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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.