Spotlight on violas


DIY and how-to

Vibrant purple violas with yellow centres clustered together.

Violas are easy-to-grow, vibrant annuals that will add a burst of colour to any spot that receives winter sunshine. They grow very well when planted underneath deciduous trees, as this gives them sunlight in winter and partial shade when the weather warms up in spring. In these conditions, your violas may flower all the way up to December. 


Both violas and pansies belong to the Viola family. They are extremely hardy and, with the right care, can tolerate the coldest winter. However, they are distinctly different. Compared to pansies, violas typically grow lower and encourage smaller, more abundant blooms. The secret to distinguishing between violas and pansies lies in the petals. If there are two petals pointing upwards and three pointing downwards, it’s a viola. If there are four petals pointing upwards, and only one pointing downwards, you’re looking at a pansy. 


  • Violas do best in an area that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. 


  • Water violas regularly, about once or twice per week, allowing the soil to dry out in between waterings. 
  • Ensure the soil never becomes waterlogged, as this can cause the roots of your violas to rot. 
  • Violas can tolerate periods of drought, but thrive when watered regularly. 


  • Grow in a rich and well-draining soil. 
  • To enrich the soil, use leaf mould or well-rotted organic matter such as manure. 


  • Feeding every 2 to 4 weeks with an ordinary 3:2:3 fertiliser will maintain healthy growth and encourage abundant blooms.
  • Fertilising in spring and late summer will also encourage winter blooms. 

Expert tips

  • Deadhead violas regularly by pinching off the blooms at the base of the flower stem to encourage the development of new blooms and extend the flowering period.
  • Leggy or overgrown violas can be revived by cutting them back to about 8 to 10cm tall. 
  • Interplant smaller violas and larger pansies in your garden beds for a striking display. 
  • Trailing violas and pansies are also an excellent choice for ground cover and hanging baskets.