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What is a Wild Pansy Plant and How to Care for It?

Learn more about the wild pansy plants including their characteristics, growing conditions, and how they are used. We've included some tips on how to propagate these dainty evergreens that are a wonderful addition to your garden.

Lovely dark purple flowers of the wild pansy plant

Viola Tricolor

There are certain species of flowers out there that are so highly common and celebrated that the image of them just pops into your mind when someone even mentions the word “flower”.

Among these are roses, daisies, carnations, and of course, the pansy flower. Today we’re going to talk specifically about viola tricolor, which is one of the most ornamental and lovely of the pansy varieties.

This flower species has a ridiculous amount of common names. We’ve got: heart’s ease, heart’s tickle, tickle my fancy, Jack-jump-up, jump-up-and-kiss-me, come and cuddle me, three faces in a glove, love-in-idleness, and pink of my John.

Why so many strange names? The wild pansy is a pretty significant symbol of love and naivety in many notable literary works, starting in Greek mythology and continuing through to Shakespeare and on. The love potion from Midsummer Night’s Dream’s main ingredient is wild pansy flower petals!

The wild pansy is an evergreen, short lived perennial (sometimes annual) flowering plant that is a favorite amongst novice gardeners. These proud members of the violet botanical family are magically lovely, easy to care for, and can be used in a multitude of different applications!

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

What do Wild Pansy Plants Look Like?

Lovely image of wild pansy patch with violet flowers and long stems

Flowers

The wild pansy flower is an easily recognizable thing. With flower color themes of purple, white, and yellow, different varieties will have different shades and brilliancy of color.

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Each individual flower is comprised of 5 petals. Typically, the upper petals are dark purple or pale purple, the middle petal is a lighter shade of yellow, and the lower petal is a darker shade of yellow. The petal is longer than sepal on a wild pansy flower.

Flowers are borne solitary in the axils of the plant and nod slightly due to the weight of the flower on the long peduncles. Wild pansy flowers will often bloom in the late spring, starting in April, and will stay in bloom all the way through to late summer or fall, usually until September.

Leaves

Another characteristic that is easy to identify on this plant is its leaves. A wild pansy leaf is usually an ovular oblong shape with serrated margins. They are alternately arranged along stems and upper leaves have shorter petioles than the lower leaves.

Something appealing about the wild pansy is that it also has evergreen foliage. This means that leaves will remain green and persist all year long, regardless of the time of conditions. This provides foliage interest throughout the cold seasons as well!

Growth Habit

Starting under the surface of the earth, wild pansies grow from rhizomatous roots from which fine rootlets grow. Rhizomes are a sturdy root formation that hold vital nutrients and moisture to help keep a plant alive in harsh conditions. Rhizomatous plants are usually very hardy and resilient.

From this rhizome will grow a wiry flower stem that will grow to be around 6 inches in height. This tiny plant has a tufted growth habit with branching stems that are sometimes covered in downy hairs.

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Depending on the growing location, v tricolor will grow as an annual plant, where it experiences its entire life cycle within a year, a biennial, where its life cycle will end after two flowering seasons, or as a short lived perennial, where it will blossom each spring as long as ideal conditions are maintained.

What are some Other Pansy Species?

Various pansy species growing low to the ground in a garden

Field Pansy (Viola Arvensis)

The field pansy is a species of violet that is native to spanning regions around Europe, western Asia, western India, and North Africa. They are so prevalent that they are actually considered as a weed or an invasive species in certain areas!

This is a herbaceous annual plant that can be identified by its mainly beautiful flowers of white with purple accents. It grows to be only about 20 centimetres in height.

It is as equally successful as a wildflower as it is a cultivated plant. Viola arvensis is a very common flowering plant for cottage gardens, mass plantings, in flower beds and in containers alike!

Hairy Violet (Viola Hirta)

The hairy violet is a species of plant that is native to the more temperature regions of northern and western Asia, northwestern India, and Europe as well. They grow wild in drier conditions than most violet species.

They can be identified by their hairy erect stems and by their leaves that grow directly from the rootstock in a basal rosette, whereas most other species have leaves that grow alternately along a stem. Each viola hirta leaf is a charming heart shape.

Where is the Wild Pansy a Native Plant?

The wild pansy is a very common plant that grows with enthusiasm in the wild. Their original native growing range began all over Europe and Asia, though it has become naturalized all over temperate regions of the world. They can exist in USDA growing zones 3 through 9.

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When growing wild as a native species, they can be found in grasslands of shorter heights (as they require sun to grow and can’t be shaded out) and throughout farms and disturbed land. They can also be found growing along riverbanks and alluviums, and can grow up to altitudes of 2,700 metres.

What are the Growing Conditions of Wild Pansies?

Beautiful purple and yellow wild pansy flowers growing in a green garden

Now that we know a little bit about where wild pansy plants come from and some tricks to identifying them, it’s time to learn about how to help them grow! Luckily, they require almost nothing from you other than a quick sprinkle of seed.

This is the perfect flower to grow if you are a novice gardener. These plants are wonderfully tolerant species and are forgiving if you make a slight mistake. They can tolerate nearly anything, though there are some things to keep in mind to create a small slice of paradise for them:

Soil Type

Though they can tolerate nearly any soil type, the majority of violet species prefer to exist in soil that is well drained, moist, fertile, and closer to the acidic side on the pH scale.

To help both with drainage and fertility, incorporate some compost into your soil or potting mix before planting your seeds. This will help with drainage and increase the nutrient level of the soil.

Water Level

Water maintenance for a wild pansy is also minimal. They prefer to exist in conditions that are moist but never over saturated. Most of the time the natural precipitation of an area will suffice through humidity and rain, though if there is an extended period of drought, they should be watered.

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A good way to measure the water level of the soil is by sticking your finger into the earth. If the top soil is dry but it’s still moist a few inches down, watering won’t be required!

Sun Exposure

Pansies are sun loving plant species. This means that they should be receiving a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day — this is made apparent by their natural growth habit of sprouting up in exposed grasslands.

They will tolerate partial shade as well, and partial shade can be helpful in regions that have higher temperatures as they prefer to exist in cool climates.

Wild pansy seed also requires a certain amount of sun exposure in order to successfully germinate. It is important to not bury seeds when planting them in a garden bed.

Lovely pansy flowers growing in a terracotta pot sitting in a garden

Temperature

Wild pansies prefer to live in more temperate climates around the world. They are not particularly tolerant of very hot temperatures, though they can tolerate cold temperatures.

They prefer to exist in cool weather and will often die back once the very hot summer temperatures arrive.

Fertilizer

Wild pansies love fertilizer. It will help the plant produce flower blossoms enthusiastically. Incorporate a slow release fertilizer all throughout their growing season, and this will help extend the flower bloom season as well!

If you want to take the more natural approach, just incorporate some organic compost into the mix at the beginning of the growing season as well. This will help increase the nutrient content!

Pruning

A very important aspect of wild pansy care is pruning! It is important to snip away spent stems that are damaged by moisture or by frost. This will help the plant concentrate its energy towards growing new and healthy plant parts.

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The other part of pruning is deadheading! Once a wild pansy flower is spent is should be clipped away so as to encourage a new flower blossom to take its place.

Intolerances

As you can clearly see there isn’t all that much that wild pansies can’t tolerate! The main thing to avoid is submitting them to extremely hot temperatures, but otherwise they will be happy pretty much anywhere!

How do you Propagate a Wild Pansy Plant?

You couldn’t really pick an easier plant to attempt to grow! Wild pansies quite frankly grow like weeds, and will quickly establish themselves in your garden. Here are a few tips to help get you started on your garden pansy patch:

Beautiful patch of dark purple and yellow wild pansy flowers

Pick a Spot

Sometimes picking the perfect place in your garden is the most difficult part of planting a new member! Luckily, when it comes to the wild pansy, it would be difficult to get it wrong.

Simply pick a place on your property that receives a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day that also has healthy soil. That’s literally it!

Sow Seed

The next step is simply planting the seeds! It is best to plant the seeds in the late summer or early fall. This way, the roots have some time to establish themselves throughout the winter and will be ready to blossom come spring time!

Simply sprinkle the wild pansy seeds over the prepared ground and rake it only slightly so that they are covered with a very minimal layer of soil. Seeds require light for germination so make sure not to cover them too much!

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Maintenance

From here, the only thing that really needs to be done is ensuring that the soil remains moist. Seed germination should occur within 7-10 days, and voila! Your very own wild pansy patch.

How are Wild Pansy Plants Used?

Blooming wild pansy flowers growing in hanging planters in a garden

Ornamental Plant

The wild pansy is the absolute perfect image of an ornamental flowering plant. They are dainty, grow in a naturally neat habit, and are wonderfully complimentary to other plants.

The cultivated pansy is most commonly used as potted plants and container plants, they make the perfect ground cover specimen for cottage gardens, rock gardens, or coastal gardens, and they will grow happily around tree bases as well!

Edible Plant

Something that not everybody knows about the wild pansy is that it is edible! The flower itself can be picked just like you would any edible herb and added to a salad or used as a colorful and lovely food or drink garnish as well.

Medicinal Plant

Furthermore, wild pansy flowers have been a long time superstar in folk medicine practices and phytotherapy! When applied topically, they are said to help with skin diseases like psoriasis or eczema or more minor issues like acne.

When taken internally, they are said to help with respiratory problems like bronchitis or asthma, and can even help with common cold symptoms. The plant parts themselves contain beneficial properties like mucilage, tannins, phenolic acid, salicylic acid, saponins, and flavonoids as well!

FAQs

Are wild pansies deer resistant?

When it comes to deer resistance, pansies are moderately deer resistant. Though they are not the first choice of snack for larger pests like deer and rabbits, they will snack on them if there isn’t something better on the menu in the garden.

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What are the damaging agents of the wild pansy plant?

The main damaging agents of the wild pansy is infestations from insects. They are rather susceptible to damage from aphids and spider mites, especially if they are growing in warmer climates. Additionally, crown rot, which is a fungal diseases, yellow the leaves of the plant and can cause severe damage to a population. This also is prevalent in warmer climates, so keep this in mind if you’re thinking about growing your own wild pansy patch!

Is the wild pansy an edible plant?

Along with squash blossoms and marigolds, pansies are also an edible flower! These flowers can be harvested, washed, and served like you would any common herb. They make for a delicate tasting and beautiful garnish to both savoury and sweet dishes, and make for a very charming garnish to a cold drink as well.

Can wild pansy be transplanted?

Since pansies grow from sturdy rhizomes, it isn’t too difficult to transplant them as long as you have some patience. They are a tiny plant and it would take time and attention to do so, though this is a great way to keep your pansy patch through the winter if you think it would be too cold for them outdoors and would like to bring them indoors.

How long do wild pansies live?

Wild pansies are usually rather short lived plants. The longest they will live is as a short lived perennial, so rarely any longer than 4 or 5 years, and this is if the exact ideal growing conditions are maintained. Though fear not! They will very readily self seed and can increase their population with vigor.

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What colour do pansies come in?

The wild pansy is most easily identified by its tricolor flower effect of flowers with different colored petals of white, yellow, and purple. Different varieties and species will have different shades of this colour combination.

How tall does a wild pansy plant get?

The wild pansy is a tiny plant, and usually won’t grow to be any taller than about 6 inches.

How often should you water a wild pansy?

Water maintenance for a wild pansy is also minimal. They prefer to exist in conditions that are moist but never over saturated. Most of the time the natural precipitation of an area will suffice through humidity and rain, though if there is an extended period of drought, they should be watered.

A good way to measure the water level of the soil is by sticking your finger into the earth. If the top soil is dry but it’s still moist a few inches down, watering won’t be required!

When do wild pansy flowers bloom?

Each individual flower is comprised of 5 petals. Typically, the upper petals are dark purple or pale purple, the middle petal is a lighter shade of yellow, and the lower petal is a darker shade of yellow. The petal is longer than sepal on a wild pansy flower.

Flowers are borne solitary in the axils of the plant and nod slightly due to the weight of the flower on the long peduncles. Wild pansy flowers will often bloom in the late spring, starting in April, and will stay in bloom all the way through to late summer or fall, usually until September.

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Are wild pansies annual plants or perennial plants?

Depending on the growing location, v tricolor will grow as an annual plant, where it experiences its entire life cycle within a year, a biennial, where its life cycle will end after two flowering seasons, or as a short lived perennial, where it will blossom each spring as long as ideal conditions are maintained.

Do wild pansies prefer sun or shade?

Pansies are sun loving plant species. This means that they should be receiving a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day — this is made apparent by their natural growth habit of sprouting up in exposed grasslands.

They will tolerate partial shade as well, and partial shade can be helpful in regions that have higher temperatures as they prefer to exist in cool climates.

Wild pansy seed also require a certain amount of sun exposure in order to successfully germinate. It is important to not bury seeds when planting them in a garden bed.

What is the preferred soil type for a wild pansy?

Though they can tolerate nearly any soil type, the majority of violet species prefer to exist in soil that is well drained, moist, fertile, and closer to the acidic side on the pH scale.

To help both with drainage and fertility, incorporate some compost into your soil or potting mix before planting your seeds. This will help with drainage and increase the nutrient level of the soil.

Do wild pansies need fertilizer?

Wild pansies love fertilizer. It will help the plant produce flower blossoms enthusiastically. Incorporate a slow release fertilizer all throughout their growing season, and this will help extend the flower bloom season as well!

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If you want to take the more natural approach, just incorporate some organic compost into the mix at the beginning of the growing season as well. This will help increase the nutrient content!

Should a wild pansy plant be pruned?

A very important aspect of wild pansy care is pruning! It is important to snip away spent stems that are damaged by moisture or by frost. This will help the plant concentrate its energy towards growing new and healthy plant parts.

The other part of pruning is deadheading! Once a wild pansy flower is spent is should be clipped away so as to encourage a new flower blossom to take its place.