Growing Violas at Home

Get ready to dive into the enchanting world of the Viola genus—a diverse group of plants ranging from seasonal garden pansies to resilient perennials. With small, heat-tolerant flowers, these beauties grace gardens with their presence from early summer to early autumn. Pansies, renowned for their larger, vivid blooms, are especially cherished as winter bedding plants.

As low-growing cottage garden perennials, violas offer a myriad of colour combinations—purples, lilacs, pinks, blues, and magentas—that allow you to create your stunning floral palette. Join us as we explore the secrets to nurturing these delightful plants for a vibrant and flourishing garden.

Key Facts

Common NameViola, violet, pansy
Botanical NameViola
Plant TypePerennial (sometimes grown as annuals)
Mature SizeHeight: 20cm
Sun ExposurePartial shade
Soil TypeMoist but well-drained, fertile soil
Soil pHAcidic to neutral
JFMAMJJASOND
Flower
Plant
Divide

Planting Conditions (Where & When)

Violas are versatile plants that thrive in various garden conditions. Here are some general guidelines on where to plant violas in a UK garden:

Sunlight: Violas generally prefer partial sunlight. Choose a location that receives at least 4-6 hours of sunlight per day. In the UK, they can tolerate some shade, especially in warmer climates.

Soil: Violas prefer well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. They can tolerate a range of soil types, but they thrive in slightly acidic to neutral soil. Adding compost to the soil before planting can improve its fertility.

Watering: Violas like consistently moist soil. Ensure that the soil remains evenly moist but not waterlogged. Mulching around the plants can help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

Location: Consider planting violas in borders, containers, hanging baskets, or even as ground cover. They work well as edging plants, in rock gardens, or mixed with other cool-season flowers. To plant out in a pot, choose a container that is at least 30cm deep.

Season: Violas are cool-season plants and often flower in spring and autumn. Plant them in early spring for a beautiful display as they can withstand some frost. In the UK, they can also bloom in milder winter climates.

Remember to check specific care instructions for the particular variety of violas you have, as different cultivars may have slightly different requirements. Overall, with proper care and the right conditions, violas can add vibrant colours to your UK garden.

Planting

Planting violas in a garden can be done from either seeds or potted plants. Here are step-by-step instructions for both methods:

Planting Violas from Seeds:

Violas are cool-season flowers, and they can be started indoors in late winter or early spring for later transplanting or directly sown outdoors in early spring. Fill seed trays or pots with good-quality seed compost. Lightly press the viola seeds into the soil surface, as they require light to germinate. Mist the soil to keep it consistently moist. Cover the trays or pots with plastic wrap or a clear lid to create a humid environment. Place the trays in a bright location but not in direct sunlight. Once the seedlings have a couple of true leaves, transplant them into larger pots or directly into the garden, spacing them according to the specific recommendations for the variety.

Planting Violas from Potted Plants:

Potted violas can be planted outdoors in the spring or fall when the weather is cool. Choose a location with well-draining soil and partial to full sunlight. Dig holes in the soil slightly larger than the root ball of the potted viola. Remove the viola from its pot, gently tease out the roots, and place it in the hole. Backfill the hole with soil, firming it gently around the plant. Water the planted violas thoroughly to help settle the soil and hydrate the plant. Apply a layer of mulch around the plants to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

Propagation

Violas can be propagated through division, seed, or cuttings, depending on the specific variety. Here’s how you can propagate violas using the methods mentioned:

Propagation by Division:

Propagate perennial Viola varieties by division in autumn. Dig up clumps of the established plant. Gently pull apart the clumps into individual sections, ensuring each section has roots attached. Replant the divided sections in fresh compost to allow them to grow on. You can either replant the divisions in pots with fresh compost for growing on or directly plant them into the soil in a different part of the garden.  Water the newly planted divisions thoroughly and keep the soil consistently moist until they establish themselves.

Propagation by Seed:

Violas can be propagated from seed indoors in late winter or early spring for later transplanting or directly sown outdoors in early spring. Fill seed trays or pots with good-quality seed compost. Lightly press the viola seeds into the soil surface, as they require light to germinate. Mist the soil to keep it consistently moist. Cover the trays or pots with plastic wrap or a clear lid to create a humid environment. Place the trays in a bright location but not in direct sunlight. Once the seedlings have a couple of true leaves, transplant them into larger pots or directly into the garden, spacing them according to the specific recommendations for the variety. Sow the seeds directly in the garden soil in early spring. Lightly press the seeds into the soil surface and cover them with a thin layer of soil. Keep the soil consistently moist until the seeds germinate.

Propagation by Cuttings:

Some varieties, such as Viola cornuta, can be propagated from cuttings. Take cuttings early in the year before they come into flower or at the end of the flowering season. Select healthy, non-flowering shoots for cuttings. Cut a section of the stem (around 4-6 inches long) just below a leaf node. Remove the lower leaves, leaving only a few at the top. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone if desired. Plant the cutting in a pot filled with a well-draining rooting medium. Water the cutting and cover it with a plastic bag or plastic dome to create a humid environment. Place the pot in a bright, indirect light location. Keep the soil consistently moist until the cutting develops roots. Once roots are well-established, transplant the cutting into a larger pot or the garden.

Common Viola Issues: Pests and Diseases

Aphids:

Aphids pose a threat to violas, with various types attacking the plants. Stay vigilant and crush them early. If beneficial insects don’t help, use a spray like SB Plant Invigorator to control pests and promote plant growth.

Slugs and Snails:

These creatures love feasting on young viola leaves. Catch them in the act or set up a beer saucer trap. Consider using nematodes, foliar spray, or seaweed meal to deter them when the weather warms up.

Viola Black Root Rot:

Yellow, stunted plants may indicate a fungus attacking the roots, leaving dark purple strands. Remove affected plants, enhance soil drainage, and replant.

Viola Leaf Spot:

Fungi can create brown or black spots on viola leaves, spreading to neighbouring plants. Avoid buying plants with these symptoms, improve air circulation, and minimise leaf wetness during watering.

Pansy Downy Mildew:

Primarily affecting winter pansies in cool, damp conditions leads to pale blotches on leaves. Check new plants for symptoms, and avoid planting in the same soil if issues arise.

Fungal Diseases:

Violas, whether grown indoors or outdoors, are susceptible to powdery mildew, downy mildew, pansy leaf spot, and other fungal diseases. Reduce the risk by watering at the soil level to keep foliage dry.

General Tips:

– Violas are prone to aphid attacks, so be watchful.

– If slugs or snails are present nearby, they will likely target your violas, so take preventive measures.

Seasonal Care

Spring

  • Sow seeds under cover
  • Plant out seedlings

Summer

  • Deadhead spent flowers
  • Feed with liquid fertiliser.

Autumn

  • Sow seeds or take cuttings.

Winter

  • Plant out winter flowering varieties

Frequently Asked Questions

Do violas come back every year?

Violas are typically perennial plants, meaning they can come back year after year under the right conditions. However, some varieties may be grown as annuals, and their ability to return can depend on factors such as climate, soil, and care. In colder climates, they may behave more like annuals or biennials.

Are violas easy to grow?

Yes, violas are generally considered easy to grow. They are versatile plants that can thrive in various conditions. They prefer well-draining soil and regular watering. Violas are often grown in containers, borders, or as ground cover, making them a popular choice for gardeners of all experience levels.

What is the difference between violas and pansies?

Violas and pansies are closely related and often confused, but there are some distinctions. Both belong to the Viola genus. Pansies are a specific type of viola, usually larger with distinctive “faces” on their flowers. Violas, on the other hand, come in various sizes, and their flowers are generally smaller. Pansies are often considered a type of winter annual or biennial, while many violas are perennials.

Can you plant violas on top of bulbs?

Yes, you can plant violas on top of bulbs. Violas make excellent companion plants for bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. The violas provide colour and interest to the garden when the bulbs are not in bloom. Ensure that the bulbs are planted at the correct depth according to their specific requirements, and then plant the violas on top or around them. This creates a layered effect and enhances the visual appeal of the garden.

Grows Well With

Violas complement spring bulbs and foliage plants in containers and provide excellent ground cover when planted under shrubs and trees. Edible varieties can be grown alongside mixed salad leaves. These versatile flowers also harmonise well with other spring and autumn blooms. Consider planting them alongside cool-season annuals or perennials like pansies, primroses, or daffodils.

Updated on February 27, 2024

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