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Can You Tell Me A Foolproof Method To Grow Violets…

Paul Asked

Can you tell me a foolproof method to grow violets from seed? I am currently a student at University of Kentucky. I got a garden plot in the campus community. I would like to make it a violet garden. Four or five attempts and over 100 seeds have failed already, although I always followed the instructions on the seed package! There are two kinds of seeds from two nurseries, one of which is “Labrador Violet,” the other “Queen Charlotte.” For the latter one, the instructions are:
Place seeds with a small amount of moist growing media inside a zip-lock bag and keep at 70° F. for 2 weeks. Then place in the refrigerator for an additional 4 weeks. Remove and sow in cell packs or flats and keep at 41-54° F. until germination occurs.

Only two seeds germinated in the end, but damped off after one week.

The Gardener’s Answer

Hello, Paul in Kentucky: Although the viola seeds you purchased are different species, they require the same growing conditions in order to germinate. The best time to sow these seeds is actually in the fall. According to Jelitto seeds (a very reputable seed provider) the ideal sowing dates are November-March. At this time you can sow them directly outdoors. Unlike most other seeds, these tend to sporadically germinate over a long period of time. It can take anywhere from four to eight weeks just for viola seeds to germinate. Temperatures lower than 41 degrees F are ideal in terms of germination and the soil should remain consistently moist but never sopping wet. Hopefully your gardening plot has access to water and is shaded from the sun during the hottest part of the day. These perennials will self-sow/naturalize once established so keep this in mind as your plot fills in. It may be that your seeds were not given enough time to germinate before the seed trays were tossed. If you still have your seed trays you might want to hold onto them to see if anymore pop up. It is always a good idea to purchase seeds from a reputable provider; that way you know you are getting good quality seed. The horticulture professors at the University of Kentucky are a wealth of knowledge and I assume would be happy to help with your plot if you have issues later this fall after you direct sow.

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