How to Grow Viola Tricolor Johnny Jump-ups

Cool season flowers, these miniature pansy like blooms are a perennial favorite in cottage gardens world wide. See tips on how to grow Heartsease in the landscape.

Viola tricolor plants have been around for centuries and were used in salads and teas, as well as charming ground covers in mixed flower beds.

Cultivation Information and How to Grow Viola Tricolor

  • Botanical and Common Name: Viola tricolor plants are often referred to as Johnny Jump-Ups, Heartsease or Wild Pansy.
  • Plant Category: Johnny jump-ups are herbaceous perennials that can be hardy up to zone 2.
  • Bloom Time and Color: Since they are cool weather annuals, Johnny jump-ups will bloom in the spring, fade during the heat of summer, and will often return with a new flush of flowers in the fall. The species are tri-colored blooms of purple, yellow and white but new cultivars have been developed in a wide variety of two-toned and three-toned blooms.
  • Foliage: The heart-shaped leaves are evergreen in some areas but tiny.
  • Growth Habit: Johnny jump-up plants grow in 3 to 6-inch clumps.
  • Dimensions: Wild pansies are small plants reaching only about 6 inches tall and wide at the maximum.
  • Maintenance: Viola tricolor doesn’t need any maintenance at all if the gardener doesn’t feel up to it, however they often get trimmed down in the summer when grassy lawns are mowed. Gardeners don’t need to worry about giving these charming plants a summer trimming as they are sure to return with the cooler fall weather. If plants get lanky or stemmy, gardeners can either trim them back or pull them out as volunteer seedlings will fill in any gaps.
  • Pests or Diseases: Johnny jump-ups have few pests or diseases (snails, slugs, mildews and fungus) to be concerned about.
  • Propagation Methods: These tiny violets will spread slowly via stems in the ground, but are most well-known for self-seeding throughout the landscape. This tendency gives them the common name of “Johnny jump-ups”. Sow seed directly outdoors in early spring or in the fall.

Using Viola Tricolor in the Garden

Johnny Jump Ups

Preferred Conditions: Viola tricolors prefer moist, rich soil but will easily spread to even other, less than ideal, areas of the garden. Sunny areas may be too hot in southern climates, while shady areas may be too cold in northern zones. Depending on location these little ‘violets’ may grow in full sun to full shade.

Companion Plants: Viola tricolors do well with other Cottage Garden Plants and will serve nicely as a ground cover for a mixed perennial border. Try other cool season annual plants to create a sparkling spring and fall landscape.

Seasons of Interest: The evergreen leaves do nicely as a winter ground cover when other plants often do not have any foliage. Then in the spring and fall, Johnny jump-ups have charming, five-petaled flowers that resemble miniature pansies.

Uses in the Garden: Use Viola tricolor plants to add sparkling jewels of color throughout the garden. Scatter them throughout a mixed border for an evergreen ground cover. Johnny jump-ups are small plants so if you want to make an accent planting of them put them in a container and bring them higher to eye level, perhaps as a small centerpiece on a patio table.

They will naturalize easily throughout a woodland, lawn or perennial border so be sure you want them there before spreading the seeds around.

Other Uses: Viola tricolors are edible and can be used to decorate cakes, salads or other dishes. Gourmet chiefs will often sugar the flowers to keep the blooms looking beautiful and add to fancy dishes as an attractive garnish.

Viola Tricolor Cultivars:

  • ‘Irish Molly’ – Yellow, bronze flowers
  • ‘Jackanapes’ – Bright red and gold flowers
  • ‘Elizabeth’ – Pale lavender and yellow
  • ‘Ardross Gem’ – Blue and yellow
  • ‘Huntercombe Purple’ – Purple flowers with spurs
  • ‘Maggie Mott’ – Silvery-mauve flowers with cream centers
  • ‘Moonlight’ – Cream or pale yellow flowers; highly fragrant

These miniature violets are cheerful-faced and easy to grow in a wide variety of garden situations. Gardeners who sow seeds generously throughout their landscapes will find yearly blooms reward them with color and fragrance.