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Butterfly Gardening and Habitat Program

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Violets - Viola species


With over 500 species of violets worldwide and at least 87 species in North America, violets are tough plants that are often considered weeds. While violets can reproduce and survive at an alarming rate, they can be safely included in the garden if you are willing to occasionally tame their numbers with a good garden hoe.

Violets move further from the category of 'pest' when butterfly gardeners realize that they are the prime caterpillar host plant for many of the Fritillary butterflies.

Importance as a caterpillar food source: Fritillary caterpillars are often divided into two groups; Greater and Lesser. The Greater Fritillary butterflies are larger and the caterpillars feed exclusively on violets. The Lesser Fritillary butterflies tend to be smaller in size and while they use violets as a caterpillar food plant, they also will select other host plants such as passionflower

Importance as a butterfly nectar source: Violets are not considered a butterfly nectar source.

The current rating for violets is:

Caterpillar Rating

If you have experience growing violets, we would like your opinion. Let us know how it performed in your butterfly garden. Your comments will help other butterfly gardeners in your region to create better butterfly gardens:


Violet Cultural Requirements
USDA Hardiness Zone
To zone 3
Bloom Period
Bloom Color
Plant Height
6 to 8 inches
Plant Spread
8 to 12 inches
Light Exposure
Sun to part shade
Soil Moisture
Dry to moist
Animal/Disease Problems




Great Spangled Fritillary Caterpillar

(click photo to enlarge)


Native Range for Violets (Viola ssp.)


Violet in spring with swamp milkweed emerging in the foreground



©2008 North American Butterfly Association