Plant Palette

Plant Palette

Wild Violets

Photo of Jennifer Schultz Nelson

Jennifer Schultz Nelson
Extension Educator, Horticulture
jaschult@illinois.edu

As a young girl I had a different sense of what constituted a "weed". I would make gardens by transplanting various volunteer plants I found sprouting up in the garden or the yard. This got me into plenty of trouble! Most of the time what I cultivated was a carefully manicured garden of weeds, or occasionally flowers grown from seed.

One of the plants I routinely transplanted from our yard was wild violets. To me, they were and still are a very pretty flower. Little did I know that most people consider them weeds and regularly wage war on them each growing season!

If wild violets are threatening a hostile takeover of your yard, and you are not ready to surrender quite yet, you may have a lengthy battle ahead of you. Wild violets are classified among weeds as "hard to control".

They are perennial, and have a very dense root system that can be hard to eradicate by pulling. Wild violets grow best in shady, moist soil. Most grass grows poorly in these conditions, leaving little or no competition for violets to move in and take over.

Effective chemical control of wild violets is limited. Products like Roundup® containing glyphosate will eliminate violets, and any other green vegetation in the area it touches. Post-emergence broadleaf herbicides specifically listing wild violets on the label may be applied, but unfortunately they are often ineffective, even with repeat applications. Formulations available only to commercial lawn and garden operations also have limited effectiveness on wild violets.

If you are willing to sacrifice some of your lawn to violets, it really is a good thing in my opinion. Violets grow where most grass will not, they provide beautiful spring color, and if you have not sprayed herbicide on them, the flowers are edible. I recently saw a small bottle of candied violets for sale in a gourmet food shop. Who knew that most of us have gourmet weeds growing in the backyard?

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