Description & Overview

Scattered throughout most of Wisconsin, this violet is found in a wide variety of sites from dry to moderate moisture, in full sun or dappled shade. It prefers moist, loamy soils and is typically found in wet-mesic forests, swamps, stream banks, limestone seeps, and swamps. Green to purple-green foliage creates small tufts that give rise to bright purple-blue flowers that contrast nicely with each other. Each flower sits atop a leafy stalk. Alpine Violet can remain evergreen in milder climates. Alpine Violet may also be known as Dog Violet or Labrador Violet.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 2-4 inches

Mature Spread: 3-6 inches

Growth Rate: Moderate

Growth Form: Spreading, naturalizes

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Full Shade

Site Requirements: Wet - mesic, well - drained

Flower: Pale blue - purple, 5 - parted, ¼ - 1/2" long, dark veins on petals

Bloom Period: June – August

Foliage: Green to purple green, hairless, ½ - 1 ½" wide, round to heart - shaped

Fall Color: N/A

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Elliptical capsule with light brown seeds

Suggested Uses

Thriving in full sun to full shade, Alpine Violet is versatile. With its small stature, it makes an excellent border along woodland paths or walkways.

Use Alpine Violet as a groundcover or between pavers or stones as it’s tolerant of light foot traffic. It’s a great alternative to Pachysandra, Vinca, or Ajuga.

It is a host plant to Fritillaries and supports bees, flies, and ants, making it a great addition to a butterfly or pollinator garden.

Scattered throughout most of Wisconsin, this violet is found in a wide variety of sites from dry to moderate moisture, in full sun or dappled shade. I…

Wildlife Value

Alpine Violet is a wonderful plant for wildlife and pollinators. It is a host plant to the Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia), The Beggar (Eubaphe mendica), Great Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia), Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite), Meadow Fritillary (Boloria bellona), West Virginia White (Pieris virginiensis), Bog Fritillary (Boloria eunomia), Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele), Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene), and Atlantis Fritillary (Speyeria atlantis).

Violets are the host plant for the mining bee Andrena violae, which is a specialist pollinator.

Mourning Doves, Ruffed Grouse, and Wild Turkeys feed on Alpine Violets.

Honeybees, bumblebees, long-horned bees, mason bees, ants, and bee flies are all visitors to Dog Violets.

Maintenance Tips

Alpine Violet is low maintenance! Other than occasionally thinning if the spread is unwanted, little else is required.

Scattered throughout most of Wisconsin, this violet is found in a wide variety of sites from dry to moderate moisture, in full sun or dappled shade. I…

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: No

Watch out for slugs and snails that may nibble on the foliage, but the damage is usually not detrimental. Powdery mildew may occur if air circulation between plants is poor. Thinning can increase airflow.

Rabbits may eat the foliage.

Leaf Lore

The genus Viola is Latin for sweet-scented flowers. The specific epithet labridorica means ‘of Labrador, Canada’ where Alpine Violet is commonly found.

The young leaves and flower buds of Alpine Violet are edible raw or cooked. Mature leaves tend to be tough and not as palatable. The leaves have been used to thicken soup.

Violets in general are a symbol of modesty and simplicity and are considered the herb of Zeus. In other lore, a nymph named Io was loved by Zeus. To hide Io from his wife Hera, Zeus changed Io into a white heifer. Now an animal, Io was not used to the rough grass she was forced to eat and began to cry. Taking pity on her (and maybe feeling a bit guilty?) changed her tears into sweet-smelling flowers that we know as violets.

Before litmus tests, chemists used the juice from crushed violet petals to determine how much base or acid a substance had; acid would turn red while bases would turn blue.

Alpine violet produces cleistogamous flowers that are self-fertile and permanently closed. These flowers are produced during summer and are a fail-safe for the plant when fertilization of their showier flowers in mid-spring don’t bloom due to cold or rainy weather.

Companion Plants

Plant Alpine Violet with companions that enjoy similar site conditions. Black Snakeroot (Actaea racemosa), Jack Frost Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’), Ligularia (Ligularia spp.), Spreading Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans), Golden Groundsel (Packera aurea), and Purple Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) thrive in the same environments.

Intermingle with Citronelle Coral Bells (Heuchera ‘Citronelle’), Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata), Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), and Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) for a mix of beautiful textures and colors.

Scattered throughout most of Wisconsin, this violet is found in a wide variety of sites from dry to moderate moisture, in full sun or dappled shade. I…
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Written by Beth DeLain