Wild Violet – Overview of Facts, Growing Conditions

Wild violet is a small purple/blue flowers that emerge in early spring.  They commonly grow in yards, gardens, borders of forests.  But generally don’t take over an area unless they are left unchecked for a long time.

Common violet bloom, zoomed. close up, macro photo

If you are reading this then it is likely Spring time in your area. And you are probably wondering what all of those pretty little purple flowers are popping up in yards and wild areas.  Congratulations!  Spring is definitely here as violets are one of the surest signs of warmer temperatures to come.

Wild Violet Facts

  • It is native to North America, from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean
  • Has been used medicinally by Native Americans and Early settlers
  • Spreads via seed and Rhizomes
  • Both young leaves and flowers are edible
  • A really cool evolutionary trick developed by the violet is that the seeds attract ants. The ants in turn carry seeds to new locations furthering their spread.
wild violet flower

Violet Identification and Physical Description

Wild violet, (Viola soroia) is a herbaceous perennial plant that have the leaves and flowers come straight up from the roots / rhizomes.  They make a small basal rosette of leaves.  If they are allowed to grow unchecked, this rosette can become about 6″ (15 cm) across and 3-4″ (10 cm) tall.


wild violet leaves

The green leaves of wild violet have a very unique shape.  They are kind of a strange roundish, oval or even heart shape (cordate).  But they wrap around their stem, almost forming a kind of funnel or incomplete bowl.  The edges will be serrated. [1]


The flowers of wild violet are dark purple, with 5 petals.  The inner-throat of the flower is white.  Two petals are on top, two on the side, and a final petal at the bottom.  It is thought that the 5th petal on the bottom is for insects/pollinators to land on.  The flowers will bloom for 4-6 weeks.  Once the temperatures get hot, above 80 F (27 C) the flowers generally fade and disappear. [1]

There is an additional self-pollinating flower (cleistogamous) that will produce seeds.  The seeds are thrown from the flower when the pod is breached from seed maturation or other forces acting upon it.


The roots of this flower are shallow rhizomes, which are thick and spread horizontally.  This allows another means for the flower to reproduce, as it can form a large grouping if left unchecked from competition or herbicides.

Wild Violet Propagation

Violets can be propagated by seed or division.  The seeds of wild violets are thrown from the plant when mature.  This can be a difficult seed to germinate, so it is best to let mother nature do it for you.  Just scatter seeds in the general area you wish to grow them, then watch for heart shaped leaves to emerge in spring/summer.  But, if you are dead set on germinating the seeds yourself, then OK.

Soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water, then winter sow the seeds in seed starting mix or potting soil.  Leave outside throughout the winter, as this plant needs at least a two-month cold/moist stratification period to break dormancy.  Alternatively, you can stratify them in the refrigerator using a moist paper towel inside a zip-lock bag, or use moist sand.

Wild violet colony along a road.

For root division, or just digging up random violet plants – it is best to do this in the fall.  Plants generally do not survive transplanting when blooming or making seeds.  It is therefore recommended to only divide or transplant established flowers when the plant is approaching or is dormant.  Since this is an early Spring blooming flower, it should not be dug up in Spring, as all of the plants energy is going into producing the flower.

Grow and Care

The native violet, Viola sororia preferred living conditions is in full sun or partial shade and moist/medium soil.  Hence, it is common to find them along forest roads, open woods, and in lawns.  They grow best in moist to medium soil.  And seem to be able to tolerate clay, but like most plants, do best in black fertile loam.

Since they are able to spread via rhizomes, they have the potential to become invasive.  They spread within lawns quite readily, as many of you have probably observed.  But since they are native plants, they are very well adapted to the temperate regions of Eastern North America.  That means that they are generally not very susceptible to disease, and will most often thrive given the right conditions.

Bloom duration

These can make a stunning display in mass plantings, as you will essentially have a purple carpet of flowers that will last for one month to six weeks long.  They are an early Spring bloomer, and could very well be used as a compliment to our other early Spring bloomers you should have in your garden.

Fauna Associations

Bees do visit the flowers, but not heavily.  Rabbits and deer will eat foliage of this plant. The most interesting interaction with wildlife to me is that ants will actually carry the seeds off, and help spread the plant. Many game birds eat the seeds, such as doves, quail, and turkey.  Turkey also eat the leaves and roots.

Fritillary butterfly caterpillars will eat the leaves of this plant.  This includes the Diana Fritillary, Silver-bordered Fritillary, Meadow Fritillary, and the Variegated Fritillary caterpillar.

I found this Variegated Fritillary caterpillar right next to my front flower bed that has a large number of violets growing in it. No doubt he had been eating the leaves and was now off to pupate into a butterfly.

Wild Violet Edible

The flowers and young leaves are edible, and reportedly high in vitamin A & C.  They can be used as garnish, in salads, or used to make a tea.  Additionally, you can make jams and other items from the flowers.

Eating Violet flowers

You can extract the color and fragrance of violets in water by covering the flowers in boiling water and waiting for a time.  And, if you add a sugar and boil again you can make a syrup that has been used as a tonic and cough medicine.  Furthermore, if you add pectin it can be turned into a jelly that smells wonderful.  And finally, you can candy the flowers by dipping them in a boiling sugar syrup, and then rolling them in white sugar to coat them.  Apparently candied violets were once a popular confection. [2]

Violet leaves are edible too

Young Violet leaves in Spring can be eaten raw, used as a salad green, and the leaves can also be cooked as a potherb or added to soups.  The cooked leaves can be a thickening agent to soup. [2]


Note – since this plant is generally considered a weed on people’s lawns, you should make sure that no chemicals have been sprayed on this plant prior to harvesting.  Also, the roots, fruit/seeds of this plant are poisonous and should not be consumed.


[1] – Duncan, Wilbur H., and Marion B. Duncan. Wildflowers of the eastern United States. Vol. 20. University of Georgia Press, 2005.

[2] – Hall, Alan. The wild food trailguide. Holt McDougal, pp 155. 1976. ISBN-13# 978-0030167416

Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over 10 years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! You may have seen some of my videos I create on our YouTube channel, GrowitBuildit (more than 10 million views!). You can find my channel here: https://youtube.com/@growitbuildit Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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