Violas are cool-season flowers that are best grown in the spring and fall. They are very easy to grow and add a lovely splash of color and cheeriness to your garden. Here’s a summary of how to grow violas.
Here are 11 top tips for growing violas successfully.
1. Plant Violas In Early Spring and In The Fall
The best time to plant violas is in the early spring. This will give the plants time to grow and produce plenty of blooms before the weather gets too hot. Because plants grown from seed will take around 12 weeks to flower, you need to give the plant enough time before the heat of summer arrives.
Similarly, if you want to grow violas during the fall and your area is prone to really cold winters, you should plant seedlings in late summer or early fall to get the most benefit from the gorgeous flowers that these plants produce. Once the temperature drops too low, the plants will die back, and flowering will cease.
If you want to start your violas from seeds, there are a couple of things you can do. Either start the seeds indoors during the winter or plant the seeds in the ground around mid-summer. This will give your seeds enough time to germinate and the seedlings to put on a little growth before the weather is ideal for them to flower.
2. Don’t Plant Seeds Too Deeply
One mistake that many people make when planting viola seeds is that they plant them too deeply. Because the seeds are quite small, they won’t contain enough energy for the shoots to break through the soil once a root has formed.
Seeds are tiny energy houses. They contain just enough nutrients to allow the tiny embryo inside to generate a single root and shoot. If the shoot can’t break through the surface of the soil before it runs out of available food, the plant can’t grow.
Therefore, small seeds like violas should be scattered on top of the soil and then only very lightly covered (no more than ¼ of an inch) with either some seeds raising mix or even a very thin layer of sand. The seeds do need darkness to germinate but should definitely not be planted too deeply. Once you get this right, your viola seeds should germinate in around seven to fourteen days.
Remember to keep the soil moist until you see the tiny seedlings start to emerge. Once they do, it’s also important to thin out the seedlings, so the plants have enough room to grow. You should leave around six to eight inches between each plant.
You can use the seedlings that you’ve removed to transplant somewhere else in the garden or into a pot. Just remember to handle them carefully so that you don’t damage any of the roots.
3. Choose A Sunny Spot
When the weather is relatively cool, violas will love to grow in the sunshine. You might even see the flowers turning their cheery faces toward the sun. Therefore, when growing your violas in spring and during the fall, plant them in a sunny spot.
However, if you’ve left the planting a little late and expect your plants to flower into the summer, you should plant in partial shade. Ideally, you want the plants to receive some early morning sunshine but be protected from the hot midday and afternoon sun.
This means that violas are ideal for planting under trees that will provide enough shade for the plants in the afternoon but still allow them to get some early morning sun.
4. Water When The Soil Feels Dry
Violas need regular water and do not like to dry out. You should check the soil regularly and apply more water when the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch. You can either poke your finger into the top of the soil to check for moisture or use a moisture meter.
Bear in mind, though, that the soil should never be soggy. Soil that is too wet doesn’t have any air spaces that the roots of your violas need to grow well and produce those lovely flowers.
If you want your violas to continue growing over the summer, add some mulch to the soil. This will help to keep the soil temperature cooler and reduce the moisture evaporating too quickly. If you do this, you might be surprised when your violas bloom all summer long.
5. Fertilize Once Every Two Weeks
Because violas are flowering plants, they need a fertilizer that has decent amounts of potassium and phosphorus to encourage flowering. Therefore, you should use a fertilizer that has fairly even levels of N:P:K.
The N is for Nitrogen which produces lovely green growth. The P is for phosphorus that promotes good root growth and stimulates flowering, and the K is for potassium that also helps to stimulate flowering.
If your plants are growing in the ground, you can select either a granular fertilizer that you scatter over the soil and then water in or a liquid fertilizer such as liquid seaweed or fish emulsion. Just check the label on the fertilizer that you select and make sure it has ample amounts of Phosphorus and Potassium.
On the other hand, if you’re growing in pots, you might like to use the same liquid fertilizer. Or, choose a slow-release fertilizer in granules that will release nutrients to the plant roots as they need it.
While your violas are actively growing, fertilize them at least once every two weeks to stimulate more flowers to bloom.
6. Deadhead Blooms Regularly
Another way to encourage continuous blooming is to deadhead the spent flowers regularly. The reason we do this is that primarily, your viola’s purpose is to produce flowers and seeds to reproduce. This is how nature intended it and how plants have survived over the centuries.
So, by deadheading, we’re interrupting the cycle of plant reproduction. This means your plants will continue to grow more flowers in the hope that these will be left to produce seeds.
To deadhead your violas, use a pair of secateurs or garden snips and just cut back the flower stems to where the first set of leaves are. Do this every time you see some spent flowers, and you’ll be rewarded with many more blooms.
7. Cut Back In Late Summer
Once the heat of summer has passed, cut back your violas and remove any dead foliage or long and straggly growth. This will reinvigorate your plants and encourage them to produce new growth and plentiful flowers during the cooler months in the fall.
To do this, just cut each plant back to around 3 or 4 inches from the ground. Then, give your plants a light dose of liquid fertilizer, and they should start putting on new growth fairly quickly.
8. Harvest Flowers To Use In Salads
Remember that viola flowers are edible. So, by harvesting them regularly to use in salads or as a garnish, you’re also encouraging your plant to produce more blooms.
When harvesting the flowers, use a pair of pruning snips and collect them in the morning. This will ensure that the flowers have the highest moisture content. If you’re not going to use them straight away, place them on a tray in a single layer and keep them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.
9. Allow Plants To Reseed
One of the benefits of growing violas is that they’ll reseed readily if the flowers are allowed to go to seed. Therefore, at the end of the main growing and blooming season, leave the flowers on the plants so that they can produce seeds.
The seeds will drop to the ground and will resprout again once the weather is just right. You might also find that the seeds get blown around by the wind, and next season, you’ll have additional violas coming up in other parts of the garden.
10. Grow Violas In Hanging Baskets To Brighten Up Your Deck
Violas are perfect for growing in hanging baskets and will help to brighten up your deck or veranda. Choose a large hanging planter and pop in around four or five plants. You can even mix up the colors for a really bright display.
Use a commercial potting mix that contains plenty of organic matter and is free-draining. Remember that plants grown in pots will dry out much faster than those grown in the ground, so check your plants regularly and water when needed.
You should feed your pot-grown violas with a good liquid fertilizer at least every two weeks to encourage them to grow and flower well. When placing your hanging baskets, position them so that they receive morning sun and are shaded from the afternoon heat.
Growing your violas this way will extend their flowering season and give you many months of bright, cheery color.
11. Grow Pots Of Violas Indoors During The Winter
If you live in a really cold climate, you can still enjoy beautiful violas in the wintertime. Just plant them in pots and place them near a bright window that lets plenty of light in. Remember to keep them well-watered because the air inside your home can get quite dry when you constantly have the heating on.
Treat these plants just like you would those grown outside during spring and fall by giving them a dose of liquid fertilizer every two weeks while they’re blooming. And, don’t forget to remove any spent flowers immediately so that your plants will continue to keep blooming and providing you with lots of colors.
As mentioned, violas are cool-season flowers. This means they’ll die off in the heat of summer and won’t grow during the winter in very cold areas. Therefore, you should only grow these lovely flowers in spring and fall.
Luckily for you, though, violas will readily self-seed if allowed to do so, and this means that once you plant them the first time, the seeds in the ground will germinate and grow again once the weather conditions are right.
The flowers of the violas are edible, and this is one other reason to grow these lovely, cheery flowers. They can be used in salads or as garnishes on cakes. They can also be candied for a lovely sweet treat.
When first planting violas, make sure the soil has plenty of organic matter added to it and is slightly acidic. These plants prefer a pH of around 5.5 to 6. Adding more organic matter such as compost or animal manure to the soil will help to increase the acidity.
Violas like sunshine but not really hot afternoon sun. In fact, too much heat will cause the flowers to fade and die. You might also find that during the heat of summer, the plants will go dormant and may even die back. This is precisely why these plants should be grown when temperatures are relatively mild. The best USDA hardiness zones for violas are 6 to 11.
Violas also like to be kept moist and shouldn’t be allowed to dry out, especially if you want a bountiful crop of brightly colored flowers. These plants are also great for growing in containers. One of the benefits of doing this is that you can often extend their blooming season by moving them around so that they’re exposed to their optimum growing conditions.
For example, during the summer, you can move the pots so that the plants will receive shade in the afternoon and, therefore, are protected from the scorching sun. This should extend their blooming season as long as you make sure that you give your plants enough water and some regular fertilizer.
Similarly, when the weather starts to get cold, you can move your pots either inside near a bright window or in a sheltered spot during the night. Then, move them out into the sunshine during the day.