How to Grow Viola
Viola is in genus of the Violet (Violaceae) family, and is a familiar sight in spring gardens all over the world, where the diminutive, heart-shaped flowers, are easily recognized.
The term “pansy” often covers the entire violet family, yet the Viola, also known as “heartsease or commonly as Johnny-jump-up, is considered the smallest member of this large species, that blooms in a diverse range of colors and sizes.
When & Where to Plant Viola
Light: Violas are tolerant of most conditions, yet will thrive in full sun or part shade especially during the spring, yet will easily fade in full sun during summer heat, and best to transplant into dappled shade.
Soil: Moist, nutrient-rich soil that is well drained and supplemented with compost. Fertilize, as needed, to keep plants strong and healthy.
Spacing: Set out young plants 4-6 inches apart, or sow seeds in drills or plug trays to be transplanted once they are established. In some areas, sowing seeds directly into the garden in the fall and early spring by sprinkling seed, and raking. If plants are grown too closely packed, thin out, allowing 4 inches between plants that will grow in place.
Planting: Set out plants anytime in early spring, once danger of hard frost is past. Violas do best in cooler spring and fall conditions, yet will also do well in mid-summer if plants are kept deadheaded to encourage continuous blooms. (Violas are not to be confused with the indoor plant known as Violets, as there is no relation.)
How to Grow Viola Throughout the Season
Growth Habit: Grown throughout the northern hemisphere, Violas thrive in the wild and domesticated into home gardens making them adaptable. Most varieties are grown either as an annual or biennial, while a few are perennial. Self-contained, violas do not spread by a root system, or become invasive yet will frequently disperse seed to far reaches of the garden, allowing violas to pop up in placed not expected.
Staking: No staking is required.
Watering: Violas prefer well-drained soil, and can develop root rot or leaves can mold if grown in standing water or in overly tight conditions. If growing in containers, hold back on overwatering and use as an understory to taller plants to give them a little shade during the summer heat.
Fertilizing: Like most flowers, viola enjoys fertilized soil in order to produce strong roots, leaves, and flowers, yet don’t overdo or the stems will become long and leggy. Some fertilizer may be given mid-season, during and after flowering.
Mulching: No mulch is required, yet violas will tolerate mulch to keep roots shady and moist.
Trimming & Pruning: Violas required no pruning except to deadhead spent blossoms on a regular basis, and trim back if plants become too leggy mid-season, allowing plants to regrow into stockier form.
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Viola: End of Season Care
Once the plants bloom, and the foliage becomes too leggy, cut back hard and fertilize for a second bloom. At the end of the blooming season, pull the whole plant to make room for other garden plants.
Dividing & Transplanting: Viola transplants easily, yet also grows easily from seed. Plants rarely get large enough to divide. Sow seeds in plug trays, or among mature plants to keep a healthy succession of flowers blooming for a longer season.
Pests/Disease: Viola is susceptible to iron deficiency, botrytis (rot and mildew), which can be corrected with proper supplemental fertilizers. Cercospera or leaf spot can occur and can be avoided by keeping water off the foliage especially in greenhouse conditions where the air is moist. Aphid and slug damage can affect the leaves; yet will not kill the plants.
Additional Concerns: Because Viola is part of a large genus of different types, select the best viola for use in the garden or the container. Viola flowers and leaves are edible, yet do not use pesticide or herbicides if planning to use in salads or as a garnish.
Viola: Extra Info
Companion Plants: Violas are an excellent bedding or container plant, especially in the spring. They bloom at the same time as other early spring plants, as well as many spring bulbs.
Plant them in clumps, for waves of color, and beneath taller plants such as Bleeding Heart, Aquilegiaor even in between Tulips or Hyacinth. A short-lived annual; keep the spent blossoms deadheaded for a continuous color. Ideal for front of the border, viola is equally at home in the herb garden or planted on its own.
Additional Uses: Violas are edible, and used liberally on salads, soups or garnish for plants. Viola flowers and leaves have a tradition as an effective medicinal herb, the mucilaginous leaves can be helpful as an expectorant, and the flowers and leaves made into a tincture for skin issues, and well as a calming sedative.