Although they are pretty and add splashes of colors to your lawn or garden, wild violets are a perennial broadleaf weed that spreads aggressively. Not to be confused with African Violets (which are not really violets), the wild variety has heart-shaped leaves that have a waxy coating, making it difficult for herbicides to penetrate effectively.
Wild Violets can grow in full sun but usually prefer shade and moisture. Their flowers can be purple, blue, or white, and you’ll see them from March until June.
Attitudes toward the plant typically fall into one of two camps: There are those who tend to be green gardeners and merely treat the weeds as pretty wildflowers. And there are those who cannot tolerate them and want them eliminated, no matter what it takes.
For that latter group who is unwilling to share space with wild violets, here are some suggestions:
1. Keep your lawn healthy
Wild violets are less likely to grow in a healthy lawn. Mow the grass every five days, water it during dry periods, and apply fertilizer in the spring and fall to ensure optimal growth. Fill in any bare patches by seeding those areas.
2. Dig out mature wild violets by the roots
Once they are established, wild violets will break off and leave the roots behind if you attempt to pull them. Use a digging tool to get beneath the roots and lift out everything at once. Leaving the roots is an invitation for the plants to grow back.
3. Pull out young wild violets
Young plants won’t break as easily when you pull them. Just make sure the soil is moist when you do it, and grasp the stem close to the ground. If they start breaking off, use a small garden shovel and pry them up as you pull.
4. Spread mulch to keep weeds from coming back
Once you have removed the violets, spread 2 or 3 inches of mulch on the affected area. Mulch will suffocate the weeds and discourage any re-growth. This method works in flower beds only. Mulching parts of your lawn will weaken and kill the grass there.
5. Thin out tree limbs and remove any obstructions
When you prune any unnecessary tree branches and overgrown shrubs, you allow more light to reach your grass. Grass loves sunlight and becomes stronger from it, while wild violets prefer shade and are weakened by the sun. Clearing debris and removing old outbuildings also work to control the violet problem.
6. You might have to resort to an herbicide
If you’re steadfast in your desire to get rid of wild violets in your lawn, you might have to turn to an herbicide. Just make sure it’s a selective type. Otherwise, you’ll be killing the grass with the weeds. Try a product such as Weed-B-Gon Chickweed, Clover & Oxalis killer, available at most garden centers.
7. Add a surfactant to your herbicide
A surfactant is something that will make your herbicide more effective. It will cut through the waxy surface of the violet’s leaves, allowing the herbicide to get inside and do its damage. Spreader Sticker is a commercial surfactant, or you can make your own by mixing one tablespoon of dish soap into a gallon of spray.
8. Be persistent
Sometimes it can take a couple of years to get the upper hand on a crop of violets. These weeds are very persistent and you will need to be too. Attack the problem before it gets out of hand, and be aware that you’ll probably be following up with repeat treatments.