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Violas A Growers Guide

great ground cover provided by violas
field of violas

Violas are the burst of color that your Summer salads have been missing! We use lots of herbs in cooking and salads but these flowers really are a lovely visual for cocktails or as a garnish.

As a self seeding perennial violas will thrive in the UK. Many people lose them over Summer in the height of the heat, however by using them as ground cover under a tree canopy you will avoid this and remove the need to buy them as an annual. Violas do differ from pansies in many ways but their beauty is comparable.

They are a rewarding little plant that will be a great friend to bees and butterflies alike, hopefully I can convince you to let them fill your garden.

How To Grow Violas From Seed

  1. If you intend to grow indoors and then move outside violas prefer a gentle start to life, so if you are in a warmer zone start them off 8-12 weeks before a nice cool period. When Fall comes it is the perfect time to introduce your violas to their final spot outdoors.
  2. Use a humus rich soil, but a peat-free one. Your viola seeds will need moisture and darkness to germinate. Sow thinly to trays of moist compost. Cover and leave in an out of the way place. They will take between 10-14 days to germinate.
  3. As soon as the seedlings start to emerge, remove their cover and transfer to a sunny location. Your violas will benefit from sunlight at this stage, but not long hours of direct sunlight!
  4. When the true leaves have emerged, thin out the weaker seedlings, allowing the remaining plants to thrive.
  5. 8-12 weeks of growing in a cool, sunny spot should be enough to get the seedlings large enough to handle. Harden them off by introducing them to the outdoors on milder days, bringing them inside for the night time. If you are transplanting them, make sure to dab a hole for the plugs to be permanently moved to.
  6. Violas that clump will need to be around 20cm apart, whereas trailing variety can be a little closer. They work well planted under trees or in hanging baskets and containers.
  7. If you are expecting a hard frost you can mulch around the area to keep the roots and leaves protected, but they cope well in light frosts. It is more the harsh sun of summer that you need to protect your perennial violas from.
violas in yellow and purple

Caring For Your Viola Plants

Planting in soil with well rotted manure dug through will really help with slow release goodness. For the perennial violas you will find a liquid feed during the flowering season allows for an even longer period.

To extend the flowering season dead head throughout. You may well find a flowering period in the early Spring as well as later in Fall.

If you are asking, why are my violas dying? The answer is probably down to those delicate roots. They need a constant level of moisture. That is why we plant into well dug soil with a good manure base level. Without regular watering during the hotter months the violas will start to wilt and they could die off completely.

Another reason for your viola to wilt is overheating. They like a maximum of 21.C or 70.F if they get too much direct sunlight then they will wilt very quickly and possibly die. Options to help you avoid this fate include, planting into a larger pot or the ground to allow the soil to cool down, moving to a shaded spot and watering more frequently.

Can You Grow Violas Indoors

You can grow violas indoors and in fact we find that our free ranging chickens love nothing better than to peck the emerging viola flowers. So we grow a few pots indoors in the conservatory to savor the cuteness of these little flowers.

  1. Sow the viola seeds directly into pots of no less than 25cm deep. Around 5-6 seeds per pot. Cover with soil and keep moist and warm.
  2. Around 10-14 days later germination should have taken place and seedlings will be emerging, move your young violas to a sunny windowsill.
  3. Water them well and when they grow true leaves, pinch out the weaker seedlings to allow the stronger ones to thrive.
  4. 8-12 weeks later you should have nearly fully gown violas. They love cool but sunny spots, so a conservatory is not ideal in the height of Summer. Instead move them to a cooler room.
  5. To encourage longer flowering period keep the soil moist, but empty the dish that the pot sits in, so as to avoid soggy roots. Keep dead heading throughout the flowering season.

How To Get Seeds From Violas

Violas are self seeding as well as many varieties being perennials, however it is worth gathering seeds. Some years we have lost our perennial violas due to a long lasting heat wave. You are powerless in this situation so gathering seeds is a great habit to get into.

Wait until after the flowers have died back and the green seed pods are formed. You can then harvest the pods and store them in an airtight container. About three weeks later the pods will have turned a pale brown. Shaking the container releases the viola seeds and you can store them for a few years and still have a great germination rate.

Differences Between Violas and Pansies

Both pansies and violas belong to the viola genus of the violet family. They both offer winter color in your garden and a real treat when added to dishes as a garnish.

Smaller flowers, but much more prolific than pansies.Larger flowers with a more foliage than violas
Can tolerate the heat of Summer to remain a perennial.Tend to die off in the unrelenting sunlight of Summer and are purchased as annuals.
Flowering season is really long for violas from early Summer to late Autumn.Pansies prefer to flower in the colder months through Autumn, Winter and Spring.
Violas provide perfect ground cover for tree canopies as they grow to between 2-5 inches in heightPansies tend to grow a little higher at between 5-8 inches in height and will make just as wonderful cover, but are also great planted in borders.
Violas have three petals pointing upwards and two pointing down.Pansies have four petals pointing upwards and only one pointing down.

Realistically unless you are a horticulturist the differences are immaterial. The main similarities are more important as they are both excellent out of season color for your garden, as well as early feed for bees and other pollinators.

What Next

Get some violas or pansies in your life! They are so cute and will bring the early color your garden deserves. Check out varieties of violas that are also edible as they will be gorgeous in summer salads and cocktails alike.

Other flowering plants that will produce early or late blooms in your garden include Saffron crocus and calendula. These can really help your local bee population.

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