Violas, available in a myriad of varieties and colors, are the perfect blooming perennials to plant in the cool-season garden. With a profusion of blooms and a compact form, violas create lively borders and are a cheerful addition to garden containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes in fall, winter, and spring.
Types of Violas
Violas have a long history. Wild violas were cultivated in the English garden to produce the spectrum of blooms we know today: the petite viola known as “Johnny jump-ups,” the popular pansy, and the fragrant violets that emerge in the spring garden.
The perennial viola (Viola spp.) is the smallest, with a uniform cushion of leaves and abundant, one-inch flowers. Violas produce more blooms, are more cold-hardy, and are more heat tolerant than the slightly larger pansy. Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are short-lived perennial plants offering larger flowers over compact leaves. Perennial violets like Viola odorata have a delightful fragrance and form a clumping habit in the woodland garden.
Garden Uses for Violas
Violas are hardy, cool-season plants that bloom from fall through spring in milder climates.
Violas will bloom from fall through spring in milder winter climates, brightening the winter garden. They thrive in the fall in colder climates and may go dormant in the winter, only to flush out again in the spring. When the hotter weather of summer arrives, violas fade and make way for warm-season annuals to take their place. Plant violas in fall or spring when the weather is cool.
Violas are low-maintenance, easy-care flowering perennials. Plant violas in a garden that receives full sun to partial sun, ensuring soil remains moist and well-drained. These low, mounded plants with a compact growth habit benefit from having spent blooms removed. Pinching back the faded flower at the base of the stem will yield more blooms by preventing energy from going into seed production.
Violas and pansies benefit the fall, winter, and spring garden and offer a variety of uses in the landscape. Violas’ sweet, light fragrance, colorful flowers, and nectar attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. As a bonus, viola flowers and leaves are edible and high in vitamins A and C. Add the pretty little blooms as a garnish, as a dessert decoration, or atop a salad of crisp greens.
With so many varieties to choose from, in almost endless shades and combinations of color, picking out annual violas and pansies is nearly as joyful as the extended cheer they bring.
Viola ‘Admire Cream’
A new ivory variety with yellow centers, ‘Admire Cream’ blooms early and retains its vibrant colors in gardens or containers.
Viola ‘Admire Cream’ offers an ivory bloom with a deep yellow center and lightly brush-stroked whiskers, a newer variety on the market. Ivory might not stand out in the snow, but it lends richness to container plantings among evergreens and colors of the season.
‘Admire Cream’ violas feature early flowering blooms that don’t fade as they mature. A consistent display of brilliant colors graces these plants with uniform habit.
Bunches of these ivory blooms offer an elegant touch to the winter garden. When planted against deep greens, reds, purples, and rich hues, the creamy blossom creates a striking contrast – perfect for designs to last through the holiday season.
Viola ‘Admire Lemon Purple Wing’
‘Admire Lemon Purple Wing’ features a distinctive orchid-like appearance and is best planted in groups for a striking effect.
The rich bloom of Viola ‘Admire Lemon Purple Wing’ features a deep purple wing (the upper petals) with a foreground of creamy white and light yellow petals. Deep purple whiskers on each petal look hand-painted.
This orchid-like flower adds depth and interest in a mass planting or as a specimen in planted containers—plant in groups for the most significant impact and to show off the detail of the blossom.
The ‘Admire’ series of viola offers early, consistent blooming with central flowers on short stems. The plant can reach 8 inches tall and spread 7 inches wide.
Viola ‘Bel Viso Pineapple Crush’
This is a captivating, award-winning variety with a colorful tapestry of blooms, known for its early, compact growth and showy flowers.
With a delicious name like ‘Bel Viso Pineapple Crush’ and a color palette to match, this whimsical viola is irresistible. Each bloom has shades that range from gold to scarlet to mauve, creating a tapestry of bedding color.
It’s no wonder that this award-winning variety is a fresh addition to the home garden. Its strong performance and, primarily, its ornate bloom make it a conversation piece.
The ‘Bel Viso’ series is bred for its early spring flowering and ability to withstand warmer temperatures in the fall while maintaining a compact habit. It has large, showy blooms.
Viola ‘Bel Viso Soft Pink’
‘Bel Viso Soft Pink’ offers a pastel palette with deep purple whiskers, ideal for container arrangements.
‘Bel Viso Soft Pink’ brings the viola a palette of blushy pastels. A bright orange center fades to soft yellow and lavender-pink petals, each brushed with deep purple whiskers. A wing of pale pinkish-white adds a light backdrop to the delicate blossom.
The ‘Bel Viso Soft Pink’ viola is brilliant in container arrangements where the blooms can be readily seen. Its pastel hues are unique to its bolder cousins and not season-specific, making it versatile in spring or fall.
Plant a group of ‘Bel Viso Soft Pink’ as a single arrangement for a light, abundant look. Or pair with the lime green foliage of coral bells, a variegated ivy, or pale yellow snapdragons.
Viola ‘Cool Summer Breeze’
‘Cool Summer Breeze’ showcases blue, white, and yellow shades.
‘Cool Summer Breeze’ violas bring tranquility in shades of blue, white, and soft yellow. Singular flowers add to the collection in colors of deep blue, white tinged with a blue pencil edge, and white with sunny yellow centers.
‘Cool Summer Breeze’ benefits from afternoon shade in warmer weather for prolonged blooms. Grow them to brighten up containers and bring pleasing blues; the cool blue tones contrast nicely with darker foliage.
This variety features vibrant yellow, white, and purple petals.
Viola tricolor brings a vibrant petal combination of rich yellow, creamy white, and dark purple. These Johnny Jump-Ups showcase purple wings and dark whiskers to contrast the cheery gold and ivory face.
A classic viola color scheme, these wild violas are a sweet surprise in the landscape and containers. Grow them in borders, rock gardens, meadows, pollinator gardens, and planters (noting they may reseed readily).
Viola ‘King Henry’
‘King Henry’ has velvety purple blooms, violet wings, and dark whiskers that add a royal charm.
King Henry showcases velvety purple blooms that sparkle in the winter garden. It has bright violet wings against a throat of dark purple, white, and yellow with dark whiskers.
Each little violet bloom looks like an orchid in detail. ‘King Henry’ adds royal charm and vibrant color throughout the cool season.
Viola ‘Penny Blue’
‘Penny Blue’ is a variety of early-blooming, compact plants from the Penny series.
The ‘Penny’ series of viola offers an array of colorful blooms with early flowering and a uniform form. The plant is bred to be tightly branched, curbing stem stretch under warm conditions. Covered in one-inch flowers, plants reach a height of 4-6 inches and a width of 4-6 inches.
Colors in the ‘Penny’ viola series are numerous, from clear white to blotched varieties, where petals appear delicately painted in striking colors. ‘Penny Blue’ is a sweet garden addition with a pure, clear face and mid-to-deep blue flower that offers a classic look from fall through spring.
Look for mixed bedding packs at your local nursery to add complementary colors to borders and containers. Like ‘Penny All Seasons Mix’ (combining flowers in deep blue, orange, yellow, and white), mixes are pre-selected and grown in rich combinations.
Viola ‘Penny Yellow’
This viola adds a vibrant golden color and pairs well with various other hues for a striking display.
Viola ‘Penny Yellow’ brings a cheery splash of sunshine to the cool season garden. With its bright face, the flowers are a pleasing golden yellow. Deep purple whiskers dash the yellow petals in a painterly fashion.
‘Penny’ violas produce multitudinous flowers throughout the season, ensuring a vibrant display. The yellow version packs a punch of color and pairs beautifully with deep purples, corals, blues, and whites.
‘Penny Yellow’ is a sweet garden addition used with other violas, as a stand-alone mass planting, or to highlight a planting arrangement with a sunny burst of color. Try it with flowering kale and ornamental grasses for a striking complement.
Viola ‘Sorbet XP Deep Orange’
Orange violas bring bold, rich color and pair well with various plants.
Violas in orange hues add a pop to the garden and can stand alone or be used in mixed varieties. ‘Sorbet XP Deep Orange’ is particularly bold, with shades ranging from dark to light orange on a single bloom.
‘Sorbet Deep Orange’ is one of the deepest orange violas available; it is richer than brighter varieties, giving depth and versatility to garden plantings from fall through spring. The color creates a striking combination of leafy greens, flowering kale, and purple heuchera for a fun fall or Halloween garden display.
The ‘Sorbet’ series is bred for heat and cold tolerance, excellent for overwintering and extended bloom times. Plants are compact and uniform, reaching 6-8 inches tall with a 6-8 inch spread with more blooms per plant. The series holds many pure, clear colors that mix in numerous complementary ways.
Viola ‘Sorbet XP Marina’
This variety boasts delicate watercolor hues and is perfect for mass plantings.
Viola ‘Sorbet XP Marina’ yields a sea of lavender and blue petals against a white face with a deep purple blotch and a yellow halo.
Plant in mass for the most significant impact, or add to containers to brighten and punctuate the arrangement. The blue and white watercolor hues will take your garden from fall to spring.
Marina is lovely as a foreground planting to upright rosemary or another evergreen anchor. Tissue paper blooms with watery hues stand out amongst deep green leaves. These are also sweet with yellow or coral snapdragons.
Viola ‘Sorbet XP Red Blotch’
The deep red bloom resembles a velvet button and adds warmth to the winter landscape.
This deep red viola bloom looks like a petite button of velvet. Hues of scarlet meet a dark purple blotch and a bright yellow-orange center.
Invoking the colors of fall and the holidays, ‘Sorbet XP Red Blotch’ violas add warmth and richness to the cool season landscape, stand out among a frosty backdrop, and brighten a front entrance.
Red Blotch creates a glow in garden beds or potted displays. For all-winter charm, accent a central evergreen with an underplanting of this scarlet viola. Add dusty miller for a splash of silver.
Viola ‘Tiger Eye’
Tiger Eye features a unique color pattern with yellow and red petals and deep purple and scarlet veins.
‘Tiger Eye’ brings a wild bloom to the viola family with an exciting color combination. Available in yellow and red, deep purple and scarlet veins outline each flower.
Its novel color pattern and performance make ‘Tiger Eye’ a real showstopper, perfect for Halloween and fall. ‘Tiger Eye’ is more decorated and detailed than other viola varieties, with big colors to match.
This detailed, bold little flower makes a statement. ‘Tiger Eye’ plants are 5-7 inches high with a 4-6 inch spread.
‘Celestial Blue Moon’ Viola
This viola has a sweet fragrance and blooms from spring through fall.
‘Celestial Blue Moon’ has a sweet fragrance to drift through the breeze. This violet blooms from spring through the fall in petals of creamy white. Brushed blue edges tinge the ivory petals, punctuated by a yellow center.
‘Celestial Blue Moon’ is hardy in USDA zones 5-8, noted for its winter hardiness and heat tolerance. With deep evergreen foliage and early flowering, the compact ‘Celestial Blue Moon’ violet makes an excellent border, woodland, or container plant.
These violets are heat-tolerant and known for their sweet fragrance and showy purple flowers.
Corsican violets are prized wild violets native to the Mediterranean regions of France and Italy. They produce large, pansy-size purple flowers on long stems that float above deep green leaves.
Hardy in USDA zones 3-8, Corsican violets are often grown as annuals. They are heat-tolerant and perform well in containers, gracing your garden with a wonderfully sweet fragrance and showy orchid-like flowers.
Viola odorata ‘Etain’ is a fragrant wood violet with lavender-edged, pale yellow flowers, ideal for shade gardens and groundcover.
Viola odorata ‘Etain’ is a wood violet or sweet violet that forms a clumping habit with delightfully fragrant blooms. Lavender margins tinge pale yellow petals on pansy-like one to two-inch flowers.
‘Etain’ performs best in the shade and reaches a height of 6-8 inches with a spread of 10-14 inches. A low-growing perennial, ‘Etain,’ forms an attractive groundcover.
‘Etain’ is hardy in USDA zones 4-8. With its showy bloom and attractive foliage, ‘Etain’ is an elegant choice for blooms from spring through summer.
Pansies are the larger-petaled descendants of violas. These are still part of the Viola family, but are all hybridized offshoots of the true viola category. While their blooms are bigger, they produce fewer per plant, and while all pansies are violas, not all violas are pansies. They are also a beautiful, frost-tolerant option.
‘Delta Beaconsfield’ Pansy
‘Delta Beaconsfield’ pansies feature a captivating watercolor effect, providing a visually appealing addition.
The ‘Delta Beaconsfield’ pansy combines dark purple lower petals and light blue upper petals that blur on the bloom with a pretty watercolor or tie-dyed effect. Tissue-like petals appear lightly dotted with a brush or partially dipped in violet ink – quite striking.
With soft and bright visual appeal, ‘Delta Beaconsfield’ is a beautiful garden or container pansy throughout the cool season. The flowers bring a combination of blue/purple/white hues not achieved in other seasonal bloomers in the landscape. Beaconsfield pops against fall foliage colors and complements blooms of white, yellow, coral, and rose.
The ‘Delta’ pansy series is known for heat tolerance with minimal stretching. Deltas have robust root systems, making them an excellent choice for overwintering and rebounding from warm and cold temperatures. ‘Delta’ pansies have 3-inch flowers, and plants typically grow 4-6 inches tall by 4-6 inches wide.
‘Delta Premium Red with Blotch’ Pansy
Deep red pansies with yellow centers and purple blotches create a bold, cheerful addition to fall and holiday landscapes.
A luscious, velvety bloom in deep red, a grouping of red blotch pansies makes a bold accent in the landscape. Large flowers have bright yellow centers surrounded by a deep purple blotch on the lower petals. Hues of crimson comprise outer edges and background petals.
This happy red flower is perfect for fall and into the holiday season and is lovely against a frosty backdrop. Plant these with evergreens like dwarf conifers or upright rosemary. Add dusty miller and ivy for a complete arrangement.
‘Delta Pro Clear White’ Pansy
The ‘Delta Pro Clear White’ pansy offers a classic, pure white three-inch bloom that looks striking in mass plantings.
The ‘Delta Pro Clear White’ pansy brings a three-inch pure white bloom for a crisp and bright garden planting.
White pansies create a classic look for mass plantings and look fresh when combined with deep reds, purples, and blues. With an evergreen backdrop, the ‘Delta Pro Clear White’ pansy stands out in garden containers.
‘Flirty Skirts Burgundy’ Pansy
‘Flirty Skirts Burgundy’ features ruffled, three-inch blooms in deep reddish-purple with distinctive markings.
The ‘Flirty Skirts Burgundy’ variety brings the most ruffled petals to the pansy party. Flowers seem even more prominent with large, three-inch blooms because of their ruffles, rich color, and smiling faces.
‘Flirty Skirts Burgundy’ is a deep reddish-purple flower with jet-black markings. Blooms are more upright than other ruffled varieties (which can nod heavily) and make an excellent container feature.
‘Freefall Purple Wing’ Pansy
The ‘Freefall’ Pansy series offers tidy, spreading pansies that can withstand challenging climates.
The ‘Freefall’ pansy series is bred to be a tidy, spreading pansy that tolerates challenging climate conditions. Novel in its spreading form, trailing pansy varieties bring a dainty container “spiller” option we’ve been missing.
The ‘Freefall Purple Wing’ variety features plentiful flowers with a bright gold face and violet wings. Trailing pansies tend to have blooms somewhere between the size of a viola and a pansy, giving them a delicate look.
The ‘Freefall Purple Wing’ pansy has a height of 4-6 inches and a spread of 14-20 inches. As with ‘Cool Wave Frost’ (listed below), this spreading pansy makes the most significant impact in garden containers for a trailing effect.
‘Frizzle Sizzle Lemonberry’ Pansy
‘Frizzle Sizzle Lemonberry’ is a colorful and frilly pansy with ruffled petals and part of the ‘Frizzle Sizzle’ series.
This fun and fancy pansy has layers of ruffled petals, shades moving from dark berry to lemon with a frilly pink edge. ‘Frizzle Sizzle Lemonberry’ is a delicious indulgence of color in the world of pansies and a fun twist on the classic garden flower.
The ‘Frizzle Sizzle’ varieties of ruffled pansies include burgundy, blue, yellow, and raspberry colors. Plants have more pronounced ruffles in cold weather and grow 6-8 inches high by 8-10 inches wide.
‘Majestic Giants Fire with Blotch’ Pansy
These brilliant pansies feature a striking combination of purple, yellow, and red.
The ‘Majestic Giants Fire with Blotch’ pansy glows with a contrasting combination of a deep purple center fading to vibrant yellow wings and topped with fiery red upper petals. This unique variety adds colorful interest to the fall garden.
The ‘Majestic Giants’ pansy series is bred for extra-large blooms at four inches across over a compact form. It tolerates both warm conditions and winter temperatures, overwintering well to rebloom in the spring.
‘Majestic Giants Yellow with Blotch’ Pansy
‘Majestic Giants Yellow with Blotch’ features large, deep yellow blooms with a dark center.
This large, deep yellow bloom with a dark center represents a classic pansy combination. Stunning in garden beds, along pathways, or filling up a garden planter, these gold blooms float and flutter.
‘Majestic Giants Yellow with Blotch’ is an excellent choice for autumnal beds and pots, ushering in the season’s hues with a boost of color. Extra large blooms are vigorous and withstand warmer temperatures.
‘Matrix Purple’ Pansy
The ‘Matrix Purple’ pansy adds a rich, elegant touch and is suitable for planting in cold climates.
This dark purple flower creates a rich, lush look. Plant in a group or use ‘Matrix Purple’ as an accent to contrast with white or yellow varieties. The royal purple bloom is also elegant among deep green or silver foliage.
The ‘Matrix’ pansy series is intended for cold climates while tailored to perform equally well in zones with longer days and warmer growing seasons. If you live in southern climate zones, Matrix is an excellent option for fall planting. Plants have extra-large pansy blooms and grow 8 inches tall and 8 inches wide.
‘Matrix Sunrise’ Pansy
‘Matrix Sunrise’ flowers feature a range of warm hues and dark red blotches, making them stand out in containers.
This spectacular sunrise-inspired variety captures hues of peach, tawny rose, warm gold, bronze, and pale yellow. A dark red blotch adds to the warmth of the flower.
‘Matrix Sunrise’ blooms make striking stand-alone features in a container or alongside darker greens. Their unique tones, variation, and blend of colors differ in combination with any other flower in the winter garden. Look to ‘Matrix Sunrise’ to add a glow to the season!
‘Matrix True Blue’ Pansy
‘Matrix True Blue’ offers a rare touch of deep blue.
Pansies allow us to incorporate beautiful shades of blue we may not be able to find in other seasons. The ‘Matrix True Blue’ pansy is a classic choice to bring large, deep blue flowers into garden beds and planters.
‘Matrix True Blue’ is an extra-large flowering pansy that creates a wash of blue waves in the garden. Incredible in a container, ‘Matrix True Blue’ punctuates foliage in any color – from dark green to chartreuse to purple. The rich blue shines in formal and informal arrangements, from rustic fall arrangements to elegant winter displays – a universal hue.
Spreading Pansy ‘Cool Wave Frost’
‘Cool Wave Frost’ is a trailing variety with a frosty, light blue bloom that cascades well in containers.
The ‘Cool Wave’ pansy series brings a delicate trailing pansy to the garden. The frosty bloom of this variety brings a light blue “ice” over white petals as the plant matures. The blue tinge becomes more pronounced in cool weather.
Best suited to cascade over a garden planter or to trail over a window box or hanging basket, plants reach 6-8 inches high with a spread of 24-30 inches. Like the ‘Freefall’ pansy series, ‘Cool Wave Frost’ offers a graceful texture of color to spill over container gardens.
‘Pink Shades’ Panola Mix
‘Pink Shades’ panola mix has pastel-colored blooms ranging from blush to lavender to mauve.
Panolas are a cross between violas and pansies, offering the best of both plants in winter hardiness, abundant blooms, and sturdy branching. Flowers are smaller than a pansy and more significant than a viola with thicker petals. Generally, plants reach a height of 6-8 inches with a spread of 8-10 inches.
‘Pink Shades’ is a delicate panola mix worthy of feature due to its pastel color scheme. Blossoms range from soft blush to lavender to mauve. A pretty mix ready for the garden planter, ‘Pink Shades’ makes a charming option for fall and spring.
‘XP Purple’ Panola
The ‘XP Purple’ panola combines deep purple pansy and viola traits, showcasing a rich, midnight tone.
This panola variety brings the deep solid purple bloom of its pansy and viola parents with a compact and abundant flowering habit. ‘XP Purple’ differs from other purple viola varieties in its darker, midnight tone of purple.
The royal purple panola is available as a singular color or in a nursery mix of yellow, white, scarlet, and rose panolas. This purple gives a rich contrast and elegant anchor among lighter hues in a blend.
‘XP Rose Picotee’ Panola
The ‘XP Rose Picotee’ panola combines deep red and yellow with a rose wing, offering a vibrant and contrasting addition.
The panola ‘XP Rose Picotee’ combines deep red and yellow with a rose-tinged wing. With its punchy bloom, this variety brings contrast and color to the garden with a single flower.
Solid rose-colored anterior petals soften the vibrant foreground or reds and yellows. Use ‘XP Rose Picotee’ in a grouping or as a highlight against solid flower colors of rose, blue, or yellow and against leafy greens, flowering kale, and evergreens.
Violas bring abundant color to the cool-season garden and container designs. Readily available in bedding packs from your local nursery in fall and spring, the ambitious gardener can also sow violas directly from seed.
With myriad varieties, violas make wonderful overplantings for spring bulbs like daffodils, tulips, and alliums. Plant the cheery yellow daffodil Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’ bulbs beneath clusters of ‘True Blue,’ ‘Purple,’ or ‘Clear White’ violas in the fall for a spring display. Violas also pair beautifully with cool-season annuals like snapdragons, sweet alyssum, flowering kale, and Swiss chard.