What plant do you use when you have a lot of shade, an area that always seems damp, and you don’t want, or can’t grow a lawn?? It has to be low maintenance and flowers would be lovely. I give you one of my all time favourites, the lovely, delicate looking, but super tough Native Violet – Viola hederacea or Viola banksii. This is almost a plant and forget one. You can feel like you have a fantastic green thumb without the effort!
Lawn and turf, in my opinion, can be very over rated. If you have a situation where you just can’t grow a lawn, why persist and end up with something less than fantastic when you can substitute with an equally as functional, yet probably even more attractive substitute. I know I’m not even going to consider grass in our courtyard, there’s not enough space, and I honestly don’t want the maintenance hassle for very little functional return, anywhere needing ground cover vegetation will probably be treated to this little gem of a plant.
So here’s the Native Violet low down…
Name: Viola hederacea or Viola banksii – Native Violet – generally you will find the botanical names are swapped around a bit, but if you ask at your local Nursery for a Native Violet you will definitely get what you are after.
Description: A vigorous, creeping evergreen ground cover that features bright green kidney shaped leaves and delicate purple and white flowers. The flowers appear mostly in the warmer months, but it is rare that you will see the Native Violet without at least a flower or two all year round. Generally very ground hugging, the Native Violet rarely gets any taller than about 10cm. The plant spreads through trailing runners or vine like tendrils.
What you’ll love about them: These plants are relatively maintenance free. Once they are established, they form such a dense mat of leaves that they act like a living layer of mulch and suppress the growth of other weeds. The bright green leaves always look lush and healthy, and the purple flowers are gorgeous as a delicate garden highlight.
I love using Native Violet around stepping stones or as a living garden edge, it can provide a bit of a cottage garden kind of feel, and soften harder lines and edges. It’s great for softening the edge of retaining walls as a spill over plant or even in pots, particularly under a larger plant.
If you’re a natives at all costs kind of gardener, then you will love that it is a native to eastern and southern Australia. It fits well with native gardens as well as exotic themed gardens. It’s a pretty flexible and adaptable kind of plant that will fit with most garden themes.
What they love: These plants thrive in the damp and shady areas of your garden. If you have full sun, this is probably not the plant to try, there are other lawn alternative s out there. But if you have full shade or partial sun and if you keep it’s toes wet, you will have a very happy little Native Violet on your hands.
Frost tolerant, this plant will handle most climatic conditions and still be happy, though I’m not sure how happy it would be in far north Queensland or around Alice Springs, it might just be a little too warm there, but if you have a shady moist spot it’s still worth a try.
The not so great bits: Because this plant is so vigorous it can get away from you given the opportunity, though easy to pull back, you will need to keep an eye on it. If you are using it as a lawn substitute you will need to be careful that it doesn’t invade surrounding gardens leaving you with one big lawn and a few other plants sticking out.
If you have a bit of a brown thumb, give this one a go and be amazed at how much greener your thumb starts to feel!