Flowers

Viola Flower Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Pansies”

Read our guide to Violas for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for "Pansies".

Viola is a large genus that contains about 600 species of flowering plants in the Violaceae family. The flowers belonging to this genus go by several common names, such as Violets, Pansies, Johhny-jump-ups, or simply Violas. They are native to the temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, but some specimens also grow in regions like Hawaii, the Andes, and Australasia.

Violas are gorgeous additions to garden edgings, cottage gardens, city gardens, rock gardens, coastal gardens, beds, borders, and even containers. They come with lots of options to choose from. The most interesting cultivars include ‘Bunny Ears’, ‘Celestial Midnight’, ‘Celestial Twilight’, ‘Heartthrob’, ‘Sorbet Carmine Rose’, V. tricolor, ‘Sand Violet’, ‘Blackout’, V. sempervirens, and V. × wittrockiana.

About Violas

  • The Viola cultivars ‘Album’, ‘Aspasia’, ‘Clementina’, ‘Blackcurrant Ripple’, ‘Huntercombe Purple’, ‘Jackanapes’, ‘Molly Sanderson’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘Nellie Britton’, and other mixes of these cultivars have gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit.
  • Many Viola species contain anthocyanins and antioxidants. They play a big part in both traditional and modern medicine. People use them as a treatment for cough, insomnia, atopic dermatitis, anxiety, headaches, respiratory infections, and other health problems.
  • The larvae of some Lepidoptera species use Violas as a great food source. Their adorable flowers are highly attractive to butterflies and other pollinators.
  • The young leaves of Violas are edible both raw and cooked. People also use their flowers in food platings of salads, fish, meat, or desserts. Numerous cooks flavour various soufflé, cream, and similar dessert recipes with the essence of their flowers.
  • The leaves and blossoms of V. ‘Rebecca’ have a unique vanilla flavour with hints of wintergreen. Some varieties of V. odorata have a spicy scent, adding a distinctive sweetness to fruit salads, teas, or desserts.
  • French folks make a product called violet syrup from an extract of Violet flowers. Likewise, Viola essence adds flavor to different liqueurs, such as Parfait d’Amour, Crème de Violette, or Crème Yvette.
  • In the perfume industry, Viola odorata species come as a peculiar, but wonderful addition. People say that their fragrance is somewhat ‘flirty’ because it usually comes and goes pretty easily.
  • Violas can make for excellent plant companions to other superb species of plants like Artemisia, Alyssum, Bleeding Heart, Blue Fescue, Carex, Carpet Bugle, Fern, Helichrysum, Heuchera, Iceland Poppy, Lily-Flowered Tulip, or Poeticus Daffodils.
Viola Flower
Viola Flower

Violas Features: An Overview

  • Violas are annual or short-lived perennial ornamental plants with either visible (caulescent) or invisible (acaulescent) stem above the ground level. They can be shrubs, herbs, and also treelets, but very rarely.
  • The height and spread of these plants vary from one species to another. In general, Violas can reach from 4 to 10 inches (10-25 cm) in height.
  • Their foliage consists of small, simple, and scalloped leaves that grow alternately arranged on short stems. The acaulescent specimens produce dense basal rosettes.
  • Their leaves are usually heart-shaped, but some species can also have kidney-shaped, linear, or palmate foliage. They come in various hues of green, with few Violas producing purple-tinged or burgundy-adorned leaflets.
  • Depending on the species, Violas can bloom in spring, autumn, or both. During these seasons, they exhibit numerous tiny, delicate flowers that are often solitary, but they can also form inflorescences occasionally.
  • Their blossoms typically contain four fan-shaped upper petals with two per side and another lower one pointing downward. They can appear in several shades of white, cream, yellow, red, violet, lavender, pink, orange, black, and hypnotic mixes.
  • Once their blooming period has ended, Violas bear fruits where flowers once were. They are thick-walled capsules that contain few to many seeds. When the fruits dry off, they split open and release their seeds to pretty large distances.

Growing Violas

Whether you want to grow Violas in an indoor or outdoor setting, they will not require too much effort on your part. But it is important to mention that these flowers will thrive only if you provide them with proper environmental conditions and, of course, lots of love. Now let’s get more familiar with these cute and easy-going buddies!

In general, Violas need plenty of bright and direct light to grow healthy and happy. Still, these delicate flowers will not appreciate the heat that comes from full sunlight exposure. Because of this, you will have to protect them from direct sunlight during the harsh, hot afternoons. The easiest way to do this is by keeping them in a spot where they can receive some shade in the second part of the day. In regions with cool spring temperatures, full sunlight will not affect the health of your plants in any way.

Viola Mix (Viola cornuta) Twin Pack of 600 Seeds, From Amazon

When it comes to temperatures, Viola species are usually winter hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8. Likewise, these plants will grow at their best in the cool conditions of early spring. They do well in milder temperatures that range from 41 to 70 °F (5-21 °C) all year round. If you want to help your flowers to handle hot weather better, you can simply mulch and water them well.

The most common problem that can occur while growing Violas is grey mould. This fungal disease will typically show up if you do not grow these plants in cool and moist conditions. To avoid this from happening, make sure you provide your flowers with good air circulation and lots of sunshine.

Some pests like aphids may also bother your beloved Violas from time to time. If you notice any suspect presence on your plants, you can remove the intruders using a strong stream of water. In case of severe infestation, insecticidal soap will be your best friend forever. You will get rid of the aphids and prevent future problems only if you apply this product weekly until the pests stop showing up.

Planting Violas

The ideal time to plant your new Violas depends mostly on the area you live in. If you want to grow these flowers in colder climates, you should plant them in spring. In regions with warm climates, however, we recommend you plant them at the end of the summer. Thanks to their petite nature, Violas can serve as eye-catching ornamentals for both gardens and containers.

As a general rule, Violas perform best in slightly acidic to acidic soils with a pH level of 5.4 to 6.2. These flowers prefer moist substrates that are rich in hummus, such as a peat-based potting mix. You can also grow them in regular garden soil, but only if you amend it heavily with organic matter. As a soil additive, peat moss will generally slightly acidify garden soil.

Although Violas might seem pretty independent plants, they usually need occasional fertilizing to bloom profusely. As a result, you must feed your flowers with a slow-release fertilizer twice every year in spring and late summer. The second tour of fertilizers is mandatory if you want these beauties to bear flowers in autumn.

Violas have a tendency to become leggy with time, but you can revive your flowers by cutting them back to about 3 to 4 inches (7.6-10 cm) in height. Likewise, you can promote more blossoms and extend the flowering period of your plants through deadheading. This process consists of pinching the faded flowers off right at the base of their flower stems.

Watering Violas

The watering routine of Violas will give you plenty of time to relax and enjoy your spare time without worrying about them. Even if these flowers need regular drinks to bloom at their best, they will not demand your constant attention. Plus, they can also tolerate some short periods of drought without having their overall health affected.

However, if you want to avoid over or under-watering your Violas, a precise watering technique is quite mandatory. Make sure you allow their growing medium to dry out completely in-between waterings. Once this happens, you can spoil your delicate flowers with a nice, deep soaking.

Pansies
Pansies

Propagating Violas

Your Violas will usually be more than happy to self-seed and spread all over your garden. However, it comes a time when you will want to start your own baby plants indoors. When these flowers are so stunning and low-demanding, it is absolutely natural to want more around you. Likewise, you know that your flower-loving family and friends will appreciate a nice surprise once in a while. So, let’s get to work!

The perfect time to start your Viola seeds is about 8 to 12 weeks before wanting to transplant them. In general, tiny new transplants do not withstand freezing conditions pretty well. For optimal growth, it is wise to sow the seeds in late winter or mid-summer, then transplant them in mid-spring or, respectively, fall.

No worries, this propagation method is much easier than you might expect. First things first, you must fill about 0.25 inches (0.64 cm) below the top edges of some small containers with sterile potting mix. After this step, sow two or three seeds in each pot and cover them lightly with more soil.

Viola seeds usually require lots of darkness and moisture to show some nice results. Also, you have to place the pots in a location where they can experience temperatures that range from 65 to 70 °F (18-21 °C). With proper care, the seeds should germinate in 10 to 14 days after sowing.

Once the seeds sprout, you should move the containers to a sunny spot or, if possible, place them under plant lights. When the weather allows it, you can transplant your beloved baby Violas and care for them as for the mother plants.

In Conclusion

Now that you know everything about Violas, you are more than prepared to give them the time of their life. If you manage to decide which one will be your next companion, don’t forget to share your full journey with us in the comments!

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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