They're tough, hardy plants that bloom for months under the right conditions, fading away only when faced with intense heat. Some violas will form a lush, compact mound; others have a trailing habit.
No matter where you put them—in a window box or flower pot, a rock garden or around the border of a flowerbed—a clump of these velvety, five-petaled faces will make your garden hum.
Common name: Johnny-jump-up, love-in-idleness
Botanical name: Viola tricolor
Plant type: Typically grown as annuals or short-lived perennials.
Zones: 3 to 9
Height: 3 to 10 inches tall, depending on cultivar
• Sun: Part sun. Happiest with morning sun and afternoon shade.
• Soil: Rich and well-drained.
• Moisture: Cool and moist.
• Mulch: Mulch will help preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: Mix in a slow-release fertilizer when you plant violas, or use a balanced fertilizer throughout the growing season.
• By seed; often self-seeds.
Pests and diseases
• Vulnerable to powdery mildew, crown and root rot, and fungal leaf spots.
• May attract slugs, snails, aphids, or violet leaf midges.
• V. tricolor is a cool-season plant. If you live in a warm climate, plant it in fall so you'll have months of color before it wilts in the summer heat. If you live in a cold-weather climate, plant it in spring so it will flower through the summer months. In some climates, a hardy cultivar with enough mulch might even survive a mild winter. .
• Plant at the front edge of a flower bed or in a container.
• Plant between spring bulbs; the viola blooms will take over as the bulbs' flowers fade.
• Many cultivars available. Pictured above: PanAmerican Viola 'Sorbet Coconut Duet'
All in the family
• The genus Viola contains about 500 species, including pansies (V. x wittrockiana), sweet violets (V. odorata), and bird's-foot violets (V. pedata).
• Garden violas can be one of two species: V. tricolor or V. cornuta (also called horned violets or tufted pansies). V. cornuta, native to the Pyrenees in Spain, is a little bigger than V. tricolor and may be lightly scented