Birdsfoot Violet Soil Preferences

A soil test of the bed where the birdsfoot violets were growing gave a pH reading of 5.9, which is considered slightly acid. It has been written that a soil pH of 6 gives the optimum for growing birdsfoot violets.

The soil in one growers garden has a rather low humus content and is a bit low in potassium though it is rather well supplied with phosphate. The garden is in full sun. We might reasonably presume that the key factors in birds foot violets success are a satisfactory pH value, good drainage, and ample sun.

Viola Pedata Alba- The White form of Birdsfoot Violet

Soil tests from sites in Dent, Madison, Crawford, Marks, and Iron Counties, Missouri, where this violet grows reveal pH readings from 4.7 to 7. In the case of both extremes, the plants were not thriving as they were in other sites where conditions were more favorable. We may expect our best growth within a pH range of 5 to 6 (and possibly 6.4). This despite the fact that we occasionally see the statement that the birdsfoot violet requires a very acid soil.

Since we find it growing more frequently in gritty soil and on steep slopes than otherwise, we may assume that good drainage is desirable. We see strong colonies growing in raw subsoil where there is virtually no organic matter and where there is little or no other vegetation. The fertility of such soil is extremely low. But the plant might respond to fertilizer.

Of numerous colonies observed on a recent trip through the Ozarks, nearly all were growing in full sun; in fact, some were on steep banks with a south exposure. Others were on steep north slopes in considerable shade. In a wild flower garden, I would rather risk full sun than very much shade.

I would guess that we would produce stronger clumps with finer flowers if we provide a moderately fertile, sandy loam with good drainage and a pH factor of 5 to 6.4. Probably a moderate application of bone meal would be helpful.

Last spring I planted half a dozen birdsfoot violets in my garden which is rather fertile clay loam with a pH factor of 6.2. The plants vary from a single stem to a clump that might produce six or eight flowers. The bed is raised about four inches above the surrounding soil and is in a site where the drainage is naturally good. By early June, they were thriving.

For the person who wants to attempt to grow birdsfoot violets, it is suggested that first a soil sample be taken for a test at the state college of agriculture, or at the county extension office. If the pH reading is not above 6.4, we may expect that factor to be satisfactory.

The next consideration is drainage. Unless the drainage is naturally good, it will be desirable to raise the bed four or five inches above the surrounding soil. The addition of sand incorporated in the soil may be helpful. If you want to add some acid peat, it will do no harm. All this should be thoroughly incorporated in the soil to a depth of eight or ten inches.

by R Thomasson

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