Pansy/Violet – 2022 Herb of the Year

Published On: November 2nd, 2021


Each year the International Herb Association selects one herb to celebrate as the Herb of the Year. Selected plants must be outstanding in at least two of three major categories: decorative, culinary, or medicinal. The 2022 Herb of the Year, Pansy, scores in all three categories.

Pansy / Violet (Viola sp.)

1. Decorative

Pansies have tremendous value in northern climates for extending the growing season. We treasure them for their sweet fragrance and multi-colored flowers.

They are among the most cold-tolerant flowers and will bloom through a light freeze (temperatures down to 29 degrees F). For this reason, Pansies are a go-to choice for early-season container plantings. We are not considered frost-free in our area until late May. Pansies offer floral color for at least six weeks before we ordinarily put flowers in our container plantings.

multi color matrix series pansies at heyden's gardens in cedarburg
decorative multi color pansies in wicket easter egg basket heyden's gardens cedarburg
dark red orange pansies in decorative coffee tin table decorations in spring at heyden's gardens cedarburg

2. Culinary*

Pansy and violet flowers are edible and are superb as a decorative garnish for soups, omelets, desserts, and beverages. Pansy flowers will also dress up salads and make a lovely embellishment to cheese boards and fruit plates.

Children particularly enjoy picking these fragrant little flowers and using them to decorate sweet treats such as cupcakes or frosted cookies.

*As with edible plants, avoid harvesting from plants that have been treated with harmful chemicals. Use clean plants only.

3. Medicinal

Historically, Violets were a healing herb. Even today, naturopaths use viola tinctures or extracts to treat skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and diaper rash.

2022 herb of the year pansies as a garish with tea next to ferns
2022 herb of the year pansies as a garish with martini water or champagne glasses
2022 herb of the year pansies as a garish with tea and raspberries

What’s the Different Between Pansy and Violet?

All Violets and Pansies are members of the genus Viola. All Pansies are Violets, but not all Violets are Pansies. Confused yet? There are many small-flowering Violet species. Some are desirable natives, and some are weeds. However, the seasonal plants you see in garden centers are either Pansy or Viola – hybrids selected for more profuse or larger flowers.

By Looking at their Central Blotch

Most Pansies have large flowers and feature a prominent central blotch of a contrasting color. In some cases, however, this blotch has been modified to a network of fine lines or eliminated.

pansy 2022 herb of the year dark central blotch
pansy 2022 herb of the year central blotch modied to fine lines

By Looking at Their Petals

Pansies have four petals pointing up and one pointing down, while Violets have two petals pointing up and three pointing down.

pansy 2022 herb of the year 4 petals up and one petal down
violets with 2 petals up and 3 petals down