Johnny Jump Ups, Viola tricolor, are a charming little annual wildflower species. Also known as Hearts-Ease, “JJ’s” are native and common all over Europe, and naturalized to much of the temperate U.S.A. This species is the progenitor for most modern Pansy ornamental garden varieties, and there are also modern color cultivars of JJ’s. What I grow is the old-fashioned flower, of course, with its five petals of purple, white and yellow that look like a tiny face.
In addition to being a super-cutie in the Winter and Spring garden, the name Hearts-Ease refers to traditional medicinal uses for mild heart conditions, and may have other healthy benefits. The flowers are edible and delightful as garnishes on salads and deserts. Magickally they are used in love potions, and most famously, in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Faery King Oberon tells us, "on sleeping eyelids laid, Will make man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees." He meant it to be applied to Titania’s eyes so that she would fall in love with him again, but she sees Nick Bottom (who has been given the head of an Ass) first; hijinks ensue. The “Little Faces” of JJ’s also reminds us of Faery faces in Nature, so this herb is allied with the Fae as well.
Growing Johnny Jump Ups
JJ’s are a cool season annual that can be grown as a perennial in mild climates. That’s not us. In Central Texas, we can grow JJ’s as annuals in the Fall and early spring. I usually keep them in pots here because they are so edible that bugs do find them delicious if they are planted in the ground. They grow great in pots, and that means I can bring them inside in case of freeze, or move them to a cooler, shadier place outside when it gets too hot.
Johhny Jump Ups are well-loved for self-seeding, which means you plant a start in the garden and then their seeds will grow up after the parent has died. Here in central Texas, I’ve rarely had this happen, but it’s pretty easy to save a few seeds from the seed capsules in order to start a few in good potting soil in pots, in late summer for fall blooms, and in midwinter for spring blooms. I think our native soil may be too alkaline for their germination needs. They adapt very well to vegetable garden situations as well, and can be tucked into any wedge or corner for beauty and charm.