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Growing Heartsease (Viola Tricolor)

Updated on October 26, 2013

Introduction to Heartsease

The Viola Tricolor (Latin name) is from the Violaceae family. They are an annual or perennial plant growing up to 15cm & are usually chosen for their long season of beautiful flowers.

When first looking up the Viola Tricolor we discover that it has many more names it is known by, the most common being 'Heartsease,' 'Wild Pansy' or 'Johny Jump Up.'

Other names include;

  • Heart's Ease
  • Love-Lies-Bleeding
  • Live-In-Idleness
  • Love Idle
  • Meet-me-in-the-entry
  • Kiss-her-in-the-Buttery
  • Bird's Eye

Viola Tricolor in UK & Ireland

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1987 Hectad Map of Wild Pansy2010 Hectad Map of Wild Pansy
1987 Hectad Map of Wild Pansy
1987 Hectad Map of Wild Pansy | Source
2010 Hectad Map of Wild Pansy
2010 Hectad Map of Wild Pansy | Source


Heartsease are found most commonly across Europe but also in the UK. They are most likely to be discovered in wasteland, hedge banks & in gardens.

There has been a severe decline, however, of Wild Heartsease in the UK over recent years (see maps).

It appears to thrive especially in & around corn fields, perhaps due to the shelter provided. They grow in acid or neutral soils although they prefer light, well drained soil which should be kept moist.

They are most happy in partial shade or full sun.

How To Grow Viola Tricolor

These plants are extremely easy to grow from seed, as I always have done so myself. There are different methods out there on the net for achieving germination but I have always used the "simple" means I have available with great effect.

  1. Fill seed trays/ pots with (if possible natural compost, not essential by any means).
  2. Spread the seeds a couple of centimetres apart & cover with 0.5cm of fine compost.
  3. Place in a sunny window & keep damp.
  4. Seeds should germinate in just a few days. Continue to keep soil moist.
  5. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, re-pot at around 5cm apart & place outside in Spring/ Summer or, if you haven't already, begin hardening for colder temperatures..


Distinguishing Features

Although this plant may vary considerably in form, it will still portray the following distinguishing features which set it apart from other Violas. In order to identify correctly a Viola Tricolor we must look carefully for the following:

  • The bright, 10-25mm Flowers are their most magnificent asset & are formed from five petals which are zygomorphic, (having bilateral symmetry). Although these can vary in colour they will usually be predominantly bluish purple with some yellow or white, more usually a combination of these colours, the first two being especially prominent. The top petals usually display the deepest colour & are the narrowest, the yellow & whites will display on the lower petals along with characteristic "whiskers".
  • Foliage; Typically Violas have scalloped leaves although there are other varieties. The leaves are also smaller than other Pansy varieties.

Established Plants & New Batch

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One of my favourite photos of my Spring sewn batch.Spring '13 batch.Autumn '13 batch in window.First night outdoors due to mild Autumn weather.Two strong plants planted straight outdoors at around 22 days.
One of my favourite photos of my Spring sewn batch.
One of my favourite photos of my Spring sewn batch.
Spring '13 batch.
Spring '13 batch.
Autumn '13 batch in window.
Autumn '13 batch in window.
First night outdoors due to mild Autumn weather.
First night outdoors due to mild Autumn weather.
Two strong plants planted straight outdoors at around 22 days.
Two strong plants planted straight outdoors at around 22 days.

Just be aware Violas can withstand some frost, but not a severe snow storm. They can be brought indoors or covered with a large glass jar.

Hardening Seedlings

In the colder months it is necessary to 'harden off' seedlings before moving them permanently outdoors. In the case of mild weather for the time of year, make the most of this by leaving seedlings outdoors as much as possible. In harsh/very cold conditions keep a closer eye on them. The seedlings will tell you if they are unhappy by their appearance.

  • Choose a sheltered location for placing your seedlings.
  • Stand seedlings outdoors for about 4 hours the first day and increase the time outside by 1-2 hours each day.
  • Make sure the soil stays moist. Outdoor winds can dry pots quickly.
  • Usually after about 10 - 14 days of hardening, seedlings should be ready to be transplanted outdoors permanently.

How simple do you feel it would be to grow your own Violas?

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