Violets are spreading through large sections of my lawn. I’ve tried numerous chemical control products, but none has made any impact on the violet leaves. Any suggestions? — P.Q., Wilmington, VT
Violets, both perennial and annual, are difficult to eliminate once they become established in a lawn. Not only do they spread vigorously by seed and rhizomes, but they have waxy leaves that tend to shed any herbicide. They grow well even in shady conditions and are drought tolerant once established.
If you apply chemicals, avoid general herbicides (such as Roundup) that will kill everything they come into contact with. Look for formulations containing triclopyr, which has reportedly been effective, although repeated applications are needed. Use spot treatments that target only the violets themselves, and add a formulation containing a “spreader-sticker” for better leaf contact. Violets are most susceptible to chemical control in springtime when they are flowering.
One organic alternative would be to dig out the plants by hand, making sure you remove all the runners as well. You’ll need to repeat the process as new plants appear, but over time your persistence will be effective. Another option is to let nature take its course and simply enjoy the violets. They’re an attractive ground cover that looks good all summer, and they grow so densely that they choke out competing weeds.