Germination tips for viola species?

Ann Arbor, MI

Hi --

I recently obtained several species of viola seed that I'd like to germinate; namely :

viola reichiii
viola elatior
viola pedatifida
viola maculata

I only have a couple of each and they weren't so easy to get, so I'd like to start them out with the right conditions. Does anyone know if these require the same conditions (cool (65 F) and dark) as the typical viola hybrids? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Did you check Plant Files?

- Weezingreens says Viola elatior is easily grown in moist soil.

- PF says viola pedatifida may be invasive, and self-sows freely ... but also that it may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds. Both invasive AND protected? Hmmm. dkm65 says: "Fall direct sowing or a month or two of cold, moist stratification if germinating indoors in spring. Seeds are small, and should be surface sown with only a light sprinkling of soil at most covering them." Baa says: "Self-seeds freely where happy.

Dr. Deno did mention one of your species:

V. pedatifida germ. 70D GA-3(5/8 in 3rd w), 40-70D(1/8), and 70D-40-70D(30%
in 6th d). Seeds placed outdoors in October germ. 7/9 in April. Light had no effect.

He stressed many times how hard the "rosulate Violas" are to start, and mentioned many Viola species around page 230. Maybe you could scan through those, and guess at what would be the safest way to proceed.

>> Viola (Violaceae) Although the.results were complex, it is certain that at least
>> in some species germination requires light and/or GA-3 (or other fungal products)
>> Many species produce a first crop of seed that ripens in June or July
>> from sexually fertilized flowers and a second crop of seed
>> from cleistogamous flowers that ripen in the fall.
>> Experiments were conducted on both types of seed.

>> Gibberelic Acid-3
most growers will prefer to avoid the use of GA-3
and other gibberelins unless necessary such as in the following circumstance.
It is now propsed that gibberelins are natural stimulators of
germination In certain species and that the evolution of this requirement
is critical to the survival of those species. The recognition of this came about
when it was found that germination in Echinocereus pectinatus hybrids was less than
1% and germination in the rosulate Violas was zero without the use of GA-3. Both of
these species are relatively tiny plants growing in harsh dry environments, ... The
Echinocereus from the dry windswept deserts of Southwestern United States and the
rosulate Violas from high in the dry windswept Chilean Andes. For these tiny
seedlings with their tiny root systems to survive, the seeds must fall into crevices in
rocks or deep into coarse gravel where there is a small pocket of moist leaf mold. The
fungal action in this leaf mold produces gibberelins which trigger the germination. In
this way germination is triggered in the only place where the seedlings could survive.

The following comment applies to violas in general:

The "Virtual seeds Germination database" says:
>> Viola Hardy Perennial 14-21 days Dark
>> slow and irregular germination
>> 65-75 degrees Well drained 1/16" deep
>> See No. 14. (Pre-chill for 2 weeks).

So, cold-moist stratification for 2 weeks.

I am TOTALLY the wrong person to ask, based on my own ability to kill seeds, but I got some "Johnny Jump Ups" in trade, and started them with no stratification. I got very good germination indoors, clumsily and 3-4 weeks sounds right. These may be the easiest violas to start, if I can!

That was in a fairly coarse pine-bark mix, over-watered, with temperature varying from approximately 55 to 75 (intermittent heat mat in a cold room).

Persistent URLs for Dr. Deno's book
"Seed Germination, Theory And Practice"
and supplements: (1993) (1996) (1998)

Those are permanent links to reach specific documents at this website:
National Agricultural Library (NAL)
NAL Digital Repository
Digital Documents Repository (DDR)
"AgSpace": a centralized location for USDA publications

Other Agricultural Collections
Other Agricultural Research and Information

Another germination link I like:
(You once could make a local, searchable copy of this concise database on your hard drive, but now the link seems broken.).


Ann Arbor, MI

Corey --

Wow -- thanks so much for all this information! This is incredibly helpful. I'm very glad I asked.

It sounds like I've got some homework to do. I've never used giberellic acid, but at least for the Chilean species, perhaps it'd be a good idea. I think the excerpt about how these might actually have come to require GA as an adaptation to the extreme environment is fascinating. And a pretty compelling argument "for" its use in some circumstances.

I know what you mean about seed killing -- last year I started quite a a number of annuals indoors and had wonderful success getting them to germinate. But they were started too early and I lost a lot of them when it was too cold in May (!) for them be out. This year I waited a bit longer to start, and I'm having the opposite problem. The carnage I'm seeing from a couple of 90+ degree days over the last week is nothing short of impressive. When I get results like this, it makes me wonder what perverse reasoning causes me to think of this as "fun". But I do (oddly enough)!

Next year, maybe I'll try winter sowing ...


PS: Thanks for the germination links -- all good resources that I didn't know about.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> seed killing
>> But they were started too early and I lost a lot of them when it was too cold in
>> This year I waited a bit longer to start, and I'm having the opposite problem.
>> it makes me wonder what perverse reasoning causes me to think of this as "fun". But I do

I agree on all points! Too early, too late, too cold, too wet ... here on the PNW coast, it's never too hot, except for my sweaty little brow.

I think it was Evelyn-in-the-Garden who let me down easily about killing 5 for every survivior (or, in the case of Delphinium, hundreds!). Something like 'every gardener pushes her limits, and tries things that are marginal for her climate' ... or, in my case, skill level and experience.

But I'm learbning gradually.

Dare I say this while I'm still potting up ad hardening off?

This year, I have a new problem: WHERE WILL I PUT all the seedlings that sprouted? I just put out 60 babies (Salvia, Snapdragons, Lobelia, Zinnias, Cosmos & a few violas. There's another 50 already potted up and hardened off. And three more trays under lights!

Probably slugs will "come to my rescue" and decimate, or obliterate, my current plantings, and free up those beds!


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