How to Plant & Grow Australian Violet (Viola hederacea)

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purple australian violets blooming
Australian violets form a beautiful groundcover in damp locations. Photo by Kevin Thiele / CC BY-NC 2.0

The charming Australian violet (Viola hederacea), also known as the Tasmanian violet, can be found as a blanketed beauty alongside streams, waterfalls, and ponds. The word “hederacea” comes from the phrase “like ivy,” which describes the ivy-like leaves that make up this trailing ground cover.

This flower is native to Australia, but can be found throughout warmer locations in the United States and has also been quite popular and desired in locations such as the United Kingdom. Viola hederacea is a part of the Violaceae family and is one of the 400 species of violets worldwide.

V. hederacea can be found in damp areas that are in either partial sun or fully shaded. In areas where grass struggles to grow, this plant can be a great and beautiful alternative. In nature, they can be found trailing down the sides of waterfalls and being underfoot around small bodies of water, any place where they can find moist and rich soil for them to spread via underground runners. These plants are quite hardy and can tolerate being minimally walked upon by humans or animals, so long as they aren’t regularly trampled.

Facts, Benefits & Uses of Australian Violet

western honey bee on viola hederacea australian violet leaves
A western honey bee (Apis mellifera) on Australian violet leaves. Photo by Luis Mata / CC BY-NC 2.0

The genus Viola is pollinated by various species of flies and bees. Australian violets are not the most heavily pollinated when compared to others in the genus Viola; however, they still offer pollination opportunities for the local pollinators.

Due to the area in which Australian violets are found, slugs and snails are prevalent. Slugs and snails favor moist areas and tend to feast on the ivy-like leaves and stems of the flowers. This is typically not a significant problem, but can be dealt with accordingly if it gets severe by numerous at-home remedies.

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Australian Violet Fact Sheet:
Herbaceous Perennial
USDA 9 – 11
Full sun to partial shade
Purple, white
Year Round
Height less than 15 cm. (under 6 in.)
15 cm (6 in.)

Australian Violet Growth, Hardiness & Climate

viola hederacea with purple flowers blooming among ferns
Australian violets put out flower shoots up to 6 inches tall, but can stay close to the ground, too. Photo by Eran Finkle / CC BY-SA 2.0

An Australian violet can reach a maximum height of 6 inches. These plants can be found blanketing the ground in a spreading fashion via underground runners or they can develop to be more like shoots and stick up out of the ground that way, up to their 6 inch potential! Each plant has the ability to spread up to 1 foot creating the blanket-like appearance mentioned previously. The growth of V. hederacea is relatively slow and requires very little care of intervention beyond watering.

Blooming season is typically through the spring and summer below their native hardiness zones, though in warmer locations blooming may occur all year round. Australian violets do best when grown in hardiness zones 9-11, but can also be grown in zones 7 and 8 if extra care is taken during the winters. When grown in these zones, you’ll have beautiful, natural decor along ponds, waterfalls, and moist areas for the majority of the year.

How to Plant Australian Violet In Ponds

how to plant australian violets
V. hederacea grows best when placed in a location with damp soils and sun for part, but not all, of the day. Photo by Ian Sutton / CC BY-NC 2.0

Australian violets are quite easy to plant and can be planted just like most other perennials – typically in the spring, late summer, or fall! Make sure before planting that you are about to do so in an ideal site – somewhere that has moist soil and the ability to receive shade as well as have partial sun (essential for flowering). Full sun is fine as well so long as the climate isn’t too arid and the plant has plenty of water.

When planting an Australian violet, you should plant them 20 cm (8 in.) apart and at a depth of about 15 cm (6 in.). This is to ensure that they are able to adequately root and spread effectively.

How to Care For Australian Violet

how to transplant australian violets
If they become a problem, violets in general are easy to dig up as they do not have strong or deep roots. Photo by RTBG / CC BY-NC 2.0

Australian violets are very low maintenance plants that can thrive with very little care and attention if planted in the right areas. As mentioned in the previous section, you’ll want to plant this species in moist areas near bodies of water such as ponds, streams, and waterfalls, thus allowing you to worry less about a watering routine. These plants also grow well in shaded conditions such as forests or anywhere under heavy tree cover, though they produce the most blooms with sun.

It is important to note that Australian violets need at least a little bit of sunlight in order to flower. If you are looking to have the iconic purple and white flowers, some sunlight can go a long way! Partial sunlight is key. Once you plant these flowers, additional care isn’t typically needed. However, if you decide to plant near your pond, take care to clean up any dropped leaves or flowers out of your pond water to keep the quality of your pond and its water maintained. There is also a chance that due to its trailing qualities it can get in the way of, or block, other plants in the area. If this is the case, cut back the trailing plant as needed. This shouldn’t be an issue, as Australian violets are not aggressive or overly fast growers.

How to Winter Australian Violet

Australian violets do very well overwintering and can usually survive the winters in their optimal zones. The tree cover helps protect the plant from significant ice and frost if it happens to occur. If Australian violets are planted outside of their optimal zones, you can overwinter them by potting them and storing in a warmer environment indoors until spring.

Is Australian Violet Toxic, Poisonous or Invasive?

Australian violets are native to Australia, which is not really a surprise when looking at the name! In other areas, this plant may grow faster and can as such be viewed as an invasive or nuisance plant. It can get out of control depending on the area it’s planted and the condition of the soil. If you decide to plant an Australian violet outside of Australia, while we really encourage you to utilize only native plants, do keep an eye on the plant to ensure it doesn’t spread out of control. This can be prevented by planting in pots! 

The seeds of many violets are considered toxic if ingested, though there is no concrete data on Australian violets in particular. Be sure to remember this if you are wanting to use them in the kitchen, and be sure to clean any dropped seeds out of your pond just in case.

Is Australian Violet Edible? Will Fish Eat it?

Australian violets leaves and flowers are edible (not their seeds, as mentioned above), and their gorgeous flowers are oftentimes used in salads! Without a strong flavor, they add a sense of beauty and nutrition to many dishes. In terms of fish, they are unlikely to bother the Australian violets as these flowers are not planted in water and are instead planted along banks as a trailing decoration. They require moist and fertile soil, but will typically be out of reach for the fish.

Where to Buy Australian Violet & Seeds? (UK & US)

Australian violets are quite easy to purchase via online and in-person plant nurseries across the United States and the U.K. A good portion of nurseries ship these flowers and would be the perfect option for those looking to purchase some of these beauties from somewhere else in the world. Again, do note that these flowers are not native outside of Australia so take care that they do not spread.

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