Pansies and violets both belong to the genus Viola, and virtually all these flowering plants are perennials treated as annuals. Their flowers have a very long bloom time, typically from spring through frost in cold areas, and can bloom throughout winter in warm areas like California. Although pansies and violets share several similarities, they also have some differences.
Pansies have a more compact increase than violets, and pansy blossoms are generally bigger, about 2-3 inches in diameter, with distinct markings or blotches which look like a face. The blossom petals differ as well. Pansies have four petals that point upward and one which goes downward; violets have three petals that point upward and 2 which point downward. Violet flowers are generally a white and white blue-violet to yellow color.
Violets produce two types of flowers. The first are ordinary, vibrant flowers that rise above plant leaf; they are pollinated and set seed. The second are inconspicuous, short-stemmed blossoms which make numerous seeds without pollination, and the plants they produce are equal to the parent plant. Several violets often produce above-ground runners. Pansies generally are propagated by seeds; but some varieties are propagated by cuttings. By way of instance, “Arkwright’s Ruby,” which has blood-red blossoms, can be propagated by cuttings.
Both violets and pansies are cold-hardy. Pansies, however, can survive in cold winter temperatures, and you might even see their brightly colored flowers peeking from beneath a thin blanket of snow. Pansies and violets cannot withstand high heat and heat. In areas with hot summers, the plants don’t bloom well and take on a ragged look. Encourage flowers on both kinds of the plants by picking off their faded blooms. Should you leave faded blooms on the plants, the plants put their energy into seed production.
Growing Conditions and Uses
Violets and pansies require similar growing conditions, except violets need partial to full shade while pansies withstand full sun to partial shade. Violets are indigenous to deciduous forests so need some sunlight during flowering season to make blooms. Pansies often are utilized to provide mass color for borders and edgings and as cover to get spring-flowering bulbs. Violets are used most often for rock gardens and as woodland plants.