The sweet violet, or Viola odorata, as it is botanically named, lives up to its name. In early spring and late summer, the flowers give off an intense scent that is even used in perfume. In addition, Viola odorata is an undemanding plant that requires very little care in the right location and can become a permanent nose flatterer in the garden. However low their demands may be, the measures must of course still fit. Only then will the sweet violet thrive and bring joy for a long time.
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The right location for the sweet violet
Sweet violets need a moderately bright and humid location where there is neither constant blazing sun nor heat build-up. Midday sun is tolerated, but the soil should then contain sufficient amounts of water.
Light shaded areas are ideal, for example under taller plants such as hedges. Proximity to a body of water is also an advantage, although not essential.
Due to the moisture they need, sweet violets thrive best on loamy soil, which should be as nutrient-rich as possible.
If you don’t have such a substrate in your own garden, you can use potting soil, potting soil or bucket soil, which is mixed with clay powder from the hardware store and then watered well. Due to the different compositions, this usually requires a few test runs, but it is inexpensive and relatively easy to carry out.
Normal garden soil, which is rich in humus and can even be sandy, is also suitable. So Viola odorata is not picky.
planting and sowing
Viola odorata can either be planted directly as a young plant in the garden or tub, or it can be sown. Both variants are easy. Only the location has to be provided with the appropriate substrate – if necessary.
Sweet violets can be planted in spring or autumn, but should not be done when the ground is frozen. It is usually sufficient to wait for mild days in February to March or from September to October.
The cold-germinating Viola odorata is sown outdoors in a box or bowl. Ideally from September to November. This late timing is necessary because the seeds have to spend some time in the cold before they sprout. The following spring they are pricked out and placed in the desired location. Alternatively, it is also possible to use a little trick to grow the seeds of the sweet violet indoors. To do this, they are wrapped in a damp cloth or placed in a bowl covered with one and placed in the refrigerator for a few weeks. This gives them the cold phase necessary for germination.
The seeds can then be spread on moist substrate and placed in a light but not too sunny place at around 18 °C. Once the sweet violets have formed a few leaves, they can be planted outside from spring to early autumn. In this way, the viola odorata can be brought forward all year round.
The care of the scented plant requires neither much knowledge nor tact, because basically it can be left to its own devices in the garden after it has grown. However, a few tips can help increase flowering and fragrance even more. When cultured in a tub, the plant also has somewhat higher requirements.
watering and fertilizing
During the germination and in the first few weeks after planting, Viola odorata must be kept moist as evenly and consistently as possible. After that, additional watering in the bed is hardly necessary. The sweet violet only needs to be watered during prolonged dry periods.
It’s different in a bucket or pot, especially if these vessels are covered. Here the substrate should be slightly damp at all times. Neither waterlogging nor dryness get the sweet violet.
Basically, the sweet violet does not need fertilization if the soil itself is nutrient-rich. Nevertheless, it is advisable to fertilize with mature compost in the spring. The fresh nutrients strengthen the plant, encourage flowering and allow Viola odorata to release its pleasant scent.
Alternatively, pond water and pond sludge or an organic fertilizer for flowering plants can achieve the same effect.
Sweet violets are winter green and do not require cuttings for shaping. Once the leaves dry, they can of course be removed. However, this is not necessary, because the rotting leaves serve as a natural fertilizer. They bring the nutrients from the plant back into the substrate.
It is possible to use the flowers as cut flowers. The cutting itself is well tolerated by the viola odorata.
The Viola odorata reproduces itself via seeds and stolons. If you want to multiply the sweet violets in a targeted manner, you can also achieve this by seeds or by division.
The seeds appear in fruiting bodies after the first flowering from March. They are twisted off the plant, dried, opened and freed from seeds. After a cold period, they can be germinated as described above.
Propagation by division is easier and faster. For this purpose, the sweet violet is dug up in the spring and divided as centrally as possible. A sharp knife or scissors are usually sufficient. The resulting daughter plants are planted separately and usually recover quickly. In order to create optimal conditions, the substrate can be refreshed with mature compost or mixed with fertilizer.
The Viola odorata are completely hardy and do not need any protection in the garden to survive frost and snow. Protection from the winter sun is also not necessary in the right location.
Again, this does not apply to pot culture. This should be overwintered in light, stand cold but not get frost. An unheated conservatory, basement or hallway with windows is ideal. During the hibernation, the substrate must not dry out. Moderate watering in small amounts will do. Fertilizers should be avoided entirely. In addition, it is important to regularly check for pests and diseases in the winter quarters. If the sweet violet is too dry and warm, spider mites often appear. Too humid and poorly ventilated, Viola odorata are prone to violet rust and downy mildew.
Typical diseases and pests
The sweet violet is extremely robust in the right location and with the right care. Nevertheless, it can be attacked by pests and diseases.
Typical pathogens and parasites include:
- Wrong mildew
- gall midges
- spider mites
- violet gnats
- violet rust
Infestations are favored by deficiencies at the location or in maintenance. Spider mites appear when Viola odorata is too dry and too warm. As soon as the temperatures rise, you have to make sure that the substrate is sufficiently moist. You can also spray the plant with water. This procedure also helps if the sweet violet has already been infected.
Snails find the young shoots of sweet violets particularly tasty, which is why it makes sense to prefer a sheltered spot or to put up a snail fence. Violet and gall midges do not harm the plant itself, but they impair flowering or completely prevent it. The larvae are deposited in the buds and feed on them until they hatch. To prevent progressive and renewed infestations, you must remove and destroy the affected buds. These are recognizable by a swollen and often uneven shape.
Downy mildew appears when the humidity is too high and, like violet rust, is a fungal disease. The leaves show white or reddish-brown coatings. A mixture of milk and water in a ratio of 1:8, which is sprayed on weekly, helps with downy mildew. In both cases, affected leaves should be cleaned. If the disease persists, a fungicide should be used.
Is the sweet violet poisonous?
Viola odorata is not poisonous in any of its parts. In fact, sweet violets are used in medicine and their flowers can end up on the plate as an edible and exotic decoration.
So it can easily be planted in gardens with playing pets or children. However, allergy sufferers should be careful, because Viola odorata attracts bees and other flying insects with its scent.
The most popular Viola odorata varieties
The flowers are colored in a strong shade of violet, which is typical of sweet violets. But there are also differences here.
- Viola odorata “Mrs. Pinehurst” has a very powerful, dark tone. In addition, the flowers, like the plant, are unusually large. However, the variety is only for the eye, because it does not smell.
- Viola odorata ‘Princess de Galle’ also has very large flowers. However, these are kept in a lighter tone. Sitting on long stems, they make excellent cut flowers.
- Viola odorata “Baronne Alice de Rothschild” impresses with large flowers and an intense fragrance. Also extremely well suited for cutting, the coloring is between dark and light. With its distribution since 1894, it is also a sweet violet with a long history.
In its original form, the sweet violet blooms violet, as already mentioned. Targeted breeding, however, has produced a variety of varieties.
- Viola odorata “Alba” – this variety of sweet violet flowers in pure white and is therefore a striking eye-catcher. Especially when combined with other, darker strains. With a height of up to 15 cm, it is ideal for planting under plants that are also low.
- Viola odorata ‘Lydia Groves’ bears large flowers in a delicate baby pink. The orange-yellow eye stands in impressive contrast to this. It is also only 15 cm high. Matching the candy color, it has a very sweet scent.
- Viola odorata “Coeur d’Alsace” also stands out in terms of colour. It is bright pink to pink-red in color, the flowers are filigree and act as dainty splashes of color. Due to its good sprouting properties, this variety forms carpets that cover quickly.
- Viola odorata “Sulphurea” is a yellow variant of the sweet violet. However, it grows rather weakly and is not a wintergreen variety. It is therefore better suited for pot planting.
- Viola odorata “Reine de Neiges” has light blue flowers and is vigorous. It spreads quite quickly and has a peculiarity that causes a stir. Because it starts the flower in blue, but ends in brilliant white.