What is the best method to get rid of wild violets without using harmful chemicals?


Wild violets are taking over area of front lawn and garden. What is the best way to rid them without harmful chemicals?


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

I’m sorry to hear about the violet problems.

Unfortunately, as you can read in this fantastic resource on wild violets from Penn State Univ’s Extension, “[w]ild violet is one of the most difficult weeds to control in lawns and other turf areas.” You can try hand removing the violets with a garden knife, fork, or hoe, but unless you are able to get all of the rhizomes (underground horizontal stems), it likely won’t be effective. I don’t want to dissuade your efforts at minimizing ecological impact (to the contrary, the Extension applauds them!), but this approach will require diligence, persistence, and a lot of hands-on garden work. And it would only really be hypothetically feasible if the infestation has just begun.

If the wild violet is too far established, again as detailed in the Penn State link above, multiple seasons of triclopyr-based pesticides are recommended to eradicate the plants.

If the violets are really unacceptable and chemical intervention is a true dealbreaker for you, you could consider smothering the affected areas for a couple of seasons with thick layers of newspaper, cardboard, old carpet, etc., though this would also kill off any turf or other plants you have in those areas, too. And you would need to be careful to smother a larger area than you think you need to, in order to keep those creeping rhizomes from peeking out from from under the edges. I know people who have successfully smothered weed infestations this way… and people who tried it for quite a while and admitted defeat. I’m sorry not to have a more reliable Plan C to recommend.

Good luck, and I wish you (otherwise) happy gardening.