All You Need to Know About Growing Violets


Violets are the hidden treasures of almost any garden space, offering a delightful presence as one of the earliest spring flowers. Their enchanting fragrance attracts a variety of friendly insects to your outdoor haven.

Whether you're cultivating violets as ground cover, decorative borders, or for culinary and medicinal purposes, consider yourself fortunate. These plants are not only easy to grow but also boast beauty with low maintenance costs. Here's a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about cultivating these floral beauties in your own space.

Why Choose Violets?

Violets have long been associated with love and devotion, used in love potions and charms to enhance interpersonal relationships. Their slow growth and easy propagation make them an excellent alternative to traditional lawn grass, serving as delicate ground cover. Additionally, their edible nature adds a dual-purpose aspect, but their third use lies in medicinal properties.

Whether you're establishing a diverse homestead or simply seeking plants more visually appealing than grass for your outdoor space, violets are an ideal choice for nearly any climate or region. In fact, there might be a violet species native to your area!

These versatile perennials thrive in pots, window boxes, replace lawns, or serve as decorative borders. Moreover, they don't limit themselves to the standard violet color; violin varieties come in various hues, from multicolored to white and black.

Common Types of Violets

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia): Native to North America, these violets are often found in wooded areas and their surroundings.

Sweet Violet (V. odorata): Originating from Europe and Western/ Northern Asia, introduced to North America and Australia. It represents the classic "violet" color.

Johnny Jump-Up (V. tricolor): As the name suggests, this species boasts three different tones—purple, white, and yellow. Originally from various parts of Europe, it has naturalized almost worldwide.

Labrador Violet (V. labradorica): A deep purple variety commonly found in Eastern Europe and throughout Asia.

Horned Violet (V. cornuta): Named for the horn-like spurs on the back of its petals, this variety comes in various shades of purple, yellow, and white. Originally from the Pyrenees, it now spreads across Europe and North America.

Don't forget the often overlooked native species, such as Viola trinervata with its beautiful tricolored flowers or Viola douglasii with bright yellow blooms. Stream Violet (V. glabella) is perfect for brightening damp, shady areas.

Soil and Sunlight Requirements

Violets are highly tolerant in their growing conditions, preferring slightly acidic, well-draining soil. They commonly appear on the outskirts of coniferous and deciduous mixed forests, thriving in the acidic environment created by pine needles, oak leaves, and other tree litter.

If your soil tends to be neutral to alkaline and has any compaction issues, modify it during preparation. Work with aged compost and peat moss to increase acidity and incorporate perlite or lava rock for drainage and aeration.

In terms of sunlight, violin varieties are as forgiving as they are with soil. While they perform well in direct sunlight, it largely depends on their growing region. In hotter climates (Zone 9+), they might fade and wither under intense midday sun. Similarly, those in regions below Zone 4 may not bloom if sunlight is insufficient.

Ideally, they should receive six hours of bright, dappled sunlight daily. This explains their robust growth near tree canopies, not directly beneath them, or as border plants where they can benefit from nearby structures' protection.

Watering and Feeding

Most violets prefer consistently moist soil, requiring thorough soaking weekly. However, during the peak of summer, they may need more water, especially in prolonged dry spells.

Note that this applies to violets planted in the ground. If you have potted violets, they may benefit from more frequent watering. Container violets could also benefit from organic mulching to help retain moisture and add extra nutrients to the soil.

Most violin species are perennials that, over time, may deplete essential nutrients from the soil. Therefore, occasional fertilization during their growth cycle or before winter in your region can be beneficial.

In fall, apply well-aged compost to the area, allowing it to penetrate the soil during winter. This way, come spring, the roots can draw nutrients. Alternatively, fertilize the area a few times during the growing season.

If using commercial fertilizers, aim for a balanced 10-10-10 N-P-K ratio or 10-15-10 to add phosphorus for healthier flowering. Alternatively, if you prefer organic feeds, consider compost tea or a mixture of herbivore or poultry manure.

Seeding and Propagation

Violets rely on light for germination, meaning their seeds need a kiss of sunlight to sprout. Ensure they aren't covered by more than a few millimeters of lightweight material.

Select a rake suitable for your prepared area, such as a fork for small pots or a lawn rake for larger spaces. Space the seeds four to six inches apart in pots or the ground, lightly sprinkle with sand or light-aged compost, and then water.

For larger areas, scatter a small amount of seeds in a wide, sweeping motion, lightly cover with a thin layer of sand or compost, and then water. Alternatively, if you don't want to cover them, disperse them immediately after heavy rain. Moist soil will grip the seeds and hold them in place.

If you're planting seedlings, space them six inches apart in your prepared area, then water.

If your goal is to propagate through division, dig out a healthy plant after flowering and split its root system with a clean knife. Then plant the separated roots six inches apart and water.

Whether sowing or splitting, remember that perennials take up to three years to establish themselves fully. However, once they do, they'll self-seed and spread prolifically.

By understanding these essential aspects of violet cultivation, you're well on your way to enjoying the beauty and versatility these plants bring to your garden.