If you reside in a warm temperate climate, such as the southern US, it is prime time to transition your outdoor landscapes and pots to their winter adornment. Among a very few other ornamentals, pansies and cabbages are the perfect complementary accessories you can add to your yard and planters at this time of year.
Pansies are among the most favored of flowers worldwide and have a history of admiration going back to their ancestral relative, the tiny viola, written about as long ago as 4th century BC in Greece. A classic wintertime flower in most areas of the US, the beautiful hues and varied faces of the pansy adorn many a bare lawn during the festive holiday months and throughout January and February.
In addition to pansies, the popularity of planting cabbages for ornamental effect has increased in recent years. Cabbages enjoy the same basic light, soil and temperature requirements as pansies, and their coloration – predominately in variations of green tinged with pinks and purples – looks stunning when complimenting the deep purples and magenta of some pansies and when contrasting with the yellows and orange-golds of others.
So – if you haven’t already taken advantage of the moderate fall temperatures these days and planted a few pansies and ornamental cabbages, it isn’t too late! With the first day of winter not arriving until December 21st, there are indeed a few weeks of fall left to allow these beautiful winter hardy plants to take root.
Speaking of winter hardiness, both pansies and ornamental cabbages can survive low temperatures to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, I have witnessed a bed of pansies emerge more full and vibrant after enduring a two-day snowfall here in the North Texas area. And, although I don’t intend to eat my ornamental cabbage, I understand heavy frost causes a sugar surge within the plant that results in its leaves tasting sweeter. (Both pansies and ornamental cabbage can be eaten if your palate approves!) Even though these plant varieties do well in the cold, it is highly recommended after planting them that you heavily mulch to improve their chance of survival during bitter and/or unusually lengthy cold snaps.
In addition, pansies and cabbages should be planted where they will receive at least 5 hours of full sun, whether planted as winter ornamentals in the south or during the early springtime in the northern temperate and polar zones. They should be watered moderately, about 1 inch per week, if rainfall is sparse in your area.
With regard to pests, pansies, being low growing flowers, are most susceptible to snails and slugs. Other soft bodied insects can be troublesome, such as aphids, but they aren’t usually as much of a problem during the cooler winter months. Same with spider mites – there is a slight chance they can be bothersome but not usually until it has become so warm the pansies need to be pulled up anyway.
Ornamental cabbages are prone to the identical pests you’d find with other plants of the Brassicaceae family – broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts. These pests are cabbage loopers/worms, harlequin bugs and white flies. Fortunately, like with the pests of pansies, these bugs are not prevalent during winter months.
As mentioned above, pansies and ornamental cabbages enjoy full sun, moderately watered soil, rapid winter growth and very few pests. There is one trait of which they are opposite, however. Aroma! I actually did not realize just how wonderful pansies smell until I entered a greenhouse one year that was full of them. The scent was absolutely intoxicating. I hope you can partake of the aroma of pansies on your patio sometime this year. In contrast, ornamental cabbages smell, . . . well . . . like cabbage! I discovered this by accident too. When making a purchase of a six-pack of varied cabbages on the fly one day after work, I inadvertently left them in my car overnight. If you’ve ever cooked boiled cabbage at home, you know the odor. Needless to say, as pretty as cabbages look in pots, it is probably best that they are left to adorn your outdoors!
Well, this past weekend (prior to Thanksgiving) I took advantage of the mild weather and planted a couple of flats of deep purple pansies in my hanging baskets, flower beds and pots. In one of my larger pots, I added a few ornamental cabbages of varied hues to the mix, along with a bit of white alyssum and wandering traveler for a drapery effect. See far above and below.
As I sit admiring my “masterpiece” I know it will only get bigger and better with the cold. -And, there simply aren’t many plants you can say that about!
I hope you, too, find time to plant a few of these winter wonders this season.
Until next time,