Australian native violets are such an easy plant to grow and so low care that you'll fall in love with the carefree yet dramatic impact they have in your garden bed. Ideal as a groundcover, native violets thrive in moist soil and partial shade conditions and can be easily propagated.
Why You Need Native Violets in Your Garden
Australian native violets, of which viola hederacea and viola banksii are the most common species, look beautiful in a rockery, under a fruit tree, in a hanging basket, or in a dedicated Australian native garden.
While many gardeners think these are the same species, in fact viola banksii has more brightly-coloured flowers with an almost circular leaf. Viola hederacea has paler flowers and a more kidney-shaped leaf.
This creeping, evergreen perennial, that grows to about 10 cm tall, is also a perfect lawn substitute or alternative, but one that is so much more colourful than ordinary grass.
Quick plant fact: Native violets are part of the genus Viola as are the violet and pansy, but Australian native violets are quite different to these more exotic cousins that have a very bright flower with four instead of three petals.
Native violets, which have a delicate mauve and white flower, do not have a strong scent but do attract bees and native birds to the garden.
Growing Australian Native Violets Is Easy
Once you establish native violets in your garden, this attractive plant will take very little time to maintain. There are some tips and tricks that will guarantee success, though, especially if you want your native violets to flower in warmer months.
Plant violas in your garden in spring or autumn, or under a tree or other shrub. This native groundcover will not tolerate searing sun - it needs partial shade but will also tolerate full shade.
Keep the soil moist for your native violets and make sure it is rich but free-draining. A sandy, or clay soil, isn't ideal, although a new variety, Viola silicestris, is suited to a sandy soil garden.
Feed these Australian natives with an eco seaweed like Seasol every fortnight to get the best growth.
Some plants in the viola genus are susceptible to spider mite. You can combat mild spider mite infestations by misting the underside of leaves, or if the problem is more serious, you can spray plants with an organic remedy such as wettable sulfur.
How to Propagate Native Violets
Native violets spread mainly through stolons - horizontal plant stems - trailing along the ground and putting down underground rhizomes or nodes. In this way, this Australian native plant multiplies with very little hard work on your part. For this reason, native violets are sometimes called wild violets.
However, there are a few other ways to propagate this plant.
- Native or wild violets are easy to grow from seeds. Sew them in trays, making sure they are covered completely because they need darkness to germinate, and keep them moist. It will take about two months for the plants to be big enough to transplant into your garden.
- You can also buy native violet plants from your local nursery.
- Once your native violets are established, you can divide plants and transplant them. Make sure each of your divisions has a few roots or nodes. Keep new transplanted violas watered daily for about two weeks.
- You can also propagate violas by taking a leaf, dipping the stem in rooting mix and pushing it into a light growing mixture. Cover the pot with a plastic bag and… wait!
Other Viola Species to Fall in Love With
Once you discover how easy Australian native violets are to grow, you may want to add other species of viola and violet to your garden.
- Common blue violet (Viola sororia or Viola papilionacea) is a species that grows in partial shade, flowers in winter, and is drought resistant. Some varieties have a beautiful purple-flecked flower that has led to the plants being dubbed 'freckles'.
- The African violet is making a comeback. This plant, which has flowers in a dazzling array of colours, is perfect indoors, in a well-lit space, rather than in a garden. Use a potting mix specially formulated for African violets.
- Viola odorata, or sweet violet, has scented, deep purple flowers that appear from autumn to early spring. Unlike native violet, it likes sandy or light soil and full sun in cooler months. It would make a great addition to a rockery or hanging basket. Sweet violet has been used in Chinese and traditional medicine and contains salicylic acid, a component of aspirin.
How to Use Native Violets
If you want to add some colour to cakes, or even salads, violas and violets are edible plants, and their flower petals look and taste wonderful. However, use caution if you're pregnant, allergic to aspirin or sensitive to salicylates. Also, be aware that violas have the potential to be toxic to dogs or cats, so don't let pets eat them.
It's also fun to make a viola syrup that you can add to sparkling wine or lemonade. You only need about three to four handfuls of viola flowers, about 150 mL of boiling water and 300 g of caster sugar.
Why Australian Native Violet Will Become a Garden Favourite
Once you see a lush spread of viola hederacea or viola banksia in your garden, you'll wish you had discovered native Australian violets sooner. Their lush green leaves and delicate flower are incredibly hardy and adept at beautifully filling a space, whether that is a patchy lawn, a hanging basket, or the spaces between stones and rocks.