In the north, garden season is winding down about now, but here in Central Florida, it’s the most wonderful time of year to get out into the gardens! I was thrilled to visit my local garden center last week and see that the first violas and pansies had arrived. I quickly filled my cart and headed home to fill my flower garden with these colorful cool season annuals.
Violas, also known as Johnny-Jump-Ups, are a member of the very large violet family, one of many in the genus Viola. The small blooms frequently sold as Violas may be Viola tricolor or Viola cornuta or a hybrid of the two. They are native to Europe, where they’re a common wildflower. They come in a variety of colors in the ranging from purple to orange to yellow to white, and many combinations of these. They can’t tolerate the high heat of summer, so are usually grown in spring and early summer in northern climates, and fall through spring down south here in the U.S.
Plant violas in part shade, which will help them last a little longer when temperatures rise. They need regular watering, and can be dead-headed to increase flowering. In many areas, violas self-seed easily, which can make them a bit of a pest if they’re growing where you don’t want them. In that case, consider growing them in pots where you can have more control over them.
Violas are easy to grow from seed, and are often one of the first flowers ready to set out in the spring up north. Seed catalogs offer a wide variety of colors, with new ones appearing on the market all the time. Most gardeners wouldn’t consider a cool season flower garden complete without these easy-to-grow cheerful blooms.
An extra bonus? These blooms are edible and make a lovely garnish for salads or baked goods (be sure no pesticides or other harmful chemicals have been used on the flowers, though). See more edible flowers here on our list of Top 10 Edible Flowering Plants.