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Winter pansies and violas: How to grow

In general, pansies produce large flowers, up to 7.5cm (3in) and more across, but not many of them; violas carry far more flowers but they’re smaller, sometimes less than 2.5cm (1in) across. Violas are tougher and more weather resistant; both come in a spectacular range of colours, colour combinations and patterns.

The trial of winter-flowering pansies (violas are excluded) currently under way at the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley includes an amazing 254 different cultivars.

An initial lesson that I took from my time spent on RHS trials judging panel is that, in early winter at least, the small-flowered pansies, which are closer in style to violas, have been more impressive than those with larger flowers. Nine small flowers look far more colourful than two large ones.

This is why. First, the flowers of many pansies are so large that the petals simply do not have the strength to support themselves. The tops of the flowers hang over, the effect is lost. Violas, on the other hand, produce such a constant succession of flowers, if one is damaged by the weather another soon opens. And, with alpine species in their ancestry, violas are simply tougher.

Seeing so many winter-flowering pansies together on dull winter days led me to another conclusion: dark colours make no impact. Crimson, deep purple and dark blue, especially if they feature black-blotched faces, never really stand out, but white, primrose, sky blue and pale pink sparkle on even the most overcast days.

When buying plants in flower at this time of year you will be restricted to what your local garden centres have on display. For the best choice, grow your own from seed or seedlings next year.

And what will replace ‘Universal’ pansies? It is ‘Mariposa’, which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

How to Grow

Pansy and viola flowers follow the sun – or, on dull days, they follow the best light. Plant them where you look at them with the sun or light behind you – then their flowers will face you.

Winter pansies and violas will thrive in any good soil and appreciate plenty of sunshine. Plant plain-faced types en masse in beds and borders, and bicolours and whiskered types along paths and in containers where you can appreciate the delicacy of their pretty patterns.

Finally, the one thing that helps all pansies and violas give their very best is regular dead-heading. So as soon as the flowers fade, nip them off. Use kitchen scissors or thumb and forefinger.

Good companions

Create instantly colourful containers by choosing pots of dwarf tulips or small-flowered daffodils in bud or in flower at the garden centre and matching them with violas or pansies in just the right shades. Set the boxes and pots side-by-side before you buy so you can see how they look.

White violas can be slipped into almost any gaps where you need a little brightness, the colour never clashes. Choose appropriate colours to tuck around dwarf shrubs and conifers, hellebores, bergenias, winter arums, lamiums, and they make splendid companions for the shorter bulbs.

Where to see

The RHS trial at Wisley (0845 260 9000; www.rhs.org.uk) is on the Portsmouth Field; it will be worth a look at any time over the next few months. Winter opening hours are 10am-4.30 pm Mon-Fri and 9am-4.30 pm Sat and Sun.

Telegraph Garden Centre: Top 5 Garden Products

Pansies, violas make ideal winter flower gardens

By Dan Gill

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

(10/21/16) Pansies and violas are popular cool-season bedding plants used to beautify gardens in Louisiana during fall, winter and spring. Pansies and violas thrive in the chilly nights and cool to mild days of the cool season from November to April. The cold weather of winter, even if temperatures should reach the teens, will not bother these plants in the least.

What does viola mean?

The term “viola” can be confusing. Viola is the Latin genus name for a group of related plants that are commonly called pansy, viola or violet.

In gardening, the term “violet” is typically the common name used for perennial Viola species that may be native wildflowers or garden ornamentals. The common name “viola” is used for hybrid plants developed mainly by crossing Viola cornuta with other species. They produce relatively small flowers on compact plants in a wide variety of colors. Finally, the term “pansy” is the common name used for Viola x wittrockiana. Pansies produce large flowers in many colors, often with “faces.”

History of pansies

The origin of the plant we now call pansy began in England in the early 1800s. History credits William Thompson with crossing various species of Viola to create the new hybrid species Viola x wittrockiana we call pansies. He also found the first pansy that had large patches of dark colors on the lower three petals, which form the classic pansy “face.”

The pansy now has one of the widest color ranges of any bedding plant and includes red, purple, blue, navy, bronze, pink, black, yellow, white, lavender, orange, apricot and mahogany. The five-petaled flowers generally have a round shape and may be of a single clear color or have two or three colors with a face.

The plant itself is compact, generally not more than 6 inches in both height and spread, and bears many stems. The medium green, coarsely notched leaves are oval or heart-shaped.

Choose violas

Gardeners often walk right past the violas and head straight for the pansies when choosing bedding plants at the nursery. Pansy flowers are much larger than violas, and in the nursery they look much more impressive. But violas can beat pansies when it comes to garden performance. They can produce more color impact and show greater stamina to weather when compared to pansies.

Flowers on viola plants are often so prolific they can obscure the foliage, and the smaller flowers hold up to rainy winter weather much better than pansies. Completely winter hardy in Louisiana, violas are an outstanding choice for beds or containers. From a fall planting, violas will typically bloom until early or mid-May.

Sorbet violas are Louisiana Super Plant selections. They are more uniform and compact than other types of violas. Sorbet violas come in an amazing variety of colors and are highly recommended for Louisiana gardens.

Planting and growing

Gardeners creating colorful cool-season gardens will find cell packs and pots of pansies and violas at local nurseries or garden centers now. It’s best to wait to plant these plants until daytime highs are staying mostly in the 70s or lower.

Select the flower colors that suit your garden design and choose plants that are stocky with dark green foliage. Unless you need an immediate full-looking bed, small pansy and viola plants in cell packs are a better bargain than transplants in 4-inch pots. Planted this early, transplants have plenty of time to grow into large, robust plants. When planting after February (late in the cool season), choose the larger plants in 4-inch pots for best results.

Plant pansies and violas into well-prepared beds that are sunny to partly shady. Although pansies and violas bloom best with full sun, they will perform well with morning sun and afternoon shade.

Prepare the bed by digging in a 2-to-4-inch layer of compost, peat moss or aged manure and a light sprinkling of a general-purpose fertilizer. Pansies are heavy feeders and will not perform as well without sufficient fertilizer. Apply a teaspoon of slow release fertilizer in each hole as you plant them or apply more granular fertilizer in January. An alternative is to fertilize once or twice a month with a soluble fertilizer using a hose-end sprayer.

When planting, first water the pansies and violas while they are still in their containers or cell packs. Then, carefully remove the plant from the container. If they are in cell packs or pots, place your fingers gently around the top of the container and turn the container upside down. A firm squeeze or push on the bottom should dislodge the plant right into your hand.

Place the root ball in the hole, and push soil around it to cover the roots. Make sure you leave the crown of leaves above the soil because planting pansies too deeply can lead to crown rot. Don’t space transplants too far apart, or they won’t fill in the bed. From the center of one plant to the center of the next, the distance should be about 6 inches. Finally, mulch and thoroughly water the newly planted transplants.

The pansies and violas you plant now should last until April or early May. To encourage continued flowering over a longer period, pinch off faded flowers if you can.

VIOLA, VIOLET, PANSY

Botanically speaking, violas, pansies, and almost all violets are perennials belonging to the genus Viola. However, violas and pansies are usually treated as annuals, invaluable for fall, winter, and spring bloom in mild-winter areas, for spring-through-early-summer color in colder climates. Typically used for mass color in borders and edgings, as covers for spring-flowering bulbs, and in containers. Violets are more often used as woodland or rock garden plants.

Violas and pansies take sun or partial shade, though pansies will bloom longer into spring if given afternoon shade. Violets grow in part or full shade, but most are natives of deciduous forests and bloom best with at least some sun during the flowering season. Violas are tougher than pansies, more tolerant of both heat and cold.

Almost all violets have two kinds of flowers: normal, con- spicuous ones that are held above the foliage and may be pollinated and set seed, and short-stemmed, inconspicuous cleistogamous (Greek for closed mouth) flowers that set seed without pollination and produce copious offspring identical to the parent. Many violets also spread by aboveground runners. Some reproduce so freely they can crowd out other small plants.

Violas and pansies have such complex ancestries that many botanists are unwilling to assign them to species, preferring to list them by selection name. However, we believe it will avoid confusion if we retain these plants under their former names, invalid though they now may be.

LECONTE VIOLET

viola affinis(Viola sororia affinis)

  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • Native from New England south to Georgia and Alabama, west to Wisconsin.
  • To 3 inches tall, spreading wider, with small, triangular, wavy-toothed leaves.
  • Dark-veined violet flowers, white at petal bases and centered with a lighter eye, open above the foliage in spring.

sweet white violet

viola blanda

  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • From eastern North America.
  • To 23 inches high, spreading indefinitely by runners.
  • Fragrant white flowers with purple veining have sharply reflexed petals.
  • Likes moist soil with lots of organic material.

viola

viola cornuta

  • Perennials grown as cool-season annuals.
  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11.
  • Native to Spain.
  • To 68 inches high and 8 inches wide, with smooth, wavy-edged leaves.
  • Purple, pansylike, slender-spurred flowers about 112 inches across.
  • Modern strains and selections are complex hybrids with larger, shorter-spurred flowers; they come in solid colors (purple, blue, yellow, apricot, ruby-red, white) or with elaborate markings (faces).
  • Plants in the Sorbet and Penny series are top performers in the South; Gem and Jewel series do very well too.

MARSH BLUE VIOLET

viola cucullata(Viola obliqua)

  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • From eastern and central North America.
  • To 6 inches high, 10 inches wide.
  • Toothed, heart-shaped leaves to 4 inches across.
  • Blue, 34 inches-wide flowers are held well above the leaves in early spring.
  • Good ground cover; no runners, but self-sows liberally and can become a pest.
  • Thrives in moist and wet soils.
  • Alba has white flowers.
  • The violet often sold as ‘White Czar’white with yellow throat veined in blackis a selection of this species; the name, however, correctly belongs to an old variety of Viola odorata.

sweet violet

viola odorata

bird’s-foot violet

viola pedata

  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • From eastern North America.
  • So named because its finely divided leaves resemble a bird’s foot.
  • Forms a clump to 2 inches high, 4 inches wide; does not spread by runners.
  • Blooms early spring to early summer; 4 inches stems bear inch-wide, typically two-tone violet-blue flowers with darker veining.
  • Not as easy to grow as other violets; likes excellent drainage, filtered sun or high shade, and acidic soil.

dooryard violet

viola sororia

  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
  • From eastern and central North America.
  • To 46 inches high, 8 inches wide; does not spread by runners but self-sows freely.
  • Roughly heart-shaped leaves to 5 inches wide vary from densely hairy to almost smooth.
  • Good ground cover under woodland shrubs.
  • Nearly scentless, 12- to 34 inches flowers in spring to early summer are held close to leaves; colors range from white to red-violet to blue-violet.
  • Most commonly seen are the following smooth-leafed selections (all come true from seed): ‘Albiflora’, pure white with yellow in throat; ‘Freckles’, white liberally spotted with blue; ‘Priceana’ (popularly known as Confederate violet), white with blue-violet veining in throat.

johnny-jump-up

viola tricolor

  • Perennial grown as cool-season annual.
  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11.
  • From Europe, Asia.
  • Spring bloomer to 612 inches tall and broad; spreads widely by profuse self-sowing.
  • Oval, deeply lobed leaves to 1 14 inches long.
  • Pert, 12- to 34 inches., velvety purple-and-yellow or blue-and-yellow flowers are the original wild pansies.
  • Same planting and care as pansy.
  • Crosses with closely related small-flowered species have produced forms with flowers in violet, blue, white, yellow, lavender, mauve, apricot, orange, redwith or without markings (faces).
  • Flowers of ‘Molly Sanderson’ (V.
  • Molly Sanderson) are very dark purplealmost black.

walter’s violet

viola walteri

  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
  • Native from South Carolina to Florida and west to Texas, Ohio.
  • To 68 inches tall, wide spreading, with mottled, dark green foliage, often tinged purple beneath.
  • Stems root where they touch the ground, producing new plants.
  • In spring, bears blue-violet flowers with dark veins and white petal bases, paler eye.
  • Silver Gem has silvery foliage.

pansy

viola x wittrockiana

  • Perennial grown as cool-season annual.
  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11.
  • To 610 inches high, 912 inches wide.
  • Many strains with 2- to 4 inches flowers in white, blue, mahogany-red, rose, yellow, apricot, purple; also bicolors.
  • Most have dark blotches on the lower three petals; such flowers are often said to resemble faces.
  • Shiny green leaves are oval to nearly heart shaped, slightly lobed, 112 inches or longer.

Series are almost too numerous to mention; here are just a few. Heat-tolerant Antique Shades boasts a mix of jewel-toned flowers to 3 inches across. Crystal Bowl is a compact grower, with a profusion of small flowers in vivid, clear colors without faces. Heat- and cold-tolerant Majestic Giants II sports large blooms, to 4 inches across, in the full color range, including many bicolors. Strong-growing Matrix freely produces large blooms in a wide color range, with and without faces. The floriferous ‘Pandora’s Box’ has blooms in rose, pink, orange, and yellow. Plants in the heavy-blooming Panola series, also available in the full range of colors and faces, produce medium-size, thick-petaled flowers that resist damage from rain and snow.

A group of recently developed trailing pansies grow quickly to 68 inches tall and 2430 inches wide; they work beautifully as ground covers or spilling from hanging baskets and window boxes. Look for the vigorous, long-blooming Cool Wave series in yellow, blue, purple, white, and bicolors. Freefall series features rich, saturated colors. WonderFall series is similar but also offers red and pink flowers.

In the Upper South (USDA 6), set out nursery plants of pansies and violas in spring for summer bloom; elsewhere, plant in autumn for winter-to-spring (or longer) bloom. Or start from seed: In the Upper South (USDA 6), sow in mid- to late summer and overwinter seedlings in cold frame until spring; or sow indoors in winter, plant in spring. Elsewhere, sow in mid- to late summer, plant out in fall. To prolong bloom, pick flowers (with some foliage) regularly and remove faded blooms before they set seed. In hot areas, plants get ragged by mid- to late spring and should be removed.

Here’s a very short story about why I love pansies:

Photo by Matt Suwak.

My fiance loves colorful flowers. The brighter the better, she’d tell you. I’ve always tried to work with a specific palette of color to ensure a nice cohesion to landscape design. She, on the hand, wants pinks here and bright oranges in the corner, and don’t forget yellow and red in the middle.

When we bought pansies for the front garden, the first garden we planted together, we had a difficult time finding enough identical colors in the quantities we needed. So our first garden became a kaleidoscope, a dizzying array of two-toned flowers that we mashed together. It looked like somebody dropped a few dozen 64-pack boxes of Crayola crayons in the yard.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

There was no symmetry or attempts at order here; we planted at random to make the most of our purchase. Little did I suspect that with pansies, you don’t need rhyme or reason. Pansies can be planted in one mass of color, or thrown together into a mix resembling scattered Skittles, and they’ll reward you with incredible displays of color.

It’s the best garden I’ve ever planted, and I owe it all to the pansy.

A Short History Lesson

The pansy gets its name from the French word pensée, or “thought.” So wrinkle that brow and get ready to jump into some learnin’!

Modern-day pansies trace their origin to the European flower Viola tricolor, a wildflower that has since been introduced into North America where it has taken hold as a common sight in lawn and field. It’s easy to see the similarities between a viola and a pansy, but there’s one surefire way to distinguish them from each other:

Photo by Matt Suwak.

If the flower has four petals facing upward and one petal facing downward, you’re looking at a pansy. If the flower has two upward-facing petals and three facing downward, it’s a viola. Take that little tidbit to your next garden club meeting.

The staggering array of colors and patterns available in pansies today can be traced back to wealthy landowners and their trusted gardeners.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet of Surrey in England sought to collect and cultivate every type of V. tricolor in her garden that she could get her hands on. Her gardener, William Richardson, convinced her to cross-breed the superb collection of flowers. By 1812, the flowers were introduced and other gardeners took a stab at further cultivars.

At about the same time, James, Lord Gambier and his gardener, William Thompson, crossbred their own specimens. Thanks to the combined efforts of landowners and their smooth-talking gardeners, by 1833 there were over 400 new species of V. tricolor available, with their own cultivar names.

The Truth About Pansies

I do love to drink a tasty beer while I’m gardening at home, and I think a little bit of Truth goes a long way when we’re talking about the uses of pansies.

The great appeal of absorbing yourself in the world of plants is that there’s always something new to learn. For example, this article you’re reading right now is about how to plant and care for pansies. However, in my research, I learned some surprising insights on V. tricolor.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

First off, these guys are edible. That’s pretty great in and of itself. You can see colorful pansies used to decorate cakes and salads, and they’re used to infuse honey with particular flavors. Think of that pansy bed as a fall and springtime nasturtium replacement.

We recommend only eating flowers from your garden that have been grown organically, and take it easy when adding them to your salads and desserts, in case of possible allergies.

To add pansy flowers to your meals, simply pluck off the flowers you like and add them to the dish. Be mindful of insects and other undesirables. It should be standard practice to rinse off anything from your garden before eating it!

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Traditionally, V. tricolor has been used medicinally as well. The mucilage found in the plant provides treatment for rough coughs by soothing mucous membranes. It’s been used to treat respiratory problems, asthma, fever, and constipation, among other ailments. Some sources claim it can be used to treat skin wounds and psoriasis.

If you’re going to ingest your pansies, be diligent on what types of fertilizer you are using. Carefully read the labels of all fertilizers, mulches, and other accessory products used in your garden beds.

Luckily, pansies are almost universally known as either “pansies” or “violas.” The only quality that makes a pansy a “winter pansy” is its cold hardiness. And for the most part, all pansies share a similar tenacity towards cold weather.

As a rule of thumb, the larger the flower on a pansy, the less likely the plant is to overwinter well.

Care and Maintenance

Delightful and prosperous in the right conditions, these flowers require some basic preparation and site maintenance to thrive. They also suffer from a number of diseases and pests, but a little knowledge goes a long way in preventing these conditions.

It bears mentioning right off the bat that pansies fare exceptionally well in containers, because this eliminates the usual source of problems while providing all of their favorite conditions.

Starting Things the Right Way

Chances are you’re going to be starting in a garden center or perhaps shopping online when planting pansies. This is where it all begins!

Photo by Matt Suwak.

There are three rules for buying almost any landscape flowering plant, and they all apply to purchasing the pansy. Luckily, they’re all super simple. Here’s what to look out for:

1. Healthy Leaves and Stems

The leaves and stems should be firm and green with no limp qualities, signs of rot, or obvious infestations of critters.

Most attendants at the plant nursery are happy to answer your questions if you have any about the health of a plant.

2. Strong Roots

Although it can be difficult to inspect the roots, it’s not impossible. Give the stem of the plant a gentle tug, as if you’re removing it from its container. If the plant threatens to pop out of the soil, it’s too weak, and if the whole cell slides out, you’re looking at a rootbound plant.

Just like Goldilocks, you want the plants that are somewhere in the middle, with roots that are just right.

3. Buds

It’s tempting to buy the plant with the flashiest flowers right now, but hold off on that and find a plant with plenty of buds instead. Those buds will open up into new flowers in a few days or weeks and provide you with lasting color, whereas the flowers already in bloom at the garden center are likely to wither away shortly after you get home.

Now that you’ve picked up your plants, let’s look at their new home.

Fall is the best time of year to plant a pansy. The cooler temperatures and less intense light enable the plant to establish healthy roots to survive the winter months. Although they’ll grow in conditions with less light, the pansy prefers a solid 6 hours of sunlight or more to prosper.

Consider planting V. tricolor in an area where you have spring bulbs. The variety of flowers will all bloom at the same time and provide a brilliant display of springtime color.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Like many plants, the pansy requires well-drained soil. If you have a slightly elevated bed, ideally around 6 inches higher than grade, you’ve got an ideal situation for growing V. tricolor.

Amend the soil with good quality compost to aid in drainage. Many communities offer free compost; it makes fall and spring leaf cleanups a breeze when homeowners return the leaves as compost!

If planted en masse in a bed for a real pop of color, maintain a distance of 6 to 10 inches between plants to aid in air circulation. If you are the indecisive type, plant them 8 inches apart!

Speaking of planting, are you using a soil knife? Mine has become a vital tool in the last year, and I wonder how I ever did without it. Check out the one I use by A.M. Leonard, available on Amazon.

A.M. Leonard Classic Stainless Steel Soil Knife

You know that feeling you get when you get a new haircut? It’s refreshing, isn’t it? The pansy responds the same way to getting a haircut.

Deadheading only takes a few minutes and these flowers will respond with glowing color. When growth gets leggy, it’s beneficial to bring out a pair of shears and give them a good haircut to encourage new growth.

Jack’s Classic 20-20-20 All Purpose Fertilizer from J R Peters, available on Amazon

For the best blooms, fertilize regularly. Every two weeks is a good schedule during the fall and spring growing seasons. I recommend Jack’s All-Purpose Fertilizer for just about anything in your garden. If you prefer a slow-release organic fertilizer, use Espoma Plant Tone, my other go-to choice.

Espoma PT18 Plant Tone, available on Amazon

When fertilizing, it’s wise to wet the soil around the plants before applying a liquid fertilizer. This allows the nutrients to be absorbed more quickly by the plants and prevents runoff.

If you’re using a granular or slow-release fertilizer, do this the other way around. That is, apply the fertilizer to dry soil and then water it in.

Pests and Other Concerns

For all of those great shows of color, the pansy also invites its share of trouble. But like most things in life, a little diligence by way of prevention can stop a problem before it starts.

Aphids, the pansy worm, cutworms, and the slow creeping march of slugs all plague V. tricolor. Regular insecticidal soaps will assist in preventing infestations, and in removing problems. The best method to preventing these pests from becoming a problem is to maintain a watchful eye on the health of your plants.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Kill two birds with one stone by inspecting plants for pests while deadheading. You’ll save time and help keep those blooms in tip-top shape.

Root rot and downy mildew are the biggest concerns for pansy health. These are situations easily avoided by maintaining a healthy watering schedule and by carefully selecting where your plants will be established.

The Passing Seasons

A brilliant display of flowers while they are becoming established in the fall is hyphenated by the winter cool-down. Pansies will survive in the cold and the snow with little more than a stiff upper lip turned towards ol’ Jack Frost. Frozen winter days are when I consider watering my pansy bed with whiskey because they’re John Wayne tough.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Pansies will survive through most single-digit weather and can have snow and ice dumped on them. However, if you want to guarantee their survival, consider giving the plants a good watering before a hard freeze to protect the roots. Pine straw is an excellent choice for mulching your pansy bed for added protection from the onslaught of winter.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Personally, I say, leave ‘em be. Pansies will pop up and smile at the sun during warm winter weather. Why cover up and potentially minimize that rare flash of winter color?

The arrival of spring provides a good opportunity to give the plants a quick cleanup, but then brace yourself for that color explosion. Springtime is when these guys really shine.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Unfortunately, the hotter it gets, the weaker pansies perform. They are simply not cut out for warmer weather, and even specific cultivars bred for this purpose tend to winnow out when temperatures climb in June and July. My own bed was completely dried up and withered by the Fourth of July. But you may find more success and a longer season in cooler climates.

A Closer Look at Cultivars

Working at a garden center allowed me to learn the names people prefer to use for their plants. It led to many a confusing interaction – imagine being asked for “chlamydia” when the customer meant “clematis”. Believe me, it’s happened more than once.

We’re going to look at a handful of cultivars available below.

Colormax

A reliable and hardy flower, the Colormax series offers a viola with a larger flower.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Rivaling pansies in size, it can handle winter cold and sudden spikes of warmth through the fall and into early summer.

Delta

My favorite style of pansy, the Delta offers a tremendous variety of color in a plant that’s capable of taking some serious punishment.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

The flowers are almost constantly in bloom and offer a wide enough selection that even the most picky gardener can find something suitable. These flowers tend to be smaller than other types.

Matrix

The Matrix varieties have the most interesting colors, as far as I’m concerned. The one pictured here is ‘Solar Flare’, and if that’s not a punchy and vibrant color, then I don’t know what is!

Photo by Matt Suwak.

The Matrix cultivars about as hardy as the Delta series.

Mammoth

It’s all in the name with this one. The Mammoth provides some massively-sized flowers with a respectable assortment of colors to choose from.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Although you’ll receive huge flowers from the Mammoth series, keep in mind that they are also less hardy against cold winters.

Where to Buy

Though you local nursery is likely your best bet for pallets of pansies that are ready to put into your containers or the ground, if you’re willing to start from seed, a variety of options are available to you.

We love the variety offered in the Cool Wave Series, available from True Leaf Market. You can choose from packs of 100 seeds in Frost, Golden Yellow, Violet Wing, Purple, or mixed packages.

Pansy Cool Wave Series in Purple

This vigorous spreading variety is excellent for hanging baskets and ground covers, and it boasts excellent overwintering hardiness with two-inch blooms.

Put Your Knowledge to Work for Enjoyment Through the Seasons

Planting pansies is one of my favorite gardening traditions, coupled with enjoying throughout the colder seasons and again in the springtime sun. They are an excellent flower for novices and experts alike to liven up their yards and porches.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to run to the store and buy my usual motley array of colors and get to planting. I’ll see you out there!

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Do you have any pansy memories you want to share, or questions about planting these lovely flowers? Ask us here in the comments, or feel free to connect with us on the Gardener’s Path Facebook page or Twitter!

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Photos by Matt Suwak. © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via A.M. Leonard, J.R. Peters, Espoma, True Leaf Market. Uncredited photo: .

The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.

About Matt Suwak

Matt Suwak was reared by the bear and the bobcat and the coyote of rural Pennsylvania. This upbringing keeps him permanently affixed to the outdoors where most of his personal time is invested in gardening, bird watching, and hiking. He presently resides in Philadelphia and works under the sun as a landscaper and gardener, and by moonlight as a writer. An incessant questioning of “Why?” affords him countless opportunities to ponder the (in)significance of the great and the small. He considers folksy adages priceless treasures and is fueled almost entirely by beer and hot sauce.

Pansies are popular, easy-to-grow flowers that provide early color in cold climates and winter blooms in milder climates.

Pansy plants make wonderful cool weather additions to the garden. Their bright colors put a smile on a cold, dreary, winter day.

The pansies we are familiar with today have come from many years of hybridizing and crossing with violas, their small, wild ancestors.

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At the end of winter, count on well-established pansies to lift your spirits and herald the coming of spring.

How Long Do Pansies Bloom For And Do They Bloom All Summer?

With the right setting and proper care, pansies will continue flowering throughout springtime and well into summer. They begin to fade when temperatures rise.

Although they are often mistaken for annuals, many gardeners count on pansies to fill flower beds with bright blooms in preparation for summer flowers every spring.

Do Pansies Come Back Year After Year?

Pansies if planted and sheltered properly will return and bloom year after year.

What Is The Difference Between Pansies And Violas?

Pansy Flower viaWikimedia| Viola Flower via Wikimedia

The much larger flowers of today’s modern pansy hybrids are very different from their modest ancestors. These showy flowers are available in shades of white, blue, violet, red and yellow.

Very often, these larger flowers have a dark “face.” “This was first discovered on a sport (mutation) in the late 1830s,” when “pansies were first becoming popular in Europe and England.”

Pansy hybrids bloom in the early spring and provide winter color in mild climates.

Their ancestors are the smaller “bedding violas.” They are also available in many colors, but they do not have a dark face.

Violas do not bloom in winter and/or early in the springtime. Instead, they bloom primarily in summer and prefer cooler summer temperatures.

Pansies (Viola × wittrockiana)

These pansy hybrids stand about eight inches tall. Their large flowers range in size from two-to-four inches across. Their dark green oval or elliptical leaves are about an inch long.

This popular hybrid provides a confetti-burst of color in the early springtime with blossoms in yellow, apricot, rose, red, maroon, purple, blue and a wide variety of white bi-colors.

Lifespan: Hybrid pansies are herbaceous perennials and often grown as annuals.

Season: Enjoy their blooms from late winter into the early summer months, typically April through June.

Natural Habitat: Pansies are entirely domesticated and grow mostly in gardens; although, they will naturalize under ideal conditions.

Hardiness: USDA zones 6-10.

Height & Spread: Hybrids grow to be between 6-9″ high and can spread 9″ to one foot.

Light Requirements: In cooler climates, pansies like full sun. In hot climates, they prefer part shade.

How Often and How Much Water and Fertilizer Do Pansies Need? A thorough weekly watering is usually sufficient.

Check to be sure the soil never dries out completely. Provide a light feeding (half-strength water-soluble fertilizer) every two weeks throughout the spring and summer months.

Soil Requirements: These agreeable plants will do well in almost any well-draining, fertile potting or bedding mix. Well-draining, humus-rich soil should be kept consistently moist.

Do You Deadhead Pansies? What Maintenance Do They Need? Deadhead and pinch back wilted leaves throughout the blooming season. Cut back leggy, straggly plants to rejuvenate them. Mulch as needed in cold climates.

Blossoms: Showy, colorful, fragrant.

Growth Habits: The plants grow quickly and spread rapidly at first but later grow more upright. In areas with hot temperatures, pansies tend to become lanky and pale.

Attracts: Deer like the protein-rich plants. The flowers Hummingbirds like, they also attract butterflies and other pollinators. The plants may also attract rabbits!

Yellow Pansy flowers viawikimedia| CC 2.0

How To You Keep Pansies From Getting Leggy, Looking Full and Flowering All Season

Pansies do better in cooler weather. During warm weather, they get leggy, don’t produce flowers, usually don’t look good.

Tips On Revitalizing Pansies

  • Look for insect damage from earwings or other insects (we like Neem for control)
  • Keep pansies constantly moist. They don’t want to be soggy or dry out completely
  • When they dry out they tend to begin to seed
  • Deadhead – remove all faded and spent flowers, this helps the plant to produce more blooms and branch out
  • Remove the whole stem for appearance only
  • Stems pinch easily with well-watered plants and new buds form quickly
  • At end of the season allow some of the seed pods to ripen and collect them for next season

Should You Buy Seedlings Or Grow From Seed?

In early spring, it’s easy and affordable to buy flats of pansies in garden centers.

If you live in a very cold area, purchasing these pansy plants and putting them out in the garden after all danger of frost passes may be your best bet.

Viola × wittrockiana mature seed capsule viaWikimedia commons

In warmer climates, try growing your pansies from seed. Here are two easy methods.

1. Sow Indoors In Winter

Planting pansies with this method gets faster germination but later blooms.

You can sow pansy seeds indoors in the winter during January and February. Prepare a seed tray with a good seed starter mix.

Sprinkle the seeds lightly over the mix and cover them with a very thin layer of sand. I use “builders sand.”

Keep the seed tray slightly damp throughout the germination period. Your seeds should start to grow within a couple of weeks.

When you see new growth, set the seed tray in a cool, shaded, protected area. Continue with light watering.

When your seedlings develop a second set of leaves, remove the seedlings from the tray and put them into small, individual peat pots.

Keep them in a still, well-lit, cool setting. Water regularly.

After the seedlings develop several sets of leaves, begin “hardening” them off by allowing them a little time outdoors on clear, warm, windless days.

When all danger of frost passes and your plants have had the chance to acclimate to the outdoors, plant them in your garden or put them into pots or containers for your balcony, porch or patio.

More in our article: Growing Pansies From Seed

2. Sow Indoors In Summer

This method gives plants more of a chance to grow strong and resilient, but you’ll have to wait several months for blossoms.

The process is very similar to sowing indoors in winter, but you would start in June, July or August.

If you live in an area with a mild climate, you can plant your young seedlings out into your garden in September.

If you live in a very cold area, keep your seedlings indoors through the winter or plant them out and mulch them with straw or something similar to protect them from the cold.

How To Use Pansies In The Garden

Versatile pansy plants are great for edging, bedding, planters, adding color to window boxes and dress up strawberry jars.

They make excellent companions for most plants and are especially suited as a “cover crop” for spring bulbs.

Pansies can be planted over bulbs. They will appear and begin blooming early in the spring.

When the weather and the soil warm up, your tulips and daffodils will burst through.

This makes a very nice display of taller spring and summer flowers surrounded by a carpet of pansies.

In containers gardens, plant pansies about six inches apart. They will soon fill out to make a pretty display in your window box, balcony box or any container.

Pansy Culture

Although pansies can naturalize, reseed themselves and return year after year.

Most gardeners prefer to remove them from the garden when they begin look straggly when the heat increases during the hot summer months.

This is why pansies are usually grown as annuals (planted and enjoyed in a single spring and summer) or as biennials (planted in the fall and enjoyed the following spring and summer).

In the southern United States, pansies are very popular because they bloom throughout the winter and into the spring.

If your winters are mild, you may not need to mulch your biennial pansies.

Generally speaking, small, but well-established plants fare better through the winter months than larger ones.

When choosing to plant pansies in the autumn, they will bloom very early in the spring.

If you choose to set them out in the spring, you must wait until after all danger of frost has passed.

Do Pansies Have Problems With Pests And Diseases?

Overall, pansies are very easy to grow and do not face any serious maladies or insect attacks.

Leaf Fungus Disease

Like all plants, they are subject to problems with fungus if they are kept too wet for extended periods of time.

If fungal leaf disease develops, you may notice dark, brownish, semi-transparent spots on the leaves.

You can treat this (in container plants) by isolating the affected plants, trimming away the affected areas and applying a fungicide or spraying with a Neem oil solution.

Keep the quarantined plants in a setting with good air circulation and do not water until the soil in the pots becomes almost dry.

You may need to repot the plants into fresh only slightly damp soil.

If this problem affects bedding plants, you should pull up the affected plants and dispose of them.

Use a fungicide on the remaining plants and alter your watering habits to prevent more fungal growth.

Trim out excess and/or dead leaves to eliminate crowding and improve air circulation.

Crown Rot

Crown Rot is a very serious fungus problem that cannot be treated in individual plants because this soil fungus kills plants from the roots up.

By the time you notice it, your plant is already dead.

If your pansies are attacked by Crown Rot, you can only remove them, dispose of them and replace the soil they were in entirely.

Before putting new soil in place, treat the area with a fungicidal soil drench designed to treat for soil fungi.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew is another fungal problem. This occurs when the weather is damp, humid and cool.

If you notice a light dusting of white over the leaves of your plants, you probably have powdery mildew.

Use a fungicidal spray specifically formulated for use against powdery mildew.

Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails may eat your pansies. See our article 9 All Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Slugs In Your Garden.

Cutworms

Cutworms feed at night cutting off the plants just at the ground line, and, will destroy pansy plantings during the early spring cool, moist weather.

They burrow into the ground just below the soil surface during the day.

When night time and darkness arrives they exit to begin feeding again. Check plants shortly after the sun rises before the cutworms have had time to feed and burrow back underground.

What Are Viola Plants?

The term “viola” is actually correctly applied to about 500 different kinds of annual bedding plants and wildflowers, but the plant we wish to discuss here is the ancestor of the hybrid pansy.

Violas are quite a bit like pansies, but the flowers are smaller and the growth habits are different.

Traditional violas (Viola odorata) have flowers no larger than an inch and a half across. Pansies typically have flowers two or more inches across.

While pansies provide color through the winter and in the early months of spring, violas typically bloom later in the spring and well into the summer.

Heirloom And Hybrid Violas Offer Variety

The violas available today descended from the Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) which is an heirloom perennial.

This pretty little wildflower has dark purple flowers and a very sweet scent.

In a modern garden setting, you will typically find two types of violas.

The first is Johnny Jump Ups (Viola tricolor) also called “Heartsease” which is a self-sowing annual.

This hardy little plant lives only a year, but its offspring “jump up” year after year once a stand is established.

The flowers are tri-colored: purple with white and yellow centers.

The small flowers are no bigger around than a nickel and have dark markings (lines or whiskers) in the light colored centers.

The second type of viola you’ll frequently see in the garden is commonly called the Tufted Pansy or Horned Violet (Viola cornuta).

These little violets come from the Pyrenees mountains and from Spain. They grow wild in these temperate climates and are perennial in most settings.

These hardy plants grow in low mounds that stand between eight and ten inches high.

Viola cornuta’s lightly scented flowers come in a vast array of colors. They are marked with attractive contrasting lines radiating from the blossom center.

There Are Many Attractive Varieties Of Classic Tufted Pansies

  • Arkwright Ruby (Amazon) has deep red blooms, golden edged blooms with golden centers.
  • Chantreyland (Amazon) has large, attractive apricot colored blossoms.
  • Yellow Perfection is a solid shade of yellow.
  • Blue Perfection is solid blue.

These heirloom varieties are open-pollinated or naturally pollinated, as opposed to being subject to the controlled pollination techniques used with hybrids.

In addition to these time-honored classics, there are also several newer open-pollinated violas:

  • Princess comes in yellow, blue, purple and bicolor combinations.
  • Velour (Amazon) comes in three types and twenty different colors.

There are also some hybrid violas. Examples include:

  • Penny (Amazon) comes in numerous shades of blue and purple, ranging from very pale to very dark. There are also many attractive choices in shades of red, yellow, orange and white.
  • Sorbet is available in over thirty colors ranging from pale pastels to dark shades and two-tone combinations.

Some of the hybrid violas have lines or whiskers like Johnny Jump Ups. Some have darker centers (faces) like hybrid pansies.

All of these are smaller than pansies and grow in attractive mounds in the garden. They flower continuously throughout the growing season.

  • Skippy XL Red-Gold (Amazon) is an exception among violas.

This hardy, prize winning hybrid produces flowers that are nearly as large as those of a hybrid pansy.

The blossoms of the first in the “Skippy” series are deep red with purplish-red markings and a golden “face.” Other colors have been (and are being) developed.

Other hybrid viola choices include the very hardy Patiola series that produces flowers as large as pansies but boasts greater durability.

There are also trailing hybrids, such as Erlyn and Splendid that do very well in hanging baskets.

Pansy Plants Buying And Planting Tips

Whether you are purchasing violas or pansies or both, look for compact, healthy looking plants with intact, green leaves.

Don’t buy bedding plants of any kind with yellow leaves as this indicates:

  • Nutrition deficiencies
  • Root damage
  • Disease
  • Stress from under or over-watering

When you purchase a stressed plant, it will take longer to establish itself in your garden. In fact, it may never do well.

Don’t purchase excessively root-bound plants where lots of roots are protruding through the drain holes.

  • This indicates a plant that has been in its temporary container too long.
  • This makes plants difficult to remove from the container without damaging the root system.

When removing bedding plants from their temporary containers, do it gently.

  • Loosen the soil by tapping the outside of the container and tipping the plant out into your hand.
  • Place the plant in a hole with the surrounding soil at the same level as the soil in the plant’s previous container.

Soil for pansies and violas should be well-draining and rich with compost and organic matter.

When planting mounded violas, give them 6” or 8” inches of space all around.

If you are planting spreading or trailing types into beds, give them more room. Ten or twelve inches should be ample.

If you live in the northern United States, place your plants in a setting with full sun exposure.

If you live in the south, partial shade will be more conducive to success with pansies and viola plants.

Pansies, Violas Or Both?

Just like pansies, violas are good bedding plants, and do great in containers and window boxes, so why not plant both?

A combination of the two ensures lots of interest and color in your garden through winter and spring and well into the summer months.

Trailing violas make wonderful choices for hanging baskets or as an attractive, fragrant ground cover.

Additionally, sweet violas are a tasty treat!

Viola flowers are used as garnish for desserts. They can be tossed in salads. They can be candied or used to make tea, jelly, jam or crepes!

Viola – growing from seeds, planting and care

Written by Joan Clark Feb 26th, 2019 Posted in Garden

Viola plant (lat. Viola) belongs to the genus in the family of Violaceae, the representatives of which grow mainly in mountainous areas and places with a moderate climate of the Northern Hemisphere and number from four to seven hundred species according to various sources. Some of the violas are endemic to the South American Andes, some of them occur in the subtropics of Brazil, the tropics of South Africa, Australia, the Hawaiian Islands and New Zealand. The common name of viola is a pansy. The violet-viola has long been popular. About 2,500 years ago ancient peoples inhabiting the territory of Europe weaved the flower into festive garlands and wreaths, decorating the rooms for celebrations. Sweet viola was the first viola that was introduced in the culture and it was followed by mountain viola. The first mention of breeding works on breeding hybrids of violets dates back to 1683. Acquaintance of the Europeans with the species of the garden pansy (viola wittrockiana) that is a hybrid of mountain pansy, viola altaica and wild pansy (viola tricolor) took place in the XIX century. Today, a garden viola is one of the most popular plants, numbering hundreds of species and varieties.

Viola flowers – requirements for growing

Viola is represented by perennial, biennial and annual herbaceous plants, reaching a height from 6 to 12 inches. The root system of the viola is fibrous, the main shoot is erect. Simple or pinnately dissected leaves of viola with stipules are either assembled into a basal rosette or grow alternately. Viola flowers are axillary, solitary, on long peduncles, up to 2.7 inches in diameter, upper petals are with “claws”, lower petals are larger, with a sacciform formation at the base that is called “spur”. The colors and shapes of the violas are striking in variety: one-colored, bi- or tricolored, spotted, striped, with a mark, with wavy or even edges of petals, simple or double. Viola blooms profusely from mid-March till the end of May, or from August till frost, depending on the time of planting. However there are hybrids that can bloom throughout the summer or twice a season. The fruit of viola is a capsule with seeds that retain their germination capacity up to two years.

Viola is winter-hardy and shade-tolerant, although if the plant is far from the sun light it blooms not so abundantly, and the flowers become smaller. Loamy, fertile, moist soil is preferable for the viola, as dry sandy soils also make viola flowers small.

Growing of violas from seeds

Sowing of violas to grow seedlings

You can sow the seeds of viola directly into the open ground, but we are going to tell you how to grow seedlings, since the seedling method of seed propagation is usually more reliable than the non-seedling method. If you want to see flowering in the current year, growing of viola seedlings should be started at the end of February. Before sowing of viola, buy a soil substrate for violas at the nursery, and soak the seeds in a solution of a growth stimulant. Then scatter the seeds into the grooves made in the soil and sprinkle them with the substrate rubbed between the palms, water, cover the container with glass or transparent foil and keep it in a room with a temperature of about 59 ºF.

Seedlings of viola

Viola seedlings will emerge from the seeds in a week or a week and a half, and once viola has sprouted, the glass needs to be removed and the container with the seedlings should be kept in a cool place where the air temperature is not higher than 50 ºF, with a bright diffused light with protection from direct sunlight. At this stage care for viola implies timely moistening of the substrate and the usage of a combined mineral fertilizer in the form of a solution twice a month.

Pricking out of viola

There are two opinions as to how many times and when to prick out viola. Some growers insist that the viola seedlings are pricked out twice: the first time is when a pair of true leaves appears, and for the second time pricking out of viola is carried out in 2-3 weeks according to the 6×6 scheme. But the other no less experienced experts believe that the second pricking is, in fact, planting of viola in the open ground, so it’s up to you to decide if you need to prick out viola for the second time. Eventually, viola can be planted on the site in bloom as it perfectly takes root. Viola grown from seeds blooms in late spring or early summer.

Planting of viola

When to plant viola

Planting of viola in the open ground is carried out in April or May depending on the climate zone of your area. Choose a sunny site for viola with the optimal soil composition and add the following mixture: one part of soil, 0.2 parts of not too finely crushed coal, so that its fractions perform the drainage function, and the same amount of humus or dry bird droppings. It will also be good to grow viola in the soil of such composition: humus, sod soil, peat and sand in a ratio of 2:2:2:1. Do not plant viola in the lowland, where the groundwater is close to the ground, for the stagnation of water not to occur in the roots of viola.

Как посадить виолу

If you are concerned with the question of how to plant viola properly, let us reassure you: planting of viola flowers does not have any secrets. The seedlings are placed in pre-prepared holes at a distance of 4-6 inches, sprinkled with soil, tamp the soil around the bush and water after planting. Note that growing of viola flowers involves plant transplantation every three years, combined with the division of bushes, otherwise the perennial viola grows heavily in size and the flowers become smaller, causing the plant to lose its ornamentality. The best viola varieties can be easily propagated by cuttings.

Viola: care

How to grow viola

Growing of viola requires keeping the soil wet and loose, since the root system of the plant is superficial and it is only 6-8 inches deep. The planting site with viola is watered as needed. But in the usual summer rains will supply enough natural moistening. And only if the summer is hot, you will have to arrange additional watering. You should also remove the weeds from the site as they appear, and remove wilted flowers with the seed boxes timely for viola not to lose its blooming intensity.

In addition, care for viola flowers implies monthly fertilizing with ammonium nitrate or superphosphate at a rate of 0.9-1 oz per 11 square feet.

Pests and diseases of viola

As you can see, planting and care for viola are very simple, so do not neglect the rules of viola growing, follow them strictly, otherwise you will have to face difficulties that can be avoided with proper care. We are talking about diseases and pests that emerge when the rules of agrotechnology are violated. Viola mostly suffers from powdery mildew that at first looks like a gray or white coating on leaves, buds and stems. This happens in a dry, sunny summer with abundant morning dew or if only nitrogen fertilizers are applied. In the case of powdery mildew disease, plants are sprayed with a fungicide, or ground sulfur, or soda ash with soap. If the plant is still sick, the treatment must be repeated in two weeks.

In addition, if the temperature conditions, air and soil humidity are not observed, this can lead to such diseases as gray rot or blackleg. You should eliminate the causes of the diseases, otherwise all plants can get affected. Remove the infected plants, and treat the soil they grew in with a fungicide.

Sometimes viola can get sick with spotting that makes its leaves dry and the plant gets weak. It is necessary to destroy the infected plants, and it is better to burn them for the infection not to spread throughout the garden. Healthy plants are sprayed with a Bordeaux mixture for 2-3 times with a two week interval.

The insects that are dangerous for viola are caterpillars of clover cutworm and pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, eating the leaves of the plant. Destroy them by spraying viola with trichlorfon or tobacco infusion.

Viola after flowering

How and when to collect the seeds of viola

Seeds are collected from the faded plants in August-September. After wilting of the flowers, there are small capsules with seeds. The sign of the readiness of the seeds for collection is the rotation of the capsule upward. Take seeds from the cut capsules, dry them indoors and store them in the refrigerator. If you do not remove the capsules with seeds, then there may be abundant self-seeding and there will be fresh sprouts in autumn or next spring, but if you thin and prick them out timely, you can grow viola without wasting time on sowing and planting.

Viola in winter

The modern varieties of perennial violas, if covered with fir twigs or dry foliage, can withstand even severe frosts – up to -22 ºF. And one-year-old violas are destroyed after wilting.

Species and varieties of viola

Garden pansy (Viola wittrockiana)

The most common species of viola in our flower beds is viola wittrockiana, or garden pansies. It is perennial, 8-12 inches high, grown as a biennial plant, with oval alternate leaves, dentate with rounded teeth. Solitary, large flowers are from 1.5 to 4 inches in diameter of various colors and shapes. Florists divide varieties of garden pansies into several categories: according to the terms and quality of flowering, the size of the flowers, their color, shape and type of winter hardiness. If the criterion is the size of the flowers and their number on the flowering bush, then according to these characteristics, the garden pansies are divided into groups of large-flowered (grandiflora) and multi-flowered (multiflora) varieties. If the color is the basis of the difference, the varieties are conventionally divided into one-colored, bicolored and spotted, but it should be noted that there is no clear difference between these groups, and one and the same variety can be considered, for example, both spotted and bicolored.

One-colored varieties of garden pansy:

  • White Viola is a spreading shrub up to 10 inches in diameter and 8 inches in height with green leaves. The fragrant flowers are on long peduncles. They are white with hardly noticeable greenery and yellowness. This variety blooms from mid-April to early August and from late September to October. It overwinters well under cover;
  • Blue Boy is a bush up to 10 inches high with bluish leaves, lilac-blue wavy flowers up to 2.3 inches in diameter, with dark lilac strokes at the base of the petals, the upper petals are bent back. Simultaneously, there can be up to 19 opened flowers on a bush. It blooms from April to August and September-October. It overwinters well under cover;
  • Rua de Negri is compact shrubs up to 9 inches high, leaves are with a blue-gray covering, flowers are up to 2 inches in diameter with rounded black velvety petals curving slightly at the edges, there is a bright yellow mark at the base of the lower petal. Simultaneously, there can be up to 14 opened flowers on a bush. It blooms from April to August and from September to October. It overwinters well under cover;
  • Red Viola has upright stems with a height up to 8 inches. Flowers are up to 2.8 inches in diameter. They are red colored with a very dark spot at the base of the petals.

Two-colored varieties of garden viola:

  • Jupiter is a compact variety up to 6 inches high with dark green leaves. Rounded white-purple flowers are up to 2 inches in diameter. The upper petals are bent at the base and the lower ones have a velvety texture and a dense purple hue. There can be up to 20 simultaneously opened flowers on a bush. It overwinters well.
  • Lord Beaconsfield is a bush up to 10 inches high, the leaves are bluish. Flowers are up to 2.2 inches in diameter. The upper petals are white-blue with ink dab at the base, the lower ones are dense purple with an uneven lilac rim along the edges. There can be up to 30 flowers simultaneously opened on a bush. It overwinters well;
  • Saint Knud is a compact shrub up to 8 inches in height with green leaves. The flowers are up to 2 inches in diameter. The upper petals are of a light yellowish-orange hue. The lower ones are of bright orange color with a red base, protruding strongly forward. There can be up to 19 flowers simultaneously opened on a bush.

Spotted violas are:

  • Shalom Spurim is the improved type of the viola rococo, or double viola, but its petals are incredibly ruffled and flowers are very large – they are one third larger than the standard has. They are sold as a mixture of seeds of different colors. Unlike its parental species, it prefers a light half-shade to the sunlight as it makes its leaves wavier.
  • F1 hybrid Tiger eyes is a new product of incredible colors: there are thin frequent brown lines on yellow background. The diameter of the flower is up to 1.2 inches. It can be grown in flowerbeds and pots. The hybrid is characterized by early and incredibly abundant flowering and pleasant fragrance;
  • F1 hybrid Cassis is a compact plant. Its violet petals have a thin white border around the edges. It blooms very abundantly and has a high winter hardiness.

Horned pansy (Viola cornuta), or trailing viola

Horned pansy is also widely cultivated in addition to garden pansy. It is a perennial plant, from 6 to 10 inches high, with a creeping branched rhizome. As it grows, it forms a carpet. The stems are triangular in cross-section, the leaves are oblong, coarsely dentate, up to 2.4 inches long, stipules are pinnately incised. Numerous flowers are 1.2-2 inches in diameter, with a horn-like spur. They are purple-violet with a small yellow spot. It blooms from May to September. It is winter-hardy, but it is better to cover it in winter. Growing of trailing violas is not much different from growing of garden violas. The breeding of new varieties of horned viola was done mainly by British breeders:

  • Arkwright Ruby is a large-flowered variety with petals of intensively red color with a yellow mark and dark spots at the base of the lower petals;
  • Balmont Blue is a variety with blue flowers and stems. It grows well in hanging baskets and containers on balcony;
  • Purple Duet is a variety with flowers that have two upper petals of burgundy color, and the three lower ones of dark pink with darker strokes at the base.

Sweet viola (Viola odorata)

Sweet viola also grows well in our gardens as it has lots of garden varieties. Sweet viola is a perennial plant with a thick rhizome and almost round leaves up to 3.5 inches long and 3 inches wide, forming a rosette. Flowers are quite large, fragrant, with purple hue. It blooms in May for three weeks, sometimes it blooms again in autumn. The varieties are:

  • Rosina has very fragrant flowers of pink color, darkening closer to the base, the upper petals at them are bent, lateral petals are slightly extended forward. The flower looks like a flying bird;
  • Charlotte is a viola with large dark purple flowers;
  • King is a viola with very fragrant purple flowers.

Common blue violet, or hooded blue violet (Viola papilionacea = Viola cucullata)

Common blue violet, or hooded blue violet is highly demanded in the culture. It is 6-8 inches tall with heart-shaped or kidney-shaped leaves with serrated edges. The flowers are large, solitary, purple. The upper petal is white with a purple strip, and the center is yellowish green, almost white. It blooms from April to June. The varieties are:

  • Freckles has white flowers with dense purple freckles that become larger in the cold spring. It blooms in spring until summer. It is one of the most undemanding varieties in the culture;
  • Royal Robe is a miniature viola with very fragrant flowers, petals are bent back, and at the base of each petal there are yellow and black strokes. The petals have a color from violet-blue to purple;
  • Red Giant has very large red-violet flowers on long peduncles. It is a long-flowering variety.

In addition to these widely used species of violas, there are also such great species as: viola gracilis, viola montana, mountain pansy, marsh violet, viola altaica, hairy violet, alpine violet, viola uniflora, viola variegata, rock violet, viola somchetica, dog violet, wooly blue viola, birdfoot viola, wonder violet, hill violet and northern viola. They are mostly used by breeders to create new varieties and hybrids of garden viola.

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Varieties Of Violets: Different Types Of Violets

Violets are one of the cheeriest little flowers to grace the landscape. True violets are different from African violets, which are natives of east Africa. Our native violets are indigenous to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere and may bloom from spring well into summer, depending upon the species. There are around 400 types of violet plants in the genus Viola. The many violet plant varieties guarantee there is a sweet little Viola perfect for almost any gardening need.

Violet Plant Varieties

True violets have been cultivated since at least 500 B.C. Their uses were more than ornamental, with flavoring and medicinal applications high on the list. Today, we are fortunate to have a plethora of different types of violets readily available at most nurseries and garden centers.

Violas encompass the dog violets (scentless blooms), wild pansies and sweet violets, which are descended from wild sweet violets from Europe. With so many choices, it can be hard to decide which of these endlessly charming flowers to choose for your landscape. We’ll break down the basic different types of violets so you can pick the best fit for your garden.

Both pansies and violets are in the genus Viola. Some are perennials and some are annuals but all sport the sunny, uplifted face-like flowers characteristic of the family Violaceae. While both are technically violets, each has a slightly different characteristic and genesis.

Pansies are a cross between the wild violets, Viola lutea and Viola tricolor, and are often called Johnny-jump-ups for their ability to crop up readily anywhere. Sweet violets are descended from Viola odorata, while bedding violets are deliberate hybrids of Viola cornuta and pansies.

The mounding form and leaves are the same, but pansies have more distinctive “faces” then bedding violets, which feature more streaking. Any of the types of violet flowers are equally as appealing and easy to grow.

Typical Varieties of Violets

There are over 100 types of violet plants available for sale. The two main types of violet flowers in nurseries are bedding violets and sweet violets. These and pansies are classed into 5 categories:

  • Heirloom
  • Double
  • Parmas (which prefer warmer seasons)
  • New violet
  • Viola

Pansies are distinguished by their four petals pointing upwards and one pointing down. The violas have two petals pointing up and three pointing down. The categories have further been divided into subgroups:

  • Pansy
  • Viola
  • Violettas
  • Cornuta hybrids

None of this is very important unless you are a breeder or botanist, but it serves to indicate the huge array of varieties of violets and the need for a larger classing system to indicate species variation among the family members.

Bedding varieties are your hybridized violets and pansies. In late winter, they are the most commonly found in nurseries and thrive in the cool of early spring and even late winter in temperate and warm regions. Wild violets are less common but may be found at native nurseries since 60 species are native to North America.

Every region will have slightly different offerings but there are some mainstays in the Viola community. The garden or bedding pansies, which are a hybrid, come in numerous colors, from blue to russet and anything in between. Blue violets are the most common and will readily seed themselves in your garden.

Perennial violas that will perform well in most zones include:

  • Nellie Britton
  • Moonlight
  • Aspasia
  • Buttercup
  • Blackjack
  • Vita
  • Zoe
  • Huntercombe Purple
  • Clementina

Wild Violas for sale may be field pansies, yellow wood violet, hairy violet, dog violet, downy yellow or early blue violet. All these types of violet plants should thrive in dappled light, well-draining soil and average moisture. Most will self-seed and double the dainty flower display the next year.

Violets of any name are one of nature’s sweet treats that shouldn’t be missed in the landscape.

Viola sororia

“Big doesn’t necessarily mean better. Sunflowers aren’t better than violets.” — Edna Ferber

Classification

So where does this TINY flower fit in this BIG world?

The term Viola stems directly from Greek mythology. The classical Latin name for violets is Viola, which is related to the Greek Vion, a variant of Io. The Greek legend tells of how Zeus fell in love with Io, the beautiful Greek priestess. When his wife, Hera, became jealous of the relationship, Zeus turned Io into a white heifer to protect her and provided the sweet-scented violet for her to graze on. The term sororia takes on the meaning, “of a sister.” The scientific name Viola sororia means “sisterly, resembling other species”. For further historical or interesting information, go to Facts.

Viola sororia is commonly known as the Common Blue Violet. It is also known as the Hooded Blue Violet, Meadow Violet, Chicken Fights, or Rooster Heads. This widespread species was originally known as Viola papilionacea in the older literature. However, some authors and botanists now place Viola papilionacea as a variety of Viola sororia Willd. Other synonymous scientific names include Viola floridana, Viola latiuscula, Viola priceana and many other variants of the species Viola sororia Willd.

The taxonomy of Viola sororia is questionable due to the plant’s variable nature and its hybridization with at least four other species of genus Viola. The complete classification of Viola sororia is shown below with descriptions of why the organism is under each classification.

Domain: Eukarya – All members of the Eukarya are composed of cells with a true nucleus and membrane bound organelles. This domain includes all of the plants, animals, and fungi.

Kingdom: Plantae – Members of the plant kingdom have cellulose as the structural component of cell walls, chloroplasts, and go through photosynthesis to obtain nutrients.

Phylum: Magnoliophyta – Advanced venation patterns in leaves, a true flower which generally includes sepals, petals, stamens, and carpels where seeds are enclosed, double fertilization, and endosperm (nutritional tissue for embryo) formation are present characteristics of members in this phylum. Can you identify some of these characteristics in the pictures of Viola sororia above?

Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicotyeldons) – Six characteristics are present in the members of this class: two cotyledons (early seed leafs) in the embryo; leaf venation is net like; flower parts of four or five pedals; the vascular tissue is arranged in a ring formation rather than being scattered; presence of a main root; and the pollen grain has three openings. Looking at the pictures above, can you see why Viola sororia falls under this class?

Order: Violales L. – These members are morphologically heterogeneous and have a unicocular compound ovary (having a single compartment in the ovary or fruit) with mostly parietal placentation.

Family: Violaceae – Organisms have leaves that are often heart-shaped, sometimes toothed, or finely cut. Their flowers have five petals of unequal size with the lower ones forming a spur at the back of the flower (which contains nectar). Honey guidelines are present towards the spur. Members also have a one chambered seed capsule formed by three fused parts. Seeds of members are yellow or brown and rounded.

Genus: Viola – Organisms have unequal petals. Linear markings or honey guides on colored petals. See what these are used for specifically in the Reproduction page. Small, insignificant, cleistogamous flowers which never open may exist.

Species: Viola sororia – This species has the following characteristics: broad, heart-shaped leaves; flowers and leaves growing on separate stems that arise from the roots; inability of flowers to stand above the leaves; and the lowest petal does not have a spur

Phylogeny

Phylogentic trees allow us to see how the individual organism fits into the biodiversity of life. The following genetic tree was constructed to show how the species Viola sororia fits into each level from the Kingdom Plantae to the Class Magnoliopsida based on morphological characteristics. As you can see, the species is classified under the subkingdom Tracheophyta because it is a vascular plant. It is has seeds which explains its placement under the Spermatophyta group and so on.

Some organisms that belong to the same Class Magnoliopsida include: Helianthus annuus (Sunflower), Hedera helix (English Ivy), Sarracenia alata (Pale Pitcher Plant), and Rubus strigosus (The American Raspberry).

The following phylogenetic tree shows how Viola sororia fits into its Order, Phylum, and Genus, along with the other species that are included in the Genus Viola based on morphological characteristics. Though very similar, each species in the Genus Viola each has its own distinct characteristics. One closely related species to Viola sororia is the Sweet Violet, Viola odorata. Check out this organism to see how similar and different it is from the Common Blue Violet!

Now that you have seen where and how Viola sororia fits into the big picture, let us go a step further down to investigate where this species resides in terms of its Habitat.

Viola plant lower classifications

Video Viola plant lower classifications

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