Violet cultivation


What are violets?

Violets are perennial or vivaceous plants that are grown in the garden for ornamental, medicinal or edible purposes.

These plants, generally small in size, are very decorative for their flowers, which can be of a wide variety of colors, depending on the type: red, yellow, violet, orange, white, … In recent years, these flowers are being used in haute cuisine to decorate dishes.

medicinal violet
Common medicinal violet (Viola odorata), a wild plant that can grow spontaneously in the garden, in humid areas

In addition to the violet that is known as a medicinal plant (Viola odorata), there are many other types of violets and congeneric plants. All of them have a similar flower, but they are clearly differentiated by the shape of the leaves and by the color of the flowers.

  • Among the violets that can be found in gardening, one of the best known are pansies.

Next, we will see how to plant the violets in pots, and how to transplant them and take care of them according to their needs of water, nutrients and sunlight.

Characteristics of violets

These are perennial or vivaceous plants of the violet family (Violaceae) that can vary from 5 cm in height to 50 cm. Violet, white or yellow flowers with 5 petals. Leaves often heart-shaped.

There are approximately 500 species of violets that are found mainly in all the temperate regions of North America, Asia and Europe. Some species are found in the colder areas of Canada or Iceland.

Flowering of the violets: When do these plants bloom?

With suitable temperatures, violets can produce flowers throughout practically the whole year, except when it is very hot or in periods of frosts or persistent rain.

Irrigation and humidity of violets

Pansy (Viola spp.) with white flowers
Pansy (Viola spp.) with white flowers
  • Violets need to always have a moist substrate. However we must avoid water stagnation which would produce root rot and the appearance of rust.
  • In summer and in very dry climates, it should be observed that they always maintain the necessary humidity. This humidity must remain constant during the growing season.
  • When the weather is cold or frost, watering should be spaced. It will only be watered once every two weeks or less in case of frost.

Violets: Utilization and varieties

Violets are grown mainly for their flowers. They are considered outdoor plant, although they can be grown indoors, in pots.

they do not benefit from stagnant air and excessive heat. Heating also spoils them quickly.

How to plant violets in the garden

Pansy (Viola spp.) with daffodils in a pot
Pansy (Viola spp.) with daffodils in a pot.

A violet is an ideal flower to decorate parterres and in planters or large containers. They are used in flowerbeds for their ability to self-reproduce, covering the soil perfectly. They are very decorative, especially pansies, for borders in large gardens.

One way to use them very well is to combine them with roses, since they decorate the ground on which the stems of the same settle and their colors contrast with those of the rose. They can also be combined with tulips, daffodils or grape hyacinths, as they are plants that require similar care.

They can be planted under the trees as ground plants although, in this case, it is best to do it under the deciduous trees so that they can take advantage of the sun and light during winter and spring. Some of these plants have very outstanding fragrances that can be used to aromatize the garden.

Indoor violets

As mentioned, violets do not grow well indoors. If you prefer to use violets for indoors, you must use two species of plants that do not belong to the same family but are also commonly known as violets:

African violet.
African violet.
  • African violet or Saintpaulia (Saintpaulia ionantha): Plant widely used in gardening, if you look at the flowers and leaves, it is clearly not a violet, but it has the same size and there are many varieties and very showy colors, which makes use with the same decorative purposes. It belongs to the Gesneriaceae family and comes from Africa.
  • Persian violet (Exacum affine): It is actually a plant of the gentian family (Gentianaceae). It has a very small size, reaches a maximum of 30 cm in height and is very ramified from the base, acquiring a rounded shape.

Varieties of violets

There are many varieties of violets in gardening, as it is one of the favorite plants for the decoration of flowerbeds. Among all we have:

  • Horned pansy or horned violet ( Viola cornuta): It is the violet from which most modern varieties come. It reaches about 15 cm. It has small flowers but very resistant to hot and cold temperatures and diseases. Flowers from spring to summer
  • Australian violet (Viola hederacea): It is not as resistant as the previous one. It has reddish petals. It is a very suitable species as a cover of sandy soils. Can not stand the direct sun.
  • Common violet (Viola odorata): As its scientific name indicates, it is a plant that produces very aromatic flowers in blue, white, yellow or pink in spring. Very common on the edges of forests and hedges. It reaches about 20 cm in height. It has heart-shaped leaves. It needs soils with a lot of humus and constant humidity. It is self-produced easily with stolons. It is the variety most used as folk remedy, for example for the preparation of violet cough syrup.
  • Alpine violet (Viola labradorica): As the previous one reproduces by roots that are born from stolons. It is very suitable for parterres.
  • Heath dog-violet or heath violet (Viola canina): From 15 to 30 cm, it produces violet blue flowers with white spur in spring. It grows mainly in sandy soils and semi-shady or shady places.
  • Common blue violet (Viola papilionacea): Plant of 5 to 12 cm. Heart-shaped leaves and violet flowers in basal rosette. Very abundant east of the United States and Canada
  • Heartsease, pansy (Viola tricolor, Viola wittrockiana): Hybrid species of four petals derived from Viola cornuta.

List of species of the viola genus (species of violets):

Viola aetolica

Viola affinis

Viola alba

Viola allchariensis

Viola alpina

Viola altaica

Viola appalachiensis

Viola arborescens

Viola arsenica

Viola arvensis

Viola bakeri

Viola banksii

Viola beckwithii

Viola bertolonii

Viola bicolor

Viola biflora

Viola blanda

Viola brevistipulata

Viola brittoniana

Viola calaminaria

Viola calcarata

Viola californica

Viola canadensis

Viola canina

Viola cazorlensis

Viola cenisia

Viola chaerophylloides

Viola chamissoniana

Viola charlestonensis

Viola chinensis

Viola collina

Viola comollia

Viola conspersa

Viola cornuta

Viola corsica

Viola crassa

Viola cucullata

Viola cuneata

Viola cunninghamii

Viola declinata

Viola delphinantha

Viola diffusa

Viola dissecta

Viola douglasii

Viola dubyana

Viola egglestonii

Viola elatior

Viola elegantula

Viola epipsila

Viola eugeniae
Viola fimbriatula

Viola flettii

Viola frank-smithii

Viola glabella

Viola gracilis

Viola grisebachiana

Viola grypoceras

Viola guadalupensis

Viola guestphalica
Viola hallii

Viola hastata

Viola hederacea

Viola helenae

Viola hirsutula

Viola hirta

Viola hispida

Viola howellii

Viola incognita

Viola japonica

Viola jooi

Viola kauaensis

Viola keiskei

Viola kitaibeliana

Viola kosaninii

Viola labradorica

Viola lactea

Viola lanaiensis

Viola langsdorfii

Viola lithion

Viola lobata

Viola lovelliana

Viola lutea

Viola macloskeyi

Viola mandschurica

Viola maviensis

Viola mirabilis

Viola missouriensis

Viola munbyana

Viola nephrophylla

Viola novae-angliae

Viola nuttallii

Viola oahuensis

Viola obliqua

Viola obtusa

Viola ocellata

Viola odorata

Viola orbiculata

Viola orientalis

Viola orphanidis

Viola palmata

Viola palustris

Viola patrinii

Viola pedata

Viola pedatifida

Viola pedunculata

Viola persicifolia

Viola pinetorum

Viola pinnata

Viola praemorsa

Viola primulifolia

Viola prionantha

Viola psychodes

Viola pubescens

Viola pumila

Viola purpurea
Viola rafinesquii

Viola reichanbachiana

Viola renifolia

Viola riviniana

Viola rostrata

Viola rotundifolia

Viola rupestris
Viola sagittata

Viola selkirkii

Viola sempervirens

Viola septemloba

Viola septentrionalis

Viola sheltonii

Viola sororia

Viola stojanowii

Viola striata

Viola suavis

Viola subsinuata

Viola tokubuchiana

Viola tomentosa

Viola tricolor

Viola triloba

Viola trinervata

Viola tripartita

Viola uliginosa

Viola umbraticola

Viola utahensis

Viola vaginata

Viola valderia

Viola vallicola

Viola variegata

Viola verecunda

Viola viarum

Viola villosa

Viola violacea

Viola wailenalenae

Viola walteri

Viola yesoensis

Viola acuminata

Viola acuminata

Viola adunca

Viola biflora

Viola brevistipulata

Viola canadensis

Viola canina

Viola collina

Viola cornuta

Viola cucullata

Viola diffusa

Viola epipsela

Viola esculenta

Viola glabella

Viola grypoceras

Viola japonica

Viola keiskei

Viola labradorica

Viola lanceolata

Viola langsdorffii

Viola mandschurica

Viola mirabilis

Viola obliqua

Viola obtusa

Viola odorata

Viola palmata

Viola patrinii

Viola pedata

Viola pedunculata

Viola pinnata

Viola prionantha

Viola reichanbachiana

Viola riviniana

Viola sempervirens

Viola sororia

Viola sylvestris

Viola tokubuchiana

Viola tricolor

Viola vaginata

Viola variegata

Viola verecunda

Viola violacea

Viola x wittrockiana

Viola yezoensis

Temperature and exposure for the cultivation of violets

  • In temperate climates it should be left outside in semi-shade or shade. It can be exposed to the sun in spring, but summer sun spoils it.
  • In cold climates during the winter it should be stored in a cold greenhouse or in a window eave with sunny exposure. It admits the possibility of being cultivated in mountain areas, taking into account that it will not flower in cold weather.
  • Pansies can not stand cold as much as violets, and their time of flowering precedes them.

Reproduction of violets

Violets are very easy to reproduce because they reproduce themselves through seeds. Many violets reproduce by aerial roots that are born from the knots, extending along the terrain and carpeting it. If we want, we can also plant them (reproduce by division of rhizomes in spring or autumn).

When the flowering finishes, so that the plant grows again and produces flowers, the aerial part must be cut leaving some stems of about 8 cm. If you continue to leave the moist soil it will grow again the following year.

Care, types of soil and fertilizer for the cultivation of violets

They can be planted in any type of soil as long as it has a good drainage and does not remain waterlogged. If the land is fertile you do not need to use any type of fertilizer, although, to increase the flowering it will not be bad for them to use a little manure or garden soil.

It is also very easy to use solid fertilizer sticks that can keep the plant fertilized for 11 or 12 weeks.

Pests and diseases of violet crops

The main pests and diseases that affect the cultivation of violets are:


Photo of pansy

  • Violet leaf midge (Dasineura affinis): It affects the leaves that do not manage to develop. You have to remove the affected leaves and spray the plant with a specific insecticide in late spring.
  • Aphids and mealybugs: They develop especially at high temperatures. They need a specific treatment.
  • Snails: Produce holes in the leaves. You can use some specific chemical or ecological traps such as put leaves of boiled lettuce to go to eat. When they are on it they can be caught. Another possibility is to surround the plants with some barrier so that the snails do not get close.
  • Cavity Spot disease: It is caused by microscopic fungi (Phytium violae) that attack the stems, causing the yellowing of the plant and the fall of the petals. There is an infection of the soil that forces to plant the violets in another soil. It is convenient to remove the affected specimens, burn them and dig the earth to remove the affected roots. Other violets should not be planted in this field.
  • Red spider mite (Tetranychus urticae): They are insects half a millimeter in length that produce degeneration of the buds on which they produce a kind of cottony cover that can equally affect the leaves or flowers when the infection is very important. They develop with very high temperatures. Requires a specific insecticide.
  • Powdery mildew (Oidium spp): They are fungi that produce white spots on the leaves or buds. It requires that the affected leaves be quickly eliminated and a specific fungicidal treatment. It affects the thoughts a lot, especially when they do not receive adequate light.
  • Gray mold : It is produced by the fungus Botrytis cinerea. It produces flowers with brown papyraceous spots that can sometimes affect the leaves. It is produced mainly by a lack of aeration and an excess of humidity between the plants as a result of having them too close together and spraying the leaves and flowers with water. The treatment must be done by removing the affected material and applying a general fungicide. Avoid spraying flowers when watering.
  • Rusts: It is another disease caused by fungi Puccinia spp. It produces brown or reddish spots on the leaves. It occurs when the ambient temperature is very high. Its treatment includes the removal of the affected leaves.
  • Ferric chlororis or Iron chlorosis: It is a disease caused by the inability of the plant to absorb iron from the substrate, which results in the leaves becoming yellow due to the lack of chlorophyll. It occurs mainly in limestone soil or with a high pH. It requires iron chelates to the ground. The incorporation of organic matter and the digging of the earth will allow the plant to be more capable of absorbing iron.

* Related information: Types of violet / Characteristics of common violet

More information on violet.

This article was endorsed by Julián Masats - Technical agricultural engineer specialized in horticulture and gardening.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

12 May, 2021

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