University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Dr. Leonard Perry,
University of Vermont
year the National Garden Bureau
promotes a flower they feel deserves recognition and wider use. The flower of the year for 2007 is the viola,
very similar to pansies only with smaller flowers. This
organization has provided some
interesting information about this flower.
Viola is actually the common name as
well as the genus name for about 500 species of wildflowers and annual
plants, some being tender or short-lived perennials in warmer climates. What we normally find as annual violas in
catalogs are those with flowers up to one and one-half inches across. Those with flowers two inches or more across
are the pansies.
Most of today’s violas have as an
ancestor the true perennial Sweet Violet (Viola odorata). This is an heirloom plant, popular in the
past as now for its sweetly fragrant and deep violet flowers.
In gardens, there are two main
groups of violets. The Johnny Jump-ups (Viola
tricolor) is an annual, but with its self-sowing all around gets
name. The purple, white, and yellow
small flowers give rise to its species name.
The flowers are nickel-sized, and have interesting dark lines or
The other, and main, group of garden
violas are the tufted pansies or horned violets (Viola cornuta). Native to Spain
and the Pyrenees mountains, these
in temperate regions of the world. The
low mounded plants reach eight to ten inches high, have evergreen
of leaves at the base, and are often perennial in all but the coldest
climates. The flowers come in all
colors, may have contrasting lines of color, and often a light scent.
Classic, older varieties of tufted
pansies include ‘Arkwright Ruby’
with dark wine red flowers and golden centers and edging.
popular for its large apricot-colored flowers. ‘Yellow Perfection,’
Perfection’ and ‘Blue Perfection’ are named for the clear color of
blooms. These are “open-pollinated”,
meaning they are left to cross and produce seeds naturally compared to
controlled cross between specific parents for hybrids.
Newer open-pollinated varieties of tufted pansies are the ‘Princess’ and
These are early blooming with one-inch blooms. ‘Princess’ opens in
blue, purple and yellow and bicolors; and ‘Velour’ is available in 20
and three mixes.
Among the many excellent hybrid
varieties is ‘Sorbet’, which comes in more than thirty colors including
beautiful pastel and two-tone colors on compact plants reaching six to
inches tall. ‘Penny’ violas are available in shades of light blue, deep
purple, violet, white, yellow, orange and red. Some hybrids have
blotches (faces), others are bicolor. They have a mounding garden habit
In 2006, ‘Skippy XL Red-Gold’ was
the first viola to win an All-America Selections award for superior
performance. The large, one and one-half inch flowers are ruby red with
violet-red shading below a golden yellow face with the trademark
markings. The ‘Skippy’ series has many other colors, including bicolors.
Then there is the large-flowered
Patiola series, combining the flower size of pansies with the hardiness
violas. Trailing hybrid violas make good
choices for containers and hanging baskets.
‘Erlyn’ produces tricolor purple and yellow flowers that cover
plant. The ‘Splendid’ series has one-inch flowers in white, yellow, and
In the south, violas and pansies
are planted in fall for their winter flowering as they don’t grow well
heat. In the north, they are common as
early season flowering bedding plants.
When purchasing violas, select healthy, compact plants with
leaves. Avoid plants that show signs of yellowing which may indicate a
with the roots or a nutrition problem. Plants that are stressed in the
container may take more time to become established in the garden, often
poorly, and never flower well. Also avoid plants that have a lot of
growing through the bottom of a plastic container. They will be hard to
without doing damage to the root system.
To remove plants from the pack, push up
on the bottom of the container; don’t pull plants by the stem. Gently
the soil around the roots and place in the ground so that the plant is
same level as in the pack. Plant in
rich, moist, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Plant
violas about six to eight inches apart. Trailing or spreading varieties
planted 10 to 12 inches apart.
the north, plants grow and flower best in full sun. Mix
a slow-release fertilizer into the soil
at planting time or occasionally fertilize with a balanced fertilizer.
the soil is dry to maintain even moisture. Violas have few pests and
Viola flowers are beautiful in the garden
and on the table. Not just for fresh bouquets, violas are very popular
flowers. Culinary uses include jams and jellies, teas, garnishes and
Candied violas are easy to make and look stunning atop cakes, ice
cookies, or other desserts.
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