Violas in my book, are true winter annuals, as opposed to what I call “Shoulder Season” annuals such as Snapdragons and Petunias that can handle the desert’s heat that stretches into autumn’s months where the thermometer seems to stall out in the upper 80’s and ’90s. Some years, longer than others. (For more on “Shoulder Season Plants – Click here)
Here in the desert, you might think of Violas as a tender annual. Planted too soon (in the heat) and they will melt away. A deep freeze will also challenge their lifespan.
Some years, a prolonged summer and accompanying heat delay our winter flowers’ arrival to nurseries because it is too hot for the growers to encourage their growth, nevertheless to release them to consumers.
For those of you who are interested in the genus of plants, Violas are of the genus, Violas which includes a broad spectrum of annuals, perennials, and small shrubs. The names of other plants included in this genus are Pansies, Johnny-Jump-Ups, and Violets. I have always thought of Johnny-Jump-Ups as a Viola but Pansies as a distinct flower – related to Violas but not the same.
Why I like Violas in our Desert Pots
It’s obvious why Violas stand out as a garden favorite. They come in a vast array of cheerfully bright colors. The mix of shades within each flower offers a broadening variety as new hybrids are introduced each year. Since they do well throughout our winter season, Violas are a delightful view welcoming every morning even on the coldest days.
A bonus of Violas is that they are edible so be sure to plant extra to spruce up your salads!
Violas enjoy the desert’s full sun in the cooler periods of the year but can also be planted in part shade. They may get a little leggy but I never mind this as it gives another long trailing plant for your pots.
Using Violas in Pots
Violas are a great mid-height plant that will cascade over the pot’s rim, so they can be planted towards the edge of the pots.
Violas can be planted as a single type flower filling a pot or combined with other annuals for a huge combination planter. Choose a color from your violas to repeat in other flower selections such as in this photo with Johnny Jump-Ups and Orange Calendula.
You might want to plant them in moveable pots and adjust their location through the season depending on your sun, temperatures, both hot and cold. However, if you wait until the weather is pleasantly cool, they will be perfectly happy in your pots all winter long.
I don’t often speak of hanging baskets in our desert climate. During the winter months, we can certainly enjoy hanging beauty they give us. Violas are a perfect option for the baskets as long as they are not allowed to dry out in the sun and wind.
Look for Violas in the nursery beginning in late October or November – and then all winter long. You want to wait to purchase and plant them when the night temperatures are sticking to the mid-fifties. This will give them the best chance to get off to a strong start, without having to struggle through a hot period in September and October.
Violas enjoy a rich, peat-based planting mix that gives them a consistently moist medium to spread their roots. Use my regular fertilizer instructions and planting techniques. If the plant’s root ball is dry, water it thoroughly before planting.
Dig a keep hole in your container’s soil, but make sure that you don’t cover the roots more than they were in the can. Space them about one inch apart to fill your pots from day one. Pack the soil around them and water well after planting.
No special care is needed for Violas. They do best in consistently moist conditions. I recommend deadheading weekly and supplementing their nutrients with a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks. Jet-blast and deadhead as you would any flowering plant. Be sure to deadhead down the stem to a junction point or where you see new growth.
Cover your violas as you would any tender plants when the forecast predicts temperatures at 32° or lower. Remember to adapt your plans depending on the variations in your temperature based on your location, elevation, and microclimates
Post pictures of your Violas in the comments below!