INFORMATION ABOUT SWEET VIOLETS…
By: Nikki Phipps
Image by matsukawa1971 There are around 400-500 species of violets in the genus, Violaceae. Violets are native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere and are also distributed in Hawaii, Australasia, and the Andes in South America. The word ‘Violet’ comes from the Latin name ‘Viola’. Sweet violets and garden violets are some of the more popular varieties.
Widely scattered throughout most of the world, Sweet violets are found in Europe, Asia and in every state in the U.S. The sweet violet is a rhizomatous evergreen perennial and well known for its wonderful fragrance.
The flower color of sweet violets varies from dark blue to purple and violet, but also pale apricot to white. There are two types of flowers, open spring flowers, with five petals, and closed summer flowers, which have no petals and are self pollinated. Both types of flowers self seed, producing new flowers each year, many popping up in surprising locations.
Sweet violets can be planted any time except during winter; however, most sweet violets are planted in early spring. Choose a site with full sun to light shade.
Sweet violets are easily grown plants. Sweet violet thrives in most soils but prefers a cool, moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil in partial or dappled shade and protection from scorching winds. Although by nature sweet violets grow mainly in the dappled shade of woodland habitats, they are very tolerant and will thrive in very hot, sunny positions as the soil does not dry out. You can even grow them in containers.
Sweet violets form a carpet of growth that makes a good groundcover as well. Just be careful where you locate them since they can sometimes become invasive.
Sweet violets have various other uses in the garden, including various medicinal uses. It is effective in the treatment of headaches, migraine and insomnia. An essential oil from the flowers and leaves is used in perfume and the flowers are used to flavor breath fresheners. The edible leaves can be harvested year round, and the edible flowers are produced in late winter and early spring.
Propagation is easiest by division of an established plant. Spring or autumn is the best time to do this. Seed is best sown in the fall in a cold frame.
Sweet violets are fairly pest-free but can harbor mites.