Wild violets are weeds with heart-shaped scalloped-edged leaves. They generally have five petals that are purple, white, or yellow and heart-shaped waxy leaves that cause herbicides to run off the plant. They start blooming in early spring and summer and can even grow up to twelve feet tall, especially in shaded areas.
They’ve most likely caught your eye with their pretty flowers, but these invasive plants can immediately get out of control and take over your whole garden or landscape. Wild violets are also self-fertilizing and because of the way their roots extend, these plants often form colonies, encouraging them to grow faster and making it all the more difficult to get rid of.
If you want to get rid of wild violets naturally, you can easily come up with your own homemade weed killer by using horticultural vinegar and water and applying them as spot treatment. They start to bloom in the spring/summer seasons but the best time to get rid of them is in the fall when it’s easier to control them.
The easiest way to get rid of wild violets naturally
Wild violets can be removed by hand pulling or hand weeding, but because they have long, thin roots that spread in various directions, they can be difficult to remove all at once. These weeds also grow persistently through the months, so you might find yourself having to do multiple weedings through the spring and summer months when they are growing the fastest.
If you find the violets growing faster than you are able to remove them, it might be time to apply another solution: making your own herbicide to kill the wild violets. Here are the steps to going about the easiest ways to get rid of wild violets naturally:
#1 – Create your own homemade weed killer
Making your own homemade weed killer is quick and easy to do. All it takes is some horticultural vinegar—an ingredient often used to help control weeds—and water. Once you have both ingredients, mix 80% water with 20% horticultural vinegar.
Important note: Horticultural vinegar is much stronger than your regular household vinegar. It can severely damage your eyes and skin so you need to wear protective clothing—such as safety glasses, rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and pants—when handling it. This will minimize your eye and skin exposure to the chemical and prevent risks.
#2 – Add a surfactant
If your horticultural vinegar doesn’t have a surfactant, SFGate recommends adding 1 teaspoon of a non-ionic surfactant or dishwashing liquid for every gallon of water used. The surfactant is what will cause the herbicide to stick to the waxy leaves of the wild violet so they can absorb better.
#3 – Spot treat the wild violets
If there aren’t that many wild violets growing in an area yet, you can place your homemade weed killer in a small spray bottle and thoroughly wet all the leaves of the wild violet plants you want to get rid of. Make sure you are wearing gloves to avoid skin contact.
#4 – Observe the plants
After you spot-treat the wild violets, observe them over the course of the next two to three weeks. If you see them beginning to turn brown and die it means that your spot treatment is successful. In case they are still alive after a few weeks, The Spruce recommends applying the spot treatment again. Once they are completely dead, you can remove the dead weeds by hand.
Important Note: Make sure the wild violets are fully dried and dead before putting them in your compost pile or elsewhere. You don’t want to end up accidentally planting the wild violets again.
#5 – Mulch the area
It isn’t enough to spot-treat the wild violets and hope they never spring up in your garden again. The Iowa Gardener recommends mulching the area by applying two or three inches of wood chip or other kinds of mulch. This suffocates any other small bits of plants that might be left in the soil and discourages them from coming back.
#6 – Let more light into your garden
Wild violets thrive in shaded areas, whereas grass does not. In areas where grass struggles to grow, weeds are quick to come and fill in for them. You might want to give your garden or lawn a thorough check and make sure you aren’t trying to grow grass where you should be growing it or where it might be difficult to grow. You can also consider cutting overgrown shrubs, trimming trees and other taller plants, to let more light into your lawn.
Thoughts and considerations
Before attempting to remove your wild violets, you need to realize that this plant is invasive and pervasive. There’s a high chance that you might have to do it more than once and even repeat applications of your homemade weed killer throughout the year. It’s also good to note that the effect of the homemade weed killer can vary depending on the plant or the season or how you apply them.
While the option to use chemicals to get rid of weeds is the easier and faster one, the result is often one that presents consequences to the health of both humans and plants. The Nest lists some of such consequences of using chemical herbicides and pest controls, including the following:
- threatened long-term survival of major ecosystems
- a disruption to the natural balance within the food chain
- loss of biodiversity
- water, soil, and air contamination
- chronic health problems
Instead of completely eliminating weeds, organic weed suppresses it through various practices, such as using compost and mulch. In cases where the weeds are stubborn and emerge often (such as the wild violets do), spot treatment is a good and effective solution.
What is the best time of year to get rid of wild violets?
Wild violets start blooming in the early spring and summer and flourish rapidly around these months. Nevertheless, the best time to get rid of the wild violets on your garden or lawn would be to wait until the fall.
Fall vs. spring/summer applications
If you try applying your homemade weed killer in the spring or summer, it will only burn the leaf tissue and the plants will grow back, according to Nebraska’s Institute of Agricultural and Natural Resources. The best time to get rid of the wild violets completely is in the fall when the herbicides you apply will be absorbed more by the plants, all the way to the roots, to help you eliminate them successfully.
Why is it so difficult to control wild violets?
As pretty and delicate as these flowers may seem, the wild violets are actually tenacious. Gardening Know-How shares three reasons why it’s hard to control and get rid of them:
- They don’t need to bloom to reproduce
Wild violets have two types of flowers. The first types of flowers are the pretty purple ones that bloom but may be sterile. The second types of flowers are the ones that stay unopened underneath the leaves. These hidden flowers are self-fertilizing and don’t even need to bloom to reproduce.
- They store water
Wild flowers have rhizomes—thick clumps of underground stems—that store water so they can survive even through a drought. Even if a gardener will try to get rid of the weeds, the rhizomes can survive and new shoots can spring out of it.
- The leaves have a waxy coating. Aside from pretty petals, wild violets are known for their heart-shaped leaves. These leaves, however, have a waxy coating that gives them their shine but also prevents the herbicide from penetrating and entering the leaves.
What is horticultural vinegar?
Horticultural vinegar is an ingredient used to make defoliants for controlling weeds. It has a 20% acetic acid rate which is higher than most household vinegar (usually containing around 5% acetic acid according to DenGarden). Household vinegar is toxic to plants and can, in some cases, kill off young seedlings and some young seedlings. For the more stubborn weeds, however, horticultural vinegar is more effective.
Some brands of horticultural vinegar include a surfactant in the form of soapy carbohydrate. This is effective against plants like the wild violet which have waxy leaves. The presence of the surfactant in the horticultural vinegar will help break down the surface tension of the leaf, giving the homemade weed killer a better chance of sticking to the wild violets and allowing the mixture to go all the way down to the roots.
Are wild violets invasive?
Wild violets can spread widely and quickly all on their own. Through the help of their rhizomes, they often grow in clumps. Nevertheless, they usually don’t take over a lawn or garden entirely. They are invasive, but they don’t keep other plant species from growing out.
The term “invasive” also depends on the eyes of the beholder: Some may find wild violets invasive, while others love the sight. For comparison, grass could also be considered “invasive” if unwanted. Grass is incredibly resilient after all, and it will easily outgrow other plants if given the opportunity.
Are wild violets good for bees and other wildlife?
If you had a plan for your plot of land, it can be frustrating to see wild violets spring up here and there, and it can be more frustrating if, no matter what you do, they refuse to go completely. It would be good to note, however, that just like other flora and fauna, wild violets are good for the whole ecosystem of nature, such as in the case of butterflies and bees, where they serve as a food source.
Instead of getting rid of your violets completely, you might want to consider leaving some spots in your garden where they can grow wild and where they can attract and encourage other forms of wildlife.