Image by Loren Sztajer
By Jackie Rhoades
Controlling wild violets in the lawn may be one of the most difficult gardening problems a homeowner can face. Those pretty little plants can take over a lawn in just a few short seasons and once they take hold, nothing is as tenacious as the wild violet. Control or killing wild violets in lawn can take years.
Why Is Controlling Wild Violets So Difficult
Wild violets are cool season perennials that grow best in shady, moist soil. There are three problems with these tough little plants that make killing wild violets so difficult. Wild violets have two types of flowers; the pretty purple ones that children gather for their mothers and the plain, unopened ones that shelter beneath leaves that protect them from most types of wild violet control. The purple flowers may be sterile. The flowers beneath the leaves are not only fertile, but self-fertilizing. They don’t need to bloom to reproduce.
Thick clumps of underground stems, called rhizomes, store water so the plants can survive drought. When a gardener tries to kill wild violets in the lawn, the rhizomes survive and send forth new shoots.
Those lovely heart shaped leaves pose the third problem in controlling wild violets. The waxy coating that gives the leaves their shine also prevents herbicides from penetrating the leaves.
Killing Wild Violets
Treatments for controlling wild violets are best applied in the fall as the plants take in herbicides more easily at this time. Spot treatments with an herbicide that kills all vegetation works best for mild infestations, the downside being brown spots dotting the lawn. For broader applications, use granular herbicides. Be sure to check the label to be sure killing wild violets is listed. Concentrates applied with a garden hose attachment will damage the plants but as with most treatments, repeated applications will be necessary to kill wild violets.
The best method of wild violet control is a thick and healthy lawn. The dense roots of the grass will help prevent those pretty little devils from ever taking root.