless from the traditional flower arrangement from the florist or grocery stores to a plant for the garden from the local nursery or garden center. In the spring, consider gifting Johnny Jump Ups.
One of my favorite gifts to give or receive is a pot for the front stoop or patio filled with charming Johnny Jump Ups or Pansies. Both are Violas and prefer cool weather. They are typically short-lived in warm-season gardens, but are colorful and brighten the landscape during the last few winter days.
Johnny Jump Ups are also known as Viola tricolor. They bear small 1-inch viola blooms and are somewhat forgiving of Florida conditions. Still, they prefer cool, moist weather, well-drained soil, and sunny to partly shady locations. They are easy to start from seed and usually flower until hot weather.
Pansies are garden favorites for many folks who have gardened in cooler regions. This classic spring flower prefers cooler temperatures than are normally found in Florida even during the winter. Though typically grown as annuals, Pansies are short-lived, perennials. Known to horticulturist as Viola x wittrockiana, they are hybrids made up of a complex mix of species including, Viola tricolor, V. lutea, V. altaica, and V. cornuta.
The pretty smiling faces of Pansy flowers entice many a Florida gardener to take a tray home to the garden. However, even during the winter, there is rarely a stretch of time when Pansies grow well. Try them in containers with rich organic soil or a bed specially prepared for them.
Choose a location with some shade during the hottest part of the day, amend the soil with peat or compost, and mulch the bed after planting to keep the soil cool. Water the bed (not the whole landscape) to keep the soil moist but not wet and remove spent flowers quickly. Even with the best of care Pansies are very short-lived, 6 to 8 weeks in South Florida landscapes.
As a special treat for a flower-loving friend or sweetheart, pick out a shallow bowl and fill it with rich, clean potting soil. Forget the old practice of putting rocks in the bottom of the pot for drainage, the rocks don’t work and cause more problems than they help. Plant a taller flowering plant such as Pentas in the middle and fill the remainder of the container with sweet, charming Johnny Jump Ups.
Be the hero and replace the Johnny Jump Ups when they finish blooming with a more heat-tolerant selection such as Purslane. Your gift of flowers will bring joy and with a little help, will last for much of the next year,
This column first appeared in the Treasure Coast Newspapers.