Pansies are a cheerful spring flower – their blooms look like a smiling face to passers-by. And Mainers can always use a bit of cheer after a tough winter.

Gardeners usually plant pansies by buying a six-pack or more of seedlings and putting them out as soon as the soil can be worked. When our children were young and when our grandchildren are with us at a garden center in early spring, we let them pick our pansy purchases – and they usually end up being “Jolly Joker.” Pansies come in a variety of colors from yellow to blue or purple, white, burgundy or a combination.

Pansies prefer full sun, and it makes sense to put them places you will be walking early so you see them often. They like slightly acid, loose soil. Work the soil to about 4 inches deep and add some compost.

The seedlings will already be in bloom when you buy them, and you can extend the bloom time by removing blossoms as they fade.

Pansies do not like summer heat, and while they technically are perennials – hardy to Zone 4 – they don’t live long, so most people pull them out when they stop blooming – treating them as annuals.

Looking ahead, pansies also work well if you plant them in the fall – either as seeds or seedlings. After they bloom in the fall, many will live through the winter and blossom again in early the spring.

That would have worked nicely this year, when the ground was too snowy to do any early planting.