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Purple Violas, purple Johnny-jump-ups

Purple Violas

Gardener Anne K Moore

Pansies are a staple in the Southern garden. I used to plant them every fall and ended up with rangy plants that quit blooming for most of the winter. Why? Because I didn’t fertilize them every week and didn’t like deadheading (pinching off the dead and dying flowers) whenever they started to set seed.

Purple & White Viola

Purple & White Viola

Then I fell in love with Johnny-jump-ups. Here in the South we know them as Violas, even though that’s the general family name of Pansies, too. Violas also go by the names Heartsease and Tufted Pansies. We grow violas as annuals. Don’t confuse them with violets, which are a perennial and are welcome in cold-climate gardens but will self-seed with abandon in a Southern garden.

Violas will bloom in the shade. They are not finicky about soil, any decent garden soil will do. They even do well in my clay. They clean themselves after blooming so there is no need to deadhead. You don’t even have to fertilize them unless they are looking peaked. They make a good addition to containers. Violas set off spring blooming bulbs or winter ornamentals in the flower borders. They come in pansy-like faces, in solid colors or multi-colors.

If you use them over daffodil or tulip bulbs, the bulb foliage will grow up through the violas. When the bulbs have quit blooming, the viola plants will help to camouflage the dying foliage of the bulbs.

Most violas are very fragrant. They are also edible. Since they hardly ever are bothered by insects or disease, they seldom require any pesticides. Since I don’t use pesticides, I know my violas are safe to use as food.