Pansies and Violas

Pansies and violas are popular cool-season annuals, used rather interchangeably in the landscape. Both thrive in full sun, and if planted in fall, will bloom through the next spring. Pansies (scientifically named Viola wittrockiana) are the result of breeding the traditional Viola tricolor with other wild Viola varieties. This means that all pansies are violas, but not all violas are pansies. Because of their close relation, the leaves and petals of the two look almost identical at first glance. So how do you tell the difference between pansies and violas? And how do you know which one to plant in your garden?

Difference Between Pansies and Violas

Even though pansies and violas are closely related, they still have some differences. In general, you can tell the difference between the two by the size and abundance of the blooms. Pansies have larger flowers, but violas tend to have more abundant blooms. Another way to tell the difference is by the petals. “If the flower has four petals pointing upward and only one pointing downward – you’re looking at a Pansy. If the flower has two petals pointing upward and three petals pointing downward – you’ve got a Viola” (Complete Landscaping Service 2016).

Both plants have their pros and cons, so here’s some information to help you decide which is the best choice for you garden.

Do you want fuller coverage? Do you need something more tolerant to extreme temps? Or do you have a space with only partial sun?

If any of the above are true, go with violas!

They have more abundant blooms than pansies and more of a spilling habit. They also tend to lie lower to the earth than pansies—typically at a height of 3 to 8 inches. In addition, they tend to be more heat and cold tolerant than pansies, allowing for an extended blooming season. Although, both pansies and violas thrive in full sun, violas may bloom longer with partial shade (Garden Supply Company 2018).

Do you want larger blooms?

Go with pansies!

Pansies are your best bet for large, bold blooms (Garden Supply Company 2018)! They have much larger, more noticeable blooms than violas, creating a bigger pop of color in your garden. They’re also a bit taller too, reaching 6 to 12 inches in height.

Are you looking for a certain color?

Depends on the color you want!

“The range of Viola colors is not as varied as Pansies” (Complete Landscaping Service 2016). Violas tend to come in more traditional solid colors like violet, blue, yellow, and white. On the other hand, pansies have a more extensive range of colors in production, ranging from yellow, orange, red, pink, violet, blue and white.

Did you know that you can eat these plants?

That’s right! The flowers from both are edible. They’re often used to decorate cakes and cookies – check out this article if you want to learn more about eating pansies and other edible flowers!


Complete Landscaping Service. (2016). Difference between Pansies and Violas.

Garden Supply Company. (2018). Pansies vs. Violas: What’s the difference + Which is better for you?

National Garden Bureau. (2020). Year of the Pansy.

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