How To Grow - Violas

Violas are typically lower growing than pansies, with smaller, more abundant flowers. Many violas form a trailing habit and look fabulous in a hanging basket, patio pot or window box. Don’t be put off by their smaller size – in fact violas will produce more flowers per plant than a pansy! Here’s our step by step guide to fabulous violas.

Basics

Violas are profuse, low-growing cottage garden perennials. The colour combinations you can achieve are myriad – purples, lilacs, pinks, blues and magentas. Varieties available cover trailing violas, double-flowered and colour-changing flowers, as well as violas with particularly striking, variegated foliage. Viola flowers are also edible – you can add a dash of colour to a salad or as a garnish, or use them in jams, cakes or as decoration on the top of biscuits!

When and where to plant

Violas are cool weather plants. Although they thrive in the full sun, it’s the light and not the heat that they require. Cooler autumn and spring temperatures are ideal. Higher temperatures can be off-set with mulch and diligent watering. Enrich the soil with leaf mould or well-rotted organic matter such as manure, added to the flower bed in the spring. For autumn bedding, plant out your plug plants from mid September to early October, depending on the size of the plants acquired. Grow on plants indoors until they reach 8 to 10 cm in height at which point they’re ready to plant out. To plant out in a pot, choose a container which is 30 cm deep. The pots should be positioned in the semi shade.

How to plant

For upright violas, dig an individual hole for each plant with a trowel, deep enough to comfortably fit the root ball without bending or breaking the roots. Place plant in hole and fill back in keeping the base of the stem at soil level and gently firm down. Water generously and feed regularly. Keep a 10 cm gap between plants.

To plant out a trailing viola, fill the container up to three quarters with multipurpose compost. Carefully remove the plant from its tray or pot and place it in position. Fill the container back in with soil and gently firm down. Water in generously. Always keep container plants well watered and fed.

Flowering

Depending on the autumn weather, pansies may or may not flower throughout the winter. During a mild autumn they will begin to produce flowers which will hold until the spring when new flowers grow and take their place. As cooler bloomers, violas are perfect for beginning and ending the flowering period in your garden, or if the autumn and winter are mild, they’ll bridge the seasons with colour.

Flowers should be pinched off once they have bloomed and have begun to wither – this will extend the flowering period, with new flowers encouraged, and prevents energy from being diverted into seeds. If a plant grows leggy or over-grows, pinch it back to 8 to 10 cm in height to encourage new growth and new flowers.

Plant care

Diseases and insects are not much of a problem for your violas. Wash off any aphids which appear with a carefully aimed jet of water. If an infestation of aphids does occur, use an insecticidal soap to treat the problem. Ensure good air circulation to ward off mildew and forms of leaf rot. Feed during the flowering period with a weak mixture of liquid feed.

Did you know

You can take a cutting in August, snipping off a shoot around 5 cm long – ideally cut off at the point of a leaf node. Nip off flowers and buds on the shoot, and nip away all but three leaves. Dip into a rooting hormone and plant into a pot of compost. Water in, place outside, and roots will start to grow within 18 days – and you’ll have a whole new viola plant.


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