Pansy - Viola hybrida

Pansy - Viola hybrida


The pansy varieties are perennial hybrids with a short life, or otherwise cultivated as annual or biennial; the parent species generally come from Europe and Turkey, the most used by hybridizers are: V. lutea, V. tricolor, V. odorata, V. cornuta, V. x wittrockiana.

Pansies have very large and brightly colored flowers, from white to pure black, fragrance-free, five-petalled, with a dark or yellow center, in contrast to the rest of the flower. Some varieties have dark veins which give the flower the appearance of a face; every year new varieties are added to the many already existing. The leaves are dark green, ovate, not very decorative; flowering occurs in the cool periods of the year, in autumn and winter and in early spring.

Purple flower

The Viola genus includes about 500 species spread throughout the temperate northern hemisphere, but also in the mountains of Latin America and tropical and subtropical Africa. They preferably grow in shady locations, in woods, meadows, scree or marshes. They are small plants that are indispensable for the garden, both for their flowers and for the leaves, which, thanks to various colors and shapes, make them interesting throughout the year.

They have been known and appreciated since ancient times and in the Middle Ages they were used for medicinal and therapeutic purposes.


As we have said, these are generally deciduous annuals or perennials and, especially in our climates, evergreen. They can be herbaceous or have a woody base

Although the groupings are innumerable, the plants are always very recognizable thanks to the unmistakable shape of their flowers. These sprout from fibrous or fleshy roots. The flower stem has two small bracts and is curved at the top. The curvature is partly hidden by the appendages of the 5 sepals, usually shorter than the 5 petals. The lower petal protrudes backwards, forming a spur that contains the nectars.

In summer, most of these herbaceous plants also produce self-fertile flowers without petals that produce a large number of seeds. This type of inflorescence is called cleistogama, which means "closed".

The leaves of the violets are heart-shaped, while the pansies are oval.

All the groupings are widespread in nature throughout the world, but in England and France from the nineteenth century there was great interest which resulted in the creation of a large number of hybrids, highly appreciated for the most varied uses.

We also recall that some species in particular (such as the Parma violet or the violets) were and are highly sought after by the perfume industry and are also grown on a large scale for this purpose.

Family and genderViolaceae, gen. Viola, about 500 species and countless cultivars and hybrids
Type of plantAnnuals, biennials and herbaceous perennials mainly evergreen
ExposureHalf shade, shade, sun, depending on the variety
RusticGenerally rustic
GroundRich, sub-alkaline, rich, well drained
IrrigationFrequent, without stagnation
FloweringDepending on the species. Generally autumn-spring, but some also in summer
FertilizationFor weekly pansies, with a prevalence of potassium
ColorsViolet, lilac, white, yellow, light blue, red, orange, bicolor

Violets exhibition

The choice of the viola hybrida exposure depends on the period in which you prefer to plant them and therefore enjoy the splendid flowering. If you decide to bury them in autumn, and then make them bloom in autumn and the following spring, it is good to place them in an area in full sun, to allow the seedlings to receive all the hours of sunshine possible on cold winter days. If, on the other hand, you prefer to plant them in spring, it is advisable to place them in partial shade, otherwise in the summer months they would be easily burned and dried by the sun's rays on the hottest days. It is not recommended to bury them in a completely shaded area, as too little sunlight causes scarce blooms. If desired, they can be placed in containers, so that they can be placed in the sun in spring and moved to the shade in summer. They do not fear the cold, it is therefore possible to plant them even when there is a threat of frost, indeed usually low temperatures favor the germination of seeds and abundant blooms.

For undergrowth or ground cover violets, the ideal exposure is partial shade, but they can also live well in the shade. They also show a certain tolerance to full sun, provided they grow in a cool environment, mostly in Northern Italy or in mountainous or foothill areas.

Pansé and other garden violets want very bright displays, especially from autumn to spring. Only under these conditions can they flourish continuously. At the arrival of summer it is good to move them to a more sheltered position from the heat.

Watering violets

Specimens of viola hybrida need abundant water, the soil must always be damp, but not soaked with water; it is therefore preferable to water them often, leaving the substrate to dry slightly before watering again. To promote flowering, it is advisable to fertilize regularly with fertilizer for flowering plants, at least every 20-30 days. In the open ground, if well positioned, it is usually not necessary to intervene until late spring.

The most delicate from this point of view are undoubtedly the pansé. In pots they need fairly frequent irrigation. Always make sure the degree of hydration of the substrate by inserting a finger deep into it and proceed only when this is rather dry.

Violet soil

The viola hybrida seedlings do not have particular needs as regards the growth substrate, if the earth of our garden is too heavy and calcareous it is still advisable to correct it with peat, sand and balanced universal soil, in order to obtain a substrate rich enough in organic and well-drained material.

Most of them grow well in fertile, neutral to sub-alkaline, possibly quite cool soil.

For the pot cultivation of the viola hybrida usually all substrates designed for flowering plants are suitable. If we want to take care of this aspect personally, we can obtain a good compote by combining a third of forest soil, a third of very mature manure and a third of sand. In this way, we will ensure a good supply of nutrients and avert the risk of root rot. In containers, it is always important to prepare an excellent drainage layer based on gravel or expanded clay on the bottom.

Multiplication violets

It can take place by cutting or by seed. The cuttings are practiced in spring, by rooting the stems in a mixture of peat and sand which must be kept in a cool and humid place until fully established. Pansies are usually cultivated by seed, as each plant produces a lot of them and are therefore easy to find (as long as you don't want very particular varieties);

for sowing proceed by preparing a container with balanced soil, peat and sand, well mixed, the substrate is moistened and then the seeds are scattered, which must be covered with a light layer of sand, necessary to maintain humidity.

The seedbeds of violets should be covered with transparent plastic and kept in a cold and dark place, these two conditions favor germination. If desired, they can be sown in open ground, in a shady place, but in this case germination is not always guaranteed. The seedlings are planted when they have produced at least two pairs of leaves, in spring or autumn, even late in the season.

There are many possibilities for propagation: stem cuttings, root cuttings, division, seed. However, they are not always suitable for the specific type and, in particular, it is very difficult to maintain a hybrid with gamic multiplication; on the contrary, it can be a good method for the species: the seeds can be buried at any time of the year, but it is preferable to do it in the middle of summer, so that the new specimens are almost adults when they have to face the winter. The seeds should never be covered with more than 4mm of soil. Germination occurs in a period ranging from 2 weeks (for pansé) to several months (almost all violets). Darkness favors this process.

Once they are popped they must be moved as soon as possible in a bright environment.

If we want to proceed with the cutting or division, the best time is spring. Very often natural cuttings have already been produced and it will not be difficult to separate them from the mother plant.

Violets reproduce very easily by dividing the runners.

We pay a lot of attention from this point of view: in fact they can become invasive in the long run by covering spaces dedicated to other essences. Clearly this can be more or less welcome. If it wasn't, let's immediately commit to keeping them under control.

VioletViolets, that is, obtained from the hybridization between odorata / suavis and Parma violet

Violets with simple flowers,

double-flowered violets,

Parma violets with simple flowers,

Parma violets with double or very double flowers.

ExposureHybrids of altaica, lutea, tricolor and others (usually annuals)

For display, beautiful, but rather delicate

For bedding, resistant and long flowering

Tricolor, with smaller flowers

RusticHybrids of cornuta with pansé, also called williamsii. Suitable for rock gardens and containers

Violets for display

Compact flower bed violets with generous and prolonged flowering

Violets, very refined, compact and with striated petals

Hybrids of cornuta, with bearing similar to this one

Pests and purple diseases

violets are very afraid of snails and whiteflies; they can also be attacked by aphids.

Violet rusticity

Most violets are rustic, especially violets from our climate. These, if well inserted, very easily become spontaneous, blooming every spring and widening more and more thanks to the stolon roots.

Pansé should be introduced into the garden in autumn and will continue to bloom until the first frosts. At that time they must be covered or otherwise protected so that the cold does not damage the foliage too much. It is also a good idea to repair them by placing them very close to a wall facing south. After the worst winter temperatures they will return to throw new flower stems to continue until at least mid-spring.

Fertilizing violets

Virtually no intervention is required for ground cover violets, with the exception of an abundant dose of mature manure to be spread before the arrival of winter.

For those kept in pots or in flower beds, to encourage flowering, it is a good idea to distribute a dose of liquid fertilizer diluted in irrigation water every week. It is very important that the macro-element in the greatest proportion is potassium, to the detriment of nitrogen. The first in fact particularly encourages the flowering and coloring of the petals. Excessive administration of the latter could lead to excessive development of the leaves and green parts, to the detriment of the production of flower heads.

Pansy - Viola hybrida: Variety

Viola odorata also called violets. It reaches 10 cm in height. Flowering occurs most often in March. Very common spontaneously throughout Europe. It has heart-shaped leaves and very fragrant purple or lilac flowers. Many cultivars have been selected, among which the most famous is the Parma violet used for the production of essences. Other cultivars are: Coeur d’Alsace, Czar, Marie Louise, Princess of Wales

Viola tricolor also called pansy. Up to 15 centimeters high (in the species), flowering occurs from June to July, even if the cultivars are made to flower earlier. It is however in cultivation treated as an annual or at most biennial. It has a semi-prostrate habit, ovate and toothed leaves, purple to yellow flowers. Hybridized with lutea and altaica.

Hybrids of viola tricolor

Swiss giant has large flowers carried on very erect stems compared to those of the species. They are very neat and compact plants with colors ranging from yellow, to white, to orange, to purple, to blue, including burgundy. Very suitable for flower beds, pots and containers.

Early Holland a little smaller and early flowering.

Majestic Giant flowers up to 10 cm in diameter and quite tall plants. The range of colors is very wide. There are also cultivars with two colors. Suitable for flower beds, containers and also for cutting.

Gay jester with very large flowers and characterized by autumn flowering which then continues, in moderately mild climates, throughout the winter. The range of colors includes red, orange, yellow, violet, blue and white.

Viola cornuta native to the Pyrenees, it has small, pointed and toothed leaves that form a tuft of compact vegetation. The flowers are deep purple and occur from March to August. It wants moist soils and semi-shady locations.

Viola lutea has a fibrous and creeping root system. It produces many stems and is characterized by a tufted habit. The stems bear evergreen oval leaves. The flowers are yellow or purple, 2-3 cm in diameter and a long spur. It blooms from May to August. It prefers fertile soils and cool climates. Excellent as ground cover. It is important as another ancestor of pansé violets.

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