Viola hiemalis, the ice pansy, is not to be confused with the many hybrids that are cold hardy. The true ice pansy is just a bit bigger than a viola and come in shades of blue, yellow, and white. The yellow and the white pansies are said to be the most fragrant; the blues and yellows are the most cold tolerant.
Just how hardy is this smaller breed of pansies? In trials these little beauties recovered from temperatures of 6 degrees F. They will continue to flower and bud if soil temperature remains at 45 degrees F. At lower temperatures they will cease to bloom. Growth and budding will resume as the soil temperature rises above 45 degrees.
Pansy seeds should be sown in the very early spring. I could not find a source of ice pansy seeds in the catalogues. Quite possibly it does not pay to sell pansy seeds when a flat costs just a few dollars at a local nursery.
I did find an interesting new hybrid of what appears to be an ice pansy; it is the variety Icicle. I got this quote off of the Fernlea Nurseries web site: “Icicle Pansies are grown only by Fernlea Flowers. Fernlea is a wholesale plant grower and sells finished plants to garden centers and retailers in the United States and Canada. Icicle Pansy seeds are not available for sale.” So, probably we will not be will be growing the varietal Icicle from seed for the next few years. Give it time; the Wave petunia seeds are now available through seed catalogues and I’m sure Icicle pansies will follow.
The Icicle pansies are a fancier version of the ice pansy. They come in a multiple of shades, including red and some of them have “faces”. I have been told that they are very fragrant.
If you do find Icicle (or ice) pansies in a nursery or garden center, they can be set out in September to winter over. If they arrive in the spring they may be planted successfully two to three weeks before the last frost date. I signed up to be e-mailed when the plants are shipped to a store within 10 miles of DuBois. We can but hope that someone in the area will stock them.
Like most pansies, Icicle pansies are not particularly fussy about conditions. They do prefer a moist but well drained soil. (Pansies in puddles will freeze and die.) If the soil becomes too dry, they benefit from watering. The plants are, unfortunately, susceptible to salt damage so they can’t be planted near walkways or driveways that are salted in the winter.
Pansies of all sorts love a wood bark mulch. It keeps their roots cool and moist. Pansies will quite happily reseed in mulch and you will have them for many years. The original ice pansies are not hybrids. If Icicle pansies are an F1 hybrid they will not breed true. This information is not available from any of the sources that I consulted but I suspect they are. Open pollinated seeds cannot be this closely held.
Choose a location in the sun or partial shade. Most pansies will thrive and bloom with a moderate amount of sun. Icicles need 6-12 hours of sunlight a day. If they are plated in a semi-protected location they will bloom far into the winter. (They will also avoid succumbing to drying winter winds). You can expect Icicle pansies to flower into November or December in our area, and it is not unusual to go out in the very early spring to find them blooming again. For this reason they should be considered a good companion for early bulbs. They will continue to bloom through out the summer until the weather gets very warm.
Icicle pansies are part of the group of pansies and violas that are biennial. For a constant supply replant every year. The plants will get leggy in the heat of late summer and can be masked with annuals or pulled and replanted in the fall. They can also be sheared in spring for bushier plants.
These plants can also be successfully grown in baskets but do not expect them to winter over unless you can keep them in a bright unheated garage. Put the potted plants back in the soil in early September and they will survive the winter Fernlea Icicle pansies come in various mixes, the Winter Blues Mix, the Sunshine Mix, the Patriot mix and the Halloween Mix.