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Grow Guide: Viola hederacea (Native Violet)

If you have shady spots in your garden that you don’t know what to do with, you should consider growing the native violet.

This plant loves to grow in the shade and will cover the area with lovely dark green foliage and the prettiest white and purple flowers.

Native violets spread across your garden spaces by runners and the plant can provide a dense mat of foliage and flowers. This makes the native violet ideal for any spots in your garden where you want some coverage but that are too shady for other plants.

Some people even use native violets as a substitute for lawn in areas where most grasses won’t grow. What’s more, the flowers are edible and can be used in salads or as a garnish.

Viola hederacea flower | Native plants
Viola hederacea / Photo by 阿橋 HQ / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

How to prepare the soil for planting your native violets

Native violets aren’t too fussy about the soil that they grow in and will adapt to most soil types except pure sand. However, if you are preparing a new planting bed, incorporate some organic matter into the soil and the violets will benefit greatly.

Soil 1 | Native plants

This is especially necessary if you want to replace a lawn area with native violets because the soil might be quite compacted. In this case, you want to aerate the soil a little and add some organic matter before planting your violets.

Make sure you choose a shady spot in the garden or one that gets only filtered sunlight. Although native violets can handle some exposure to the sun, they will die back if it gets too hot and dry.

However, this makes them ideal for planting under trees to provide a dense ground cover and inhibit weed growth.

How to plant native violets

Planting your native violets is easy. You can either buy your plants in pots from a local nursery or, better still, if you have a friend who has them growing in their garden, ask if you can dig up a few plants for your garden.

All you have to do is dig up some clumps ensuring there are plenty of roots attached and then transplant them into your garden by digging a hole to accommodate the roots and backfilling it with soil.

I have numerous native violets growing in shady spots in my garden and they do spread nicely. This means that there are always plenty of plants that I can dig up and plant elsewhere in the shady areas of my garden.

Make sure you water your plants after transplanting them. They may look a little wilted at first but give them a day or two and they’ll spring back and settle into their new spot nicely.

Caring for your native violets

To be perfectly honest, I don’t do anything special to care for my Viola hederacea plants. I let the rain water them and just leave them to grow naturally wherever they want.

Viola hederacea | Native plants
Viola hederacea / Photo by Harry Rose / Flickr / CC 2.0

However, if you’ve just planted a few new violets in your garden, you might want to water them once a week until they are fully established.

Once you see the plants flowering or sending out runners, you can be sure that they’re growing comfortably and you don’t need to give them any supplementary water except in periods of extremely dry weather.

The only thing I do is keep them in check by digging up any small plants that start to grow where I don’t want them to and plant these elsewhere in the garden.

These little plants are tough and can be left just to grow and spread around your garden. Because they like to grow in the shade and these areas are generally covered with leaf litter, native violets get all the nutrients that they need from the soil as the leaves break down.

However, if you have a bare patch where you want to grow your violets, you can give them some Dynamic Lifter twice a year if you find that they’re not growing as well as you want them to.

Pests and diseases

As previously mentioned, native violets are tough and are not really subject to any pests and diseases. In fact, I can’t recall ever seeing my violets being affected by any pests or diseases.

Apparently, however, aphids are said to love this plant. But, this is actually not a problem because the aphids will do very little damage to your native violets so there’s no need to control them.

Native violets that are grown in Western Australia might be subject to spider mites because conditions are much drier than in the eastern states. These can be effectively controlled by encouraging predators such as native wasps and ladybirds into your garden.

Growing native violets in pots

If you don’t have a shady spot in your garden or you’ve run out of space to add them, they can also be grown in pots and are perfect plants to grow in hanging baskets.

You want to select a pot that is around twice the size of the plant to give it plenty of room to spread and grow. Use a quality potting mix that is free-draining for your plants.

Native violets grown in pots also benefit from some mulch applied to the top of the soil to conserve moisture. However, you want to keep the mulch away from the base of the plant itself.

You should feed your plants with a balanced fertiliser twice a year to keep the violets growing happily. The best option is to use a slow-release fertiliser in pellet form as this is easy to apply and should last for around six months.

Viola hederacea FAQ

Is Viola hederacea invasive?

Although native violets can spread quite profusely with their runners, they’re really easy to keep under control. All you have to do is dig up any wayward plants and plant them elsewhere in the garden.

Is Viola hederacea toxic to dogs?

Although both the leaves and the flowers of Viola hederacea are edible, they can be toxic to dogs and cats.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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