Horn violets (Viola cornuta) belong to the violet family (Viola) and are represented worldwide with about five hundred species. They are smaller than pansies (Viola wittrockiana) and larger than wild field pansies (Viola tricolor). Often they are also called mini pansies. In the past centuries numerous horn violet hybrids in all imaginable flower colours were created by breeding and crossing with pansies. In addition to the wild horned violet (Viola cornuta), the biennial garden pansy (Viola wittrockiana) is also involved in the various crossings.
Horn violets are biennial to short-lived herbaceous plants. The greater the genetic proportion of the wild horned violet, the more durable they are. If the pansy genes predominate, the flowers are larger, but the plants are more short-lived and less hardy. New flowers appear on the branched stems almost throughout the entire season. The plants grow bushy, do not form runners and reach growth heights of 15 to 20 centimeters.
The green leaves of the horny violets are ovoid and about three centimeters long. The edge is notched, fine hairs sit on the underside.
Horn violets tend to bear small flowers about three centimeters in diameter, with a short spur at the end. The horn violets owe their name to this “horn”. Many kinds smell. Horn violets flower almost all year round, with the main flowering beginning in March and a second flowering in autumn. The flowers of many varieties show wonderful colour gradients and different patterns.
Over the entire flowering period small capsule fruits develop from the fertilised flowers. They burst on their own when ripe and sprinkle small round seeds. In the bed, horn violets surprise each year anew with this self sowing in a different place. If you want to stop this urge to spread, you should remove all withered inflorescences in time.
Location and soil
Horn violets thrive very well both in sunny and semi-shady places. The small plants prefer a moist and bright location and a loosely humus soil without waterlogging. Normal, well-permeable garden soil or humus-rich balcony potting soil are suitable for horn violets. The soil should be well supplied with horn meal and compost or fertilizer.
A pre-culture in the house can take place starting from January in cultivation bowls. But horn violets can also be sown directly into the bed throughout the year until the end of September. At favorable locations, the summer-flowering plants tend to run wild, since they continuously sow themselves. Many species also cross themselves with it all by themselves, so that there are always new colour variations to be found in the garden. Anyone who collects seeds for the next year must ensure sufficient stratification. It is therefore best to sow the ripe seeds right away in late summer for the coming year in open sowing trays with outdoor cultivation soil. The shells are placed in a shady, sheltered place and kept evenly moist. As soon as the first leaves of the seedlings can be seen in spring, they can be pricked into individual small pots.
Planting and care
The young horned violets are planted from March until October with intervals of about ten centimeters. In the bed, they are placed in larger groups, which should completely cover the ground when fully grown. Due to the self-seeding of the plants, the young plants can also be transplanted throughout the year without any problems, as long as the soil is frost-free. Most hybrids are hardy to -15 degrees Celsius and often only flower during frost. Between Christmas and mid-February, horn violets usually take a break from flowering. They should then be covered with fir brushwood or fleece to protect them from clear frost and dehydration by the winter sun. At roofed locations, you must water the plants regularly even in winter.
A liquid starting fertiliser at the beginning of March ensures a rich spring bloom. While other heralds of spring say goodbye in May at the latest, horn violets flower well into early summer. Withered flowers should be cleaned regularly to promote post-flowering. Gentle pruning with hedge trimmers after the first flower pile has subsided is also possible. Plants that are planted in spring or summer can also add some liquid fertilizer to the watering water. Otherwise no further fertilization is necessary.
Use in the garden
Horn violets look very beautiful over their entire surface and are also perfect gap fillers. The long flowering time and their charming charisma make horn violets so valuable for long-lasting arrangements. The best way to show off the little heralds of spring is to present them in a natural way, in simple clay pots, zinc tubs and bowls or in wicker baskets. Since horn-violets thrive well also in half-shady situation, they move into bigger vessels in the terrace-garden gladly as subtenants. Horn violets are particularly suitable for planting potted trees and tall stems. The flower carpet prevents the incrustation of the earth’s surface, but also significantly increases the water demand. On warm, dry days, water daily, but avoid waterlogging at all costs. As an underplanting of fruit trees, the horn violets attract bees to pollinate the fruit blossoms. In the farmer’s garden, horn violet blossoms enchant with their cheerful yellow eyes between kitchen herbs. Very nice accents are formed by horned violets planted in groups, but also in combination with the monochrome flowers of primroses in spring, asters or zinnias in summer and chrysanthemums in autumn. As underplanting of deciduous shrubs such as rock pear, Deutzie, Tamariske or wig-shrub, they have a very invigorating effect especially in the cold season. Due to the colourful colour palette, a harmonious colour composition with horn violets is not easy – especially if you have collected the seeds yourself. It therefore makes more sense to buy single-variety seeds of two to three varieties with uniform flower colours.
Whether in pastel, strong yellow or purple tones – the colours leave nothing to be desired. In addition, drawings and colour gradients are so varied that the choice is difficult. Typical for horn violets: The colours can also vary within a variety. Especially in the case of seed-propagated forms, pretty plays of colour are often created. Most varieties smell. The trend is towards multicoloured varieties and horn violets with delicate stripes. Dramatic accents are achieved, for example, with the black violet variety ‘Blackjack’, the dark violet ‘Admiration’ or the bright yellow varieties. Especially robust are the enduring flowering varieties of the winter violet series ‘Ice Babies’, which are available in many great colour combinations.
Diseases and pests
Horn violets hardly have to fight with diseases, only mildew occurs occasionally. Like most violets, however, they are high on the menu of snails and gall mites.
Horn violets in the our store-Shop
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.