Viola Odorata: Learn Sweet Violet Growing and Care

The Viola odorata [vy-OH-la][oh-dor-AY-tuh] is often chosen for its lovely fragrance, which is referenced in the name. “Odorata” means fragrant.

The fragrant violet commonly called the “sweet violet,” goes by many other names, including:

  • English violet
  • Common violet
  • Garden violet
  • Wood violet

This colorful perennial plant belongs to the violet family (Violaceae) of plants and is native to Europe and Asia. Since its introduction, into North America and Australia, it is commonly seen growing in gardens.

Very often flowering Pansies and the Viola are mentioned in the same sentence as they are both in the Violaceae family.

Purple-violet blooming viola odorata flowers as aground cover.

Caring For Viola Odorata

How Big Does The Sweet Violet Get?

The sweet violet is a hardy plant that mostly grows as ground cover. It can reach two to eight inches in height, depending on the growing conditions.

Viola odorata produces small, heart-shaped foliage and recommended for USDA hardiness zones 5 – 9.

Flowering and Fragrance

The flowers are very aromatic. A few fragrant flowers can perfume an entire room. In most environments, the flowers bloom in early spring. However, when grown in hardiness zones 7 and above, it tends to bloom during the winter.

Most varieties of the plant produce violet-colored flowers with delicate petals. There are also some blue-violet varieties, various shades of white and pink, and many varieties found growing wild.

The flowers grow from the middle of the rosettes and feature five petals. The lowest petal is always larger than the other four and includes a spur.

If you want to force the bloom, you can bring potted violets indoors at the end of November. Keep temperatures below 55° degrees Fahrenheit and shielded from the sun for part of the day.

After the flowers bloom, water them regularly to keep them from drying out.

What Type Of Lighting Does Violas Do Best?

Voila plants require lots of sunlight, but can tolerate partial shade. In fact, they are sometimes found growing wild in shaded areas of lawns and gardens.

Some homeowners choose to use these plants as undergrowth below trees and shrubs. If the sunlight can reach the plant below the shrub, it should still grow without any problems.

Watering and Feeding

When forcing a bloom, you should water frequently. If grown outdoors, you may not need to water very often.

The plant is hardy and can tolerate some drought. Make sure the soil drains well has lots of organic matter and doesn’t become too dry.

When planting add a slow-release fertilizer and follow up with a weak liquid fertilizer when the flowers are in bloom. This may help extend the bloom.

Soil Requirements and Transplanting

If growing in a pot, repot each year using a combination of sand and fine loam.

The soil needs to be well-drained, stay moist, but not too wet, and contact lots of organic material.

Viola Ordorata Maintenance and Grooming

No grooming is needed to care for this plant. It is a low-growing ground cover plant that may only reach up to eight inches. However, if it starts to spread too far, you can trim it back.

Some people also remove spent flowers to help extend the flowering season.

How to Propagate Violet Odorata

Propagate Viola odorata from seeds, runners, or division.

The runners should grow naturally when grown outdoors. Repot these runners to propagate the plant or remove them to prevent the plant from spreading.

When growing from seeds sow them outdoors in flats during the fall. Place the flats in an area that offers some shade and check the soil regularly to keep it moist.

Seeds may take about six to eight weeks to grow and take root. Transplant seedlings after the last frost of winter, spacing them at least eight inches apart.

When growing from seed, keep on the look out for root rot often caused by overwatering or poor drainage. You can use a proactive solution by adding a fungicide to the water.

What Are the Main Pests or Disease Problems the Violet Odorata Encounters?

The main pests that threaten the sweet violets include aphids and red spider mites. The spider mites can easily take over the plant.

If you spot these pests, if possible separate the infected plant quickly.

Aphids are easier to get rid of. Use a neem oil or insecticidal soap spray on the foliage to get rid of an aphid infestation.

Gary mold can also become an issue when the conditions are too humid.

Like the root rot, the best solution is to avoid overwatering and ensure that the soil provides proper drainage. You can also use a fungicide.

The sweet violet is not always so sweet. Some regions, conside Viola odorata an invasive species.

The plant can easily overtake gardens and lawns when it is left unchecked. It is also commonly found growing near clearings and shaded areas.

Suggested Violet Odorata Uses – Indoors and Outdoors

Sweet violets can be grown in pots and placed indoors or on porches. However, they are best suited for ground cover in gardens areas like those at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

You can use the Viola odorata to add more color to a garden bed or rock garden. It looks especially attractive when paired with taller plants that feature lighter flowers.

Other Varieties of Violas

Viola papilionacea – The common blue violet with short stems and heart-shaped smooth, bright leaves.

Viola cucullata – known as the “marsh violet.” Large-leaves native bearing small flowers, used in shady and wet locations.

Viola lanceolata – “lanced leaf violet”, interesting grass-like foliage

Viola pubescens – “downy yellow violet”, for those who like yellow violets, grows in shade and flowers have long stems

Viola pedata – the “bird’s-foot violet”, considered one of the “Best” American introduction for the garden. Several color varieties in purple, lavender, yellow and white. Some caution to not grow yellow varieties as they attract aphids.