Violas are low-growing profuse flowering perennial plants that fit really well into vegetable gardens. Their cheeky, bright, open-faced flowers not only add colour and interest between and around fruit and veg plants but they are themselves edible. Strewn across salads, frozen in ice cubes baked onto biscuits, used as decorations on cakes and added to jams they can brighten up our kitchens. Flowers come in a wide range of colours from purple, lilac, blue and white to pink and magenta. They are great for attracting the likes of lady bugs and hoverflies into our gardens whose larvae devour aphids. Once you have sowed a few, its likely your garden will be home to them for some time as they self-seed freely.
Companions Good general colour for brightening up veg beds year round.
Thanks to their low growing profile and modest size – about a finger length tall and a hand’s breadth wide - they can easily be dotted around beds on the edges and in gaps between crops. Great in pots and hanging baskets, Violas produce flowers year round.
Viola odorata fragrant, three-coloured Viola tricolor
Viola labradorica strong growing and fragrant.
Sow or plant in early spring and summer countrywide.
Violas prefer semi shade but will grow in full sun.
Violas are not too fussy and grow well on most soils that hold reasonable moisture without getting too water-logged. If your soil is sandy and dry then dig in pea straw, mulch or rich compost to help hold moisture – or plant Violas in pots, toughs, window boxes, hanging baskets or old buckets with drainage holes in the bottom.
In early spring or autumn, sow seeds a finger-tip deep in trays or punnets filled with seed compost or directly into the garden or proposed container. If sowing in trays then transplant to pots or punnets when seedlings get to about half a finger in length and have developed a second pair of leaves. Thin seedlings in the garden as they develop so that plants end up with about one or two hands’ lengths between them if planted in groups or rows.
When your punnet or pot-grown seedlings are about a finger’s length in height, plant seedlings at an average spacing of a good hand’s length apart. I usually dot them around the vegetable garden and plant them on bed corners and at the end of rows.
Water young seedlings in dry periods. Once they are established and starting to grow you shouldn’t need to continue with watering unless weather is persistently dry and your soil dries out. Plants will wilt to let you know its time to get the watering can out.
Remove dead flower heads with scissors or thumb and forefinger – this will stimulate continued production of fresh flowers on your plants.
Violas can withstand mild frosts depending on variety. They will self-seed if left to their own devices which means you’ll have them in your garden for some time to come!