Viola – Viola cornuta

Violas can continue to flower from May to August or September, making them a valuable edging plant for troughs and tubs or for inclusion in a container rock garden.

The Viola family ranges in size from the tiny, deep purple-blue wild violets, Viola odorata, to the brightly dual-coloured Pansies, Viola wittrockiana hybrids, with their large flowerheads. Those commonly known simply as Violas, mainly Viola cornuta, come in between. The flower petals are less rounded than those of Pansies, much more like the shape of a giant Violet. Plants are tufted and more compact than Pansies.

The flowers of the Viola cornuta species are a deep lavender blue in colour but there are many varieties. ‘White Perfection’ is white flowered, ‘Blue Gem’ is a deep purple-blue with a yellow centre, and the fragrant ‘Arkwright Ruby’ is a bright ruby crimson with darker blotches.

V. c. azure/la is a beautiful sky blue.

V. cornuta ‘Bambini’ is 15cm (bin) high with flowers in pink, apricot, yellow, blue, copper, bronze, bright red and lavender, with yellow ‘whiskered’ centres.Viola - Viola cornuta

‘Cuty’ is violet, pink and white with a violet smudge on the lip of the lower petal, and V. c. ‘Pretty’ is bright golden yellow with purple upper petals and streaks.

Display

Plant a group of one single variety in a low terracotta pot for a wonderful splash of colour. Alternatively, fill a trough or window-box with one variety of Viola to complete a group display, or plant a mass of different varieties in one tub or container.

Propagation

From seed

Sow seeds thinly in trays of seed compost in March. Cover and place in a position with bright filtered light and a temperature of about 15°C (60°F).

Prick out into pots when the seedlings’ first true leaves appear. Place in the garden for short periods, gradually hardening off before planting outside in late April or early May.

Taking cuttings

In late summer, cut back a few sturdy plants almost to the roots and top-dress lightly with a mixture of fine soil-based compost, sand and peat in equal parts.

In a few weeks new shoots will sprout, and these can be pulled out. They should have some rootlets attached. Place in pots of a similar potting mixture and water moderately.

Protect from frost in a cold frame, greenhouse or cool room indoors through the winter and plant out the following spring.

Pests And Diseases

Flowers develop marbled or streaked marks. This is mosaic virus lot which there is no cure. Treatment: Quickly remove and burn affected plants.

Root rot can occur where drainage is inadequate.

Treatment: Add sand or petite to the pottine. Mixture to improve drainage.

PLANT CARE

Violas are easy to grow, needing only well-drained compost. Remove dead flowers to stop seed heads forming and promote a longer flowering period.

  • Potting: Use a fertile and well-drained, soil-based compost and plant out Violas in their final position outdoors in April.
  • Water regularly but moderately. Do not allow plants to dry out, as the flowering period can be cut short if plants are temporarily starved of water. Pay particular attention to plants in tubs, where the potting mixture will dry out quickly in hot spells and may need watering daily.
  • Feeding: Use a standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks during flowering.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Violas will thrive in full sun as well as in a partially shaded position.
  • Temperature: Normal outdoor temperatures are fine for Violas. For winter flowering, plants will need protection from frost. Keep above 7°C (45°F). If displayed indoors keep them in a cool spot.

Buying Tips

  • Plants are sold in garden centres and nurseries IflLdV or in trays, during sprinu and autumn.
  • Choose small, compact plants with healthy green leaves and plenty of buds.
  • Viola is a perennial that can be grown from seed, or cuttings can be taken in August and September.

A relative of the pansy, which is also a member of the Viola family, the delicately shaped and coloured Viola is a more compact plant with small, long-lasting flowers.

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