Viola is a genus of flowering plants that contains around 500 species and includespopular gardening plants such as pansies, violets and Johnny-jump-ups, according to the University of Missouri. Violas are gaining popularity in home gardens since they are hardy, attractive flowers that grow well in cool environments. The National Garden Bureau named 2007 the year of the violas to promote the many new varieties that are being cultivated for home garden use.
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Viola tricolour, commonly called Johnny-jump-up, is an attractive viola that has three distinct colours on large flower heads. Johnny-jump-ups are native to Europe and Asia where they have been cultivated for their distinct, attractive early season flowers. Johnny-jump-ups have purple, white and yellow flowers that grow on stems up to 10 inches tall, however there are a number of cultivars that do not contain yellow.
Viola cornuta, known as tufted pansy or horned violet, is native to the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain. Viola cornutas are small evergreen plants that have a thick, mounded growth habit 8 to 10 inches tall with numerous rosettes of leaves near the base of the plant. Viola cornuta flowers come in a wide range of colours with contrasting lines and patterns in the flower and often provide a pleasant aroma to home gardens, according to the University of Vermont.
Viola odorata is the ancestor of all violas, according to the National Garden Bureau. Commonly called the sweet violet, viola odorata is a true perennial with deep violet flowers and a strong, pleasant scent; the pleasant aroma of the flower was used by ancient Greeks as a love potion, according to the University of Wisconsin.
A large number of viola varieties have been produced from hybrids of the three main species, according to the National Garden Bureau. Hybrids come in a variety of colours, flower sizes, and growth habits. Hybrids are being developed to better tolerate summer heat to extend the life of viola flowers in home gardens. In addition, the colours and shapes of the flowers vary greatly between hybrids. Violas are a versatile flower that can add patches of striking colour to your landscape with ease when you choose a suitable hybrid for your growing location.
Violas grow best in rich, well-drained soils in home landscapes. Mix in organic compost and a slow release fertiliser when preparing the planting site for violas. Plant violas 6 to 12 inches apart to provide adequate space for the flowers to develop without crowding. Water as needed throughout the growing season to maintain soil moisture. Violas readily grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, according to Michigan State University.
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- University of Missouri; Versatile Violas; David Trinklein; February 2007
- National Garden Bureau; 2007: Year of the Viola
- University of Vermont; Versatile Violas; Leonard Perry
- University of Wisconsin, La Crosse; Viola Sororia; Facts
- Michigan State University; Viola Species and Hybrids; January 1, 1998