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Growing Violas

Beautify Your Rock Gardens and Borders!

by Frances Santos

Growing ViolasViola is a genus of flowering plants that belong to the Violaceae family. It consists of about 400-500 species that are distributed around the world. However, most species are found in the Northern Hemisphere. Most species are perennial plants, some are annual plants while the rest are some small shrubs.

A lot of viola species are grown as ornamental flowers used in rock gardens and borders. The viola flower, or garden pansy, is one of the most popular varieties and is extensively used for spring/autumn/winter bedding or pot plant. One fluke of some varieties of viola is the elusive scent of their flowers. This is because of the ketone compound ionone that temporarily desensitizes nose receptors. The odor prevents the detection of further scent from the flower before the nerves recover.

Most viola species have scalloped leaves that are shaped like tiny hearts. However, others have palmate leaves or other different shapes. The majority of viola species are herbaceous while others lack visible stems wherein the flower and foliage appear like they rise from the ground. The flowers have five petals wherein four are upswept and one is broad and points downward.

Viola Propagation

Violas are usually propagated by seed. These plants are easy to start from seed and are known to self-seed. For an indoor start, it is ideal to begin around 4-6 weeks before transplanting. You can pick a transplant date around 4 weeks before the last expected frost because Violas are known to withstand some freezing conditions.

Remember to use a sterile potting mix then fill the pots or flats to around 1/4 inch below the top part. Sprinkle 2-3 seeds in each container or cell and then cover lightly with some moistened potting mix. The seeds need to be covered completely because Violas require darkness to germinate. The container must be placed in a warm location about 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit and must be kept moist. A good tip is to keep it on top of the refrigerator. The seeds should ideally start to germinate in 10-14 days.

Once the seeds sprout, the container should be exposed to light. It can be placed in a sunny window or plant lights can be used. Once the first true leaves appear, the pot or cell should be thinned to the strongest seedling. This is done by cutting or pinching the other seedling at the soil line. At this point, 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is sufficient and a balanced, water soluble fertilizer can be used to feed the seedlings.

For transplanting outdoors, remember to let the seedlings adjust by hardening them off first. They should be moved to a protected and shaded location outdoors about 4 hours on the first day and increasing by 1-2 hours every succeeding day and slowly moving to a brighter area. You will know if the seedlings are doing well by looking at their appearance. Remember to keep the soil moist as they can quickly dry up outdoors. The seedlings can be transplanted outdoors after 10-14 days of hardening.

How To Grow The Viola Flower

Violas like full to partial sun. These plants thrive in cool and moist weather. In warmer places, it is recommended to have partial shade.

For best results, add some general purpose fertilizer when planting and about once a month thereafter. Each viola flower plant should ideally be spaced about 6 inches apart. However, they will tolerate a little crowding.

Once established, violas should grow well even when left unattended. During dry spells, violas should be watered 1-2 times per week. To extend blooming periods, the flowers can be deadheaded.