Viola (Violet)

Cool-season perennials greet spring with happy-faced flowers

The Viola genus contains about 500 to 600 species of herbaceous perennials, typically grown as annuals, commonly called violets. Tough, cool season plants, violets love spring and fall. They are early bloomers, welcoming spring with a full veil of perky, happy-faced flowers in a variety of colors, from bright jewel tones to soft pastels. They can be solid colored, bicolored, or multicolored and are often intricately patterned. The 5-petaled flowers usually bloom from early spring to early summer but will continue to bloom until the weather begins to heat up. And they may begin blooming again as the weather cools in autumn. Borne singly on leafless stems nestled amongst the heart- or kidney-shaped leaves, the flowers are nectar rich and support pollinators, especially butterflies and specialized bees. Pansy (V. x wittrockiana) is a Viola hybrid that has larger, but fewer flowers than violets.

Violets are rhizomatous plants with a low-growing, mounding habit and will spread under optimal conditions. They are beautiful container or garden plants that make charming ground cover or edging. They are especially nice in rock gardens and woodland gardens.

Easy to grow and low maintenance, violets grow best in a sunny to sun-dappled location with moderately fertile, well-draining soil. Morning sun and afternoon shade may be ideal in warmer climates. Although violets are native to cold northern climates, some newer cultivars are more heat tolerant. The plants are generally unbothered by diseases and pests.