Dainty violet (Viola spp. And cultivars) flowers amid heart-shaped leaves have been a favourite garden subject for centuries. There are about 400 species of violets indigenous to both Southern and Northern Hemisphere temperate forests, and lots of garden cultivars. Flower colors include white, pink, red, blue, lavender and purple, and also a cultivar can show variable colour depending on where and how it’s grown. Violets may be fragrant or scentless. Purple violets include some of the most fragrant and showy cultivars.
These intensely fragrant violets are heirloom plants, grown in Italy from the 16th century. They had been a favourite of the Bourbon kings and of Napoleon and his second wife, Marie Louise. Parma violets (V. alba cultivars) are double-flowered and grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 7 through 9. “Parme de Toulouse” flowers are bluish-purple to rosy purple; “Marie Louise” ranges from soft to deep purple, and is the most commonly grown of the Parma violets. All these cultivars appreciate partial shade and a well-draining soil.
Another fragrant purple blossom belongs to sweet violet (V. odorata), but it is not quite as sweet-smelling as Parma violets. Also referred to as wood violet, English violet, florist’s violet and garden violet, this species is indigenous to Europe and Asia but is now grown worldwide. Sweet violet cultivars happen in many colors, including blue, white, lilac, rose, red, royal purple and violet. The main bloom periods are in spring and fall, with some summer and winter rebloom in mild winter regions. Sweet violet grows in USDA zones 6 through 8.
Suitable for wet locations, marsh violet (V. obliqua, formerly V. cucullata), also called purple violet, spreads underground by means of fleshy rhizomes. Sensors are 2 inches tall and 4 to 6 inches wide. Flowers range from blue-violet to light blue to white. It flowers in late spring and does not have a fragrance. Plants grow in USDA zones 4 through 9. Kidney-shaped leaves have teeth along the margins. Native to eastern North America, marsh violet tolerates both partial and full shade.
Purple Labrador Violet
This low-growing native of eastern North America has small light-purple flowers in spring and fall, and also in cool summers. Purple Labrador violet (V. riviniana, formerly V. labradorica) favors cool, moist rich soil and partial to full shade, such as under deciduous trees. Heart-shaped leaves are tinged with purple also. This violet is fantastic for borders, edgings, massed plantings and containers, blending well with different plants with coloured leaves. Flowers aren’t fragrant. Plants grow in USDA zones 3 through 9.