Violas (wild violets, pansies, etc.) are perennials (plants with a long life-cycle); and are typically the first bloomers in Springtime flower gardens. There are over 500 species of violas presented in a variety of shades, patterns and shapes with dark/bright green leaves. Their colors range from pure image of of simplicity with solid hues of violet/purple, mauve, pink, yellow, pink and white; or they can be splashed/patterned with soft to vibrant multi-colors. Some pansy violas are imprinted with interesting face-like patterns.
Although violas are frequently treated like annuals, once established their glorious blossoms will come back year after year; and will even multiply or increase in size. You can often find them growing in the wild in their natural habitat regions. Native to the southern hemisphere, they love the cool to warm climates. So plant your viola seeds or young plants in very early spring (or even late fall) when the ground is cool and moist.
Violas are very easy to grow and tolerate a variety of soils that is kept moist; but, not too wet. They like good, humus-rich garden soil. They are also happy in clay or sandy soil as well; but, only if garden compost has been incorporated to break it up the clay and improve moisture retention and nutrients. Violas make great borders planted in front of taller plants and blend well with grasses for a more natural setting. Potting is another great option. Whether you plant your violas in your garden or in pot, you should consider adding a slow release fertilizer to the compost.
TIP: If you grow violas in pots, use a good quality general purpose growing medium and incorporate grit or perlite to aid drainage through winter. It is very important that you use deep pots. You can pot up to 3 plants in one 2 gallon (10 liter) pot; that is approximately 1 foot (30cm) wide and deep. The plants will knit together well and make a large flowering clump. You can also grow them individually in smaller pots during the summer months; but re-pot them into something deeper by late summer or early autumn, as their vigorous root systems will appreciate more space and a larger pot will help insulate them from winter cold.
Like most all plants, Violas need the sunshine to grow well; but, also need to be partially shaded to prevent early wilting. It is not recommended to plant them in all-day full sun areas or deeply shaded areas.
After planting, the vibrant viola blooms will begin in 2-4 weeks; and will continue blooming at least through the Winter-Summer seasonal gap. You can extend their blooming cycle by plucking off the brown petals (dead-head) to allow new ones to grow and plant in mostly shaded areas. According to the experts, with proper sun/shade, watering and deadheading; they can continue to flower throughout the summer and well into September or October!
Violas are normally compact plants growing 5-7 inches tall. However, they can get tall and spindly, a condition gardeners call getting “leggy.” Overgrown or leggy pansies look scraggly and flop over, but you can rejuvenate the plants and restore them to their compact growth by trimming the excess. Use a pair of sharp clippers and make each cut right above a leaf set on the stalk.
TIP: If your violas become “leggy”, and you don’t want to do all that deadheading or individual trimming, you can undertake a mid-season chop. Usually in mid-July, take the garden shears to your violas and simply cut straight across the top leaving 2 inches (5cm) of growth. Give them a balanced liquid feed and in 4 weeks they should begin to shoot again and come into flower.
Once established, Violas can be mostly left unattended in your flower garden, landscaping or in pots. At most, a general/organic liquid feed/fertilizer is all that may be needed once a month. If you see they need a boost, increase to every two to three weeks.
TIP: For even healthier plant growth and more flowers, switch to a tomato feed once your violas are established.
After a season of flowering, put your violas to bed for the winter by, once again, shearing across the tops in late September and leaving a couple of inches growth as protection. Next year’s young shoots will emerge from the base of the plant.
Violas seem to be resistant to most insets and disease. But, check for slugs and aphids hiding deep in the crowns of your viola plants. A drench of nematodes can control the slug damage; a spray with a soap based organic pesticide should keep the sap suckers at bay, otherwise there are non-organic chemical alternatives to these.
The vibrant violet colors of Violas have been credited with uplifting moods and even helping to relieve depression. Their small delicate flowers and greenery add beauty to fresh floral arrangements. In addition, many violas are edible and also provide a nice fragrance.
Sources – Lean more about Violas:
Don’t Shrink from Violets; The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 2017
How to Grow Violas by Andy McIndoe from My Garden School
Get to Know Violas; Better Homes and Gardens, April 2017
Pansy Viola -How to Plant from the Better Homes and Gardens Plant Dictionary