The Johnny Jump Up (Viola tricolor), also known as the wild pansy, belongs to the Violaceae family. This botanical species grows spontaneously from the seashore to the mountains, across all Italian regions. Over the years, numerous crosses have been made with this species, such as the Viola x wittrockiana. Today, these are the Johnny Jump Up flowers cultivated in gardens as ornamental plants. Apart from their high ornamental value, not everyone knows that these wildflowers also possess significant beneficial properties and are even edible.
In this article, we will discuss the botanical characteristics and properties of wild pansies flowers. Additionally, we will explore organic techniques for cultivating hybrid varieties in your garden.
Wild pansies Flowers
The Johnny Jump Up has a typical biennial cycle. In the wild, it has the ability to reproduce autonomously through seed dispersal. The roots consist of a small underground rhizome, from which numerous secondary and thin rootlets branch out.
The stem that emerges from the rhizome is about 40 cm tall, quite branched. In the lower part, it lies on the ground, then becomes ascending and erect. It has an angular structure and is covered with dense, short hair.
The leaves of Johnny Jump Up flowers differ from each other, varying depending on their position on the plant’s branches. The lower leaves are oval or ovate-triangular and have a long petiole. The middle ones are ovate-lanceolate, with a short petiole. The upper ones are lanceolate-elongated and nearly sessile.
At the base of the petiole, there are two pennate stipules, with a very large terminal segment. The stipules of the lower leaves are small, while those of the upper leaves are equal to or longer than their respective leaves.
The Johnny Jump Up flower is borne individually on a long peduncle located in the axil of the upper leaves. It has a calyx composed of 5 lanceolate sepals with pointed tips. The corolla has 5 petals of variable colors, with the upper petal extending backward into a short spur. The colors range from blue to purple, white-yellowish, and, as implied by the name Viola tricolor, these colors are simultaneously present on the flowers, making them particularly showy and attractive. In hybrid varieties, flower colors are even more diverse, providing a wide range of choices to suit your preferences.
The flowering of wild Johnny Jump Up flowers occurs in spring and summer, from April to September.
Fruits and Seeds
The fruit is a glabrous capsule, elongated-ovoid in shape, enclosed at the base in the persistent calyx. At full maturity, typically at the end of the second year of the biennial cycle, it splits into 3 valves containing numerous brown seeds, which initiate the life cycle of Johnny Jump Up flowers once again.
Harvesting and Preserving Johnny Jump Up Flowers
The parts used from the Johnny Jump Up flower are the blossoms themselves. These should be collected just before they fade when their content of active principles is at its maximum. To do this, cut the flowering stems a few centimeters above the ground, removing all impurities and woody parts. Drying should take place in the shade, on a single layer.
Perfect preservation is achieved in glass jars or paper bags.
Properties of Johnny Jump Up Flowers
Johnny Jump Up flowers are appreciated for their beneficial properties, which include skin purifying, expectorant, and emollient effects.
The active principles contained in these wildflowers include violaxanthin, violaquercetin, saponins, tannins, mucilaginous substances, and traces of salicylic acid.
Johnny Jump Up is used as an expectorant and emollient in catarrhal affections of the respiratory tract. However, its most important property is its specific purifying action on certain skin disorders such as acne, eczema, and boils.
Some studies even attribute immunodepressive activity to its extracts.
This flower can be used both internally and externally. In the former case, as a purifying agent, an infusion is prepared with 4 g in 100 ml of water, to be consumed in the morning on an empty stomach.
As an adjunct in the treatment of skin conditions, a decoction made with 6 g in 100 ml of water is suitable for washes and partial baths on affected areas.
In herbal stores Johnny Jump Up is primarily sold in the form of supplements.
Cultivating Wild Pansies
As mentioned earlier, cultivated Johnny Jump Up flowers are hybrid varieties obtained from crosses starting with the wild species. Nevertheless, they are hardy plants with excellent resistance to winter weather, of limited size, perfect for decorating balconies, terraces, and gardens. It’s important to choose a bright but partially shaded location because excessive heat in summer could inhibit flowering.
Cultivating Johnny Jump Up flowers can begin with either direct sowing or transplanting a seedling into a pot. Let’s explore the differences between these two techniques.
Johnny Jump Up flowers are sown directly in pots or gardens in late summer (seeds are readily available online), and you can choose from various color variations for the flowers. The soil should be dark and rich in humus, like this one of excellent quality.
After sowing, the soil should be kept consistently moist until germination, followed by sporadic watering during the fall and winter.
In the following spring, you can expect vigorous vegetative growth and the much-anticipated flowering.
Transplanting Johnny Jump Up flowers sold in small pots is done in the fall, aiming to plant them before the usual frosts of November and December.
In the garden, if the soil is too compact, it’s necessary to amend it with universal soil and sand to achieve a softer, well-draining substrate. Then, dig a hole twice the size of the pot. Carefully remove the seedling, delicately untangle the roots, and plant it in the hole, backfilling with loosened soil.
Watering the plant is necessary immediately after sowing and transplanting, infrequently or almost never during winter, more regularly in early spring, and frequently in summer.
In hot seasons, it’s better to water in the evening or early morning. In cooler climates (spring-autumn), midday watering is preferable.
End of Flowering
Generally, hybrid varieties of wild pansies flowers commonly sold and cultivated cannot reseed themselves (sterile seeds), so they are removed at the end of flowering.
The main risks of disease are related to root rot, which could occur if the plant is overwatered and if the soil lacks proper drainage. By adjusting irrigation and preparing good soil, you can avoid these issues.