How to Plant & Grow Water Violet (Hottonia palustris)

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Bushy leaves of the water violet plant in a pond
The bushy leaves of the water violet plant provide cover and shelter for fish and their young. Christian Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Water violet is actually a somewhat deceiving name – this flower is a species of water primrose, and in fact not a violet at all! It is found within the family Primulaceae. The stem and leaves of the water violet plant grow entirely beneath the surface of the water, so they are classified as submerged aquatic plants. The flower spike is the only part of the flower that is visible above the water. These plants grow best in habitats like ditches and ponds, but can also be found living in slow-flowing side sections of rivers.

The natural range for Hottonia palustris includes north and central Europe. This includes Britain, Italy, and Siberia. It is commonly grown in outdoor ponds as well as in indoor aquariums, and is well-liked for its ornamental value. It is often referred to as featherfoil, water featherfoil, water gilliflower, and water millflower.

Facts, Benefits & Uses of Water Violet

Because of its high sensitivity to water pollution, the condition of the H. palustris plant within its habitat can indicate whether or not the water source is clean or polluted. It can also support other biodiversity in the habitat in myriad ways. It works to oxygenate the water, which provides more resources for other plants.

Water violet also grows bushy leaves, which can serve to provide cover and shelter for fish and their young. It is a great habitat feature for fish to lay their eggs near. H. palustris also provides habitat cover for snails and other aquatic invertebrates, which provide food for the fish species.

Water violet is also highly intolerant of saline waters, and it is believed that climate change will increase the salinity of waters throughout the world. This may pose a threat to the water violet and could be a reason behind recent declines of the species.

The water violet is beneficial for the environment because it effectively attracts pollinators! Insects like bees and butterflies will frequently travel between the plants, collecting nectar for food and fertilizing the plants in the process.

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Water Violet Fact Sheet:
Perennial, submerged aquatic
USDA 5 – 9
Full sun to partial shade
Light purple
May – June
Height 0.9 meters, spread 1.0 meters
Under 6 – 20 cm of water
pH 5 – 7


Water Violet Growth, Hardiness & Climate

Light purple flowers of the water violet plant in a pond
Water violet grows best in the standing waters of ponds and ditches. Christian Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Like any other ornamental plant, when it comes to introducing water violets to your garden or pond, it is very important to consider their habitat requirements. These plants grow best in the standing waters of ponds and ditches, and can only survive drought conditions for a short period of time. They grow at very fast rates, and can grow in a variety of soil profiles! Whether the soil is sandy, loamy, or clay, the water violet can take root and grow successfully.

H. palustris will develop shoot tips that take on a similar shape to a snowflake. They are bright green in color, and will add a nice colorful aesthetic to your backyard pond. They also grow very well in cold water tanks and aquariums, so you can appreciate them from the comfort of your home, too! Because water violets have a rapid growth rate and reach maximum size pretty quickly, it is necessary to frequently cut the tips of the long shoots if you are growing them in a tank. Doing this will ensure that the plant is growing properly, and help to maintain a healthy, vibrant, bushy appearance.

How to Plant Water Violet

Water violet in bloom with light purple flowers
The water violet is an easy plant to grow and take care of. J.-H. Janßen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you have a backyard pond or even an indoor aquarium – then you already have the perfect setup to start planting H. palustris. You can take stem cuttings from a mature plant, and place them in the muddy edge of a pond, or in the bottom of your tank. They are capable of rooting from here, and before long you will have more beautiful, mature water violets to enjoy.

Another way that you can plant water violets is by sowing seeds. For this method, use trays to begin planting a few seeds from mature plants – and be sure to start this project in the springtime. Submerge the trays in water so that the needs of the H. palustris are met.

The great thing about these plants is that they can be propagated by division, seed, or stem-cutting! They are very easy to start, and even after planting, they continue to be low maintenance to care for.

How to Care For Water Violet

A pond with multiple water violet plants
Make sure to keep an eye on your plants, as water violet can easily overtake your pond or tank. Marco Schmidt, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Water violets are a great plant for beginners, because they are easy to plant, hardy once they have become established, and relatively simple and straightforward to maintain. Because they are so hardy, one thing to look out for is overgrowth. Water violets can easily overtake your pond or tank, and may even choke out some of your other favorite plants if you are not careful. In order to prevent this, just keep an eye on your plants. Trim the tops whenever you deem necessary, and if you find yourself with too many plants, you can always unroot and remove them!

How to Winter Water Violet

Water violet plants overwinter successfully by releasing winter resting buds. These bits of plant will drop into the bottom of the aquatic habitat and sit dormant until temperatures begin to increase again in the springtime. These plants naturally have a pretty high frost tolerance, and it is ok to leave them to their own devices when the seasons begin to change and the days get shorter.

Is Water Violet Invasive or Toxic?

While the native range for H. palustris is in Europe and Northern Asia, they are also known to grow in the United States. This means that they are considered to be invasive in the United States. That being said, there is no information to be found indicating that water violets have had a negative impact on native flora or other facets of the ecosystems. Water violets are not known to have any toxic properties for humans, pets, or wildlife.

Is Water Violet Edible? Will Fish Eat it?

While these delightful plants are not known to be edible to humans, fish and invertebrates may potentially enjoy feeding on them. These plants do provide the important habitat element of cover, regardless of whether or not your fish find it to be a tasty snack or not! The dense, leafy shoots that water violets produce make great surface area to lay eggs on or underneath, and provide fish with protection from predators.

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

You can find water violet for sale at many garden centers in the UK, as well as online on various aquarium plant sites. They typically cost about £6.00, and can be shipped right to your doorstep! If you are seeking a new, beautiful addition to your aquarium, water garden, or backyard pond, water violet is an excellent option.

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