Demystifying Violas, Pansies, and Violets
The violet family, Violaceae, contains around 1,000 species. The botanical name for violets, violas, and pansies is Viola, but these are often mistaken for one another. Although they are all in the same family, they are actually different flowers.
While pansies and violas may look similar, people typically refer to pansies when they are talking about the bigger blooms. Violas typically have smaller blooms but more of them. They both have similar growing conditions and care. However, even though they are technically short-lived perennials, many gardeners treat them as annuals.
Following are some of the most common plants found in the violet family.
This flower is also known as the common blue violet. You often see them in fields and lawns. Many people consider them to be a weed because they spread easily and reproduce quickly. However, I believe they are a beautiful and edible flower.
The plants listed below have heart-shaped leaves and 5 petals that are either blue, purple, white, or yellow. The bottom three petals are veined and the lowest petal curls back. These plants are native to North America.
The term “violas” refers to a type of plant that is also known as a wild pansy or Johnny Jump Up. These plants are small and have a large number of blooms at one time.
This type of pansy is called a “clear” pansy. They come in purple, blue, yellow, or white. The most common coloring of their five petals consists of two purple flowers on top, white petals underneath, and a lower yellow petal. This type of pansy is called a “clear” pansy.
This is the violet flower with the most scent, known as the sweet violet or English violet. With a sweet floral fragrance, it has inspired many perfumes. You can find them in dark to light purple, white, or pink colors.
They are originally from Europe and Asia, but you can now find them in North America and Australia too.
Viola x wittrockiana
The most well-known variety of pansy is the garden pansy, which can be easily found at garden centers, grocery stores, and hardware stores. It is a hybridized viola, cultivated from the Viola tricolor.
The flowers come in a large variety of colors.
Uses for Viola Flowers
Not only are viola blooms beautiful, but they are also useful. Here are a few ways to utilize them.
Cool season gardeners love to include pansies in their beds because they are such a versatile flower. They add a burst of color to the garden when few other flowers are blooming. Pansies are often planted among spring bulbs.
They can be used as garden borders, in containers, in hanging baskets, and as an edible flower among your vegetables.
If you give them extra fertilizer, they will grow more quickly and fill in empty spaces in your garden cheaply.
There are several violets that are used for medicinal purposes, including Viola odorata, Viola tricolor, and the native American violets Viola sororia and Viola pedate. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they use the Viola yedoensis.
Ancient Greeks used violets to help with anger and heart issues. The flower also has a good amount of Vitamin C and is known for promoting sleep and easing headaches.
Violets are very beneficial for coughs and respiratory conditions because they are very moist and help alleviate dryness and inflammation.
Violets are effective at reducing fever and inflammation, and can also be applied topically to help with inflammation of the skin and other skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
The purple flower called Violet has been known to have positive effects on cancer patients. They help make the cancer treatments more effective while also having chemosensitizing effects.
The viola is a popular edible flower that can be used to garnish desserts, drinks, salads, and pizzas. They work well as garnishes for desserts, drinks, salads, and pizzas.
The taste of a viola can range from grassy and green to mild and sweet, depending on the variety.
I recommend growing them from seed if you want to eat them. They can be started early in the season and are not difficult to grow.
Make sure you can properly identify all flowers before consuming them, as not all violas are edible. Any of the violas listed above, however, are safe to eat.
If you have a violet, pansy, or viola that you want to put in an indoor pot, or a nursery start that you want to transplant into its permanent home inside, you can do it.
Here’s how to transplant an established plant or a nursery start:
First, make a hole in the potting mix that is the size of the root ball you are about to remove from its nursery pot or outdoor location.
Loosen the soil in the existing planter or the ground around the plant with a butter knife or gardening trowel.
To keep your potted plants from tipping over, slide your pointer and middle fingers on either side of the stems and use your other fingers to cradle the rest of the soil.
To remove the plant from the container, tip the container over while holding the plant, and the plant should slide out. Hold the base of the root ball with your other hand, and then place the plant in the waiting hole.
You may have to dig down a foot or more to get all the roots. Mark a circle that is four to six inches away from the stem of the plant using a trowel. You may have to dig down a foot or more in order to get all of the roots.
Dig a hole around the plant that is four inches deep. Gently lift the root ball out of the ground and set it in the hole.
After transplanting, fill the container around the plant with soil and water thoroughly.
You should place your indoor violet in a spot in your home that gets at least six to eight hours of sunlight through a window every day.
To sow new seeds, place them in quarter-inch divots in the soil, spaced six inches apart if you have a larger container, like a windowsill box.
I’ve always found that pansies germinate readily from seeds, so one per divot should suffice, but feel free to drop two in for better odds.
Cover the seed with a thin layer of soil and mist it with a spray bottle. For quicker germination, place a heat mat under the container and a humidity dome over the top.
Water the potting mix every other day or whenever the top inch of the soil feels dry.
Doing this allows more room for the stronger seedling to grow. If you have more than one seed, pinch off the smaller one a week or two after it germinates. This will give the stronger seedling more room to grow.
Caring for Your Plant
If you live in the north like I do, you know that sunlight is pretty rare in the winter.
We only get three hours of sunlight in November and December.
You may need to place a grow light above your plants to help them get the light they need, especially when there is little available sunlight.
Maintain the grow light on for 12 to 14 hours every day, and keep the bulbs positioned around one to two inches away from the top of the plant, making alterations as it grows.
Your pansies will do best in milder temperatures, so try not to turn up the heat too much.
Make sure to water your pansies or violas long and deep about once a week, and keep an eye on the top inch of the soil to see when it has dried out so you can water again.
If it’s dry, it’s time to water Water your plants every two to three days, checking the soil with your finger to see if it is dry.
During the winter months, you can water your plants a little less since they are not as focused on growing.
Fertilize every other month to keep the plant nourished. You can use any 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer, or choose one that’s formulated specifically for violets and their relatives.
Add a tablespoon of granular fertilizer to the area around each plant and work it into the top layer of soil.
Mulch is useful for keeping your violets hydrated, and I suggest using it even for violets kept indoors. Instead of bark, which can collect gnats, try using small stones or sea glass.
How pretty would that look?
If you see any weeds, pluck them out.
After your violets have bloomed, you should remove any spent flowers to encourage the plant to keep producing more blossoms.
If you want to propagate your plant, hand-pollinate a few flowers, letting them go to seed, while deadheading the rest. Outdoors, insects will pollinate the flowers, but inside, you must do it yourself!
Use a cotton swab to transfer pollen from one flower to another. Make sure to mark the pollinated flowers with a piece of gardening tape so you don’t accidentally remove them.
Members of the Viola genus are constantly reproducing by dropping tiny new seeds in the soil. This ensures that there are always new plants springing up to take the place of the older ones that aren’t producing as much.
If you want to help the plants grow, scrape the seeds out of the pods after the pods are dry. Push the seeds about a quarter inch deep into the potting mix.
- Select a container that’s at least four inches deep and six to eight inches wide
- Plant in a fresh potting mix that provides adequate drainage
- Mulch with pebbles or sea glass
- Provide six to eight hours of daily sunlight through a window or use a grow light
- Water when the top inch of soil dries out
- Fertilize every other month with a 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer
- Deadhead to encourage continuous blooming
How to Harvest Pansies
If you want to eat pansies, you should pick them in the morning when they have the most water in them. If they are drooping, you can make them perky again by putting them in ice water for a few seconds. Eat them the same day you harvest them, and store them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.
Only eat organic pansies that you have grown from seed. Once they have emerged, they are ready to go. If you get them from a garden center, you will need to remove all the current flowers and wait for new ones to grow before you can eat them.
The pesticides used on the plants while they are being transported can be just as harmful as if they were sprayed directly on the plants.
Managing Pests and Disease
When you grow violets indoors, you are less likely to have problems with pests and diseases. Even if you grow them outdoors, members of the Viola genus are not especially likely to have problems, according to the experts at Clemson Cooperative Extension.
The conditions are easier to control indoors and there are no weeds or wilderness around to provide a breeding ground for pests.
If you choose to use bark mulch or potting soil for your plants, you may end up with an infestation of fungus gnats or spider mites.
Violets that are overwatered are more likely to attract fungus gnats. A plant that is dried out is more likely to attract spider mites, so keep the soil moist but not wet.
To get rid of gnats or mites, use a neem-oil-based solution as directed on the package.
If your plant is sitting in water or the soil is excessively wet, this could lead to gray mold, root rot, or crown rot. Make sure the drainage is good so the plant doesn’t sit in water.
You can avoid having problems with your plants if you don’t overwater them and if you make sure that your chosen container has drainage holes with a saucer. It’s also a good idea to empty drainage dishes every time you water your plants.
Here are four ways you can use violas in your cooking.
WILD VIOLET FLOWER SIMPLE SYRUP
I love making homemade soda because it is guilt-free in comparison to popular brands from the store. This simple syrup recipe makes a soda that is flavored and colored with wild violet flowers. It is perfect for warm-weather sipping, and you can even add a splash of vodka or gin.
EDIBLE FLOWER LOLLIPOPS
It is surprisingly easy to make your own lollipops. For special occasions, I have made clear lollipops and put an edible flower inside. I always find violas to be the star of the show. They are absolutely gorgeous and delicious.
EDIBLE FLOWER ICE CUBES
My favorite party trick is to put edible flowers in the ice cubes. I use them in the summer for all kinds of sodas and cocktails. They look great in special drinks for occasions like birthdays and weddings, or even just a fun weekend treat. Violas perfectly fit inside an ice cube tray and have one of the nicest flavors in terms of edible flowers.
Flowerfetti is a more colorful and eco-friendly alternative to confetti. It is made up of flower petals and can be used to garnish a salad, as a cake topper, or even on pizza.