What does a periwinkle flower look like?

By Julie Christensen

Common periwinkle (Vinca minor) is an ideal plant for tough spots. It is also called lesser periwinkle or creeping myrtle. Although it prefers rich, slightly moist soil, it tolerates a wide range of conditions, including clay, alkaline soils and drought. Periwinkle has shallow, spreading, fibrous roots that hold soil in place. Use it on slopes or to prevent soil erosion.

Native to Asia and Europe, periwinkle is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. It blooms best in full sun, but it also grows in shade and is often planted under trees. Its dense roots tend to crowd out other plants, so use it alone or plant it with bulbs. Periwinkle produces tiny purple, blue or white blooms in spring to summer and has deep green, glossy evergreen foliage.

Planting and Caring for Periwinkle

Periwinkle can be grown from seed, but it grows slowly. A better bet is to use divisions or nursery transplants. Just a few plants will spread to fill in a large area. Enrich the soil with compost, manure and peat moss to improve drainage before planting. Plant periwinkle in either sun or shade. In cold, harsh climates, protect it from wind and water it when the temperature is above freezing to prevent winter burn.

Periwinkle grows 3 to 6 inches tall and 2 feet wide. Space plants at least 12 to 18 inches apart. Plant out periwinkle in spring or early fall. Water the soil deeply after planting and keep the soil evenly moist during the first 6 to 10 weeks, as the roots become established.

Fertilize periwinkle in spring with ¼ cup 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet of soil. Mulch dry soils to conserve moisture. Dig up and discard plants that grow out of bounds to contain periwinkle, especially if your soil is moist and rich. You can even mow periwinkle in spring if it begins to look straggly. Set the mower blade to its highest setting.

Vinca Pest and Disease Potential Problems

Although periwinkle is a long-lived plant, it can suffer from many diseases, especially in humid, wet climates. In wet soil, periwinkle suffers canker or root rot. Add soil amendments to improve drainage and remove and discard infected plants.

Botrytis blight can also be a problem. Characterized by leaf spots, dying leaves and dying or disfigured flowers, this fungal disease is most prevalent in cool, moist conditions. You can use a fungicide, such as copper or sulfur, to treat it, but prevention is the best strategy. Avoid planting periwinkle too closely and thin out the plants from time to time. Use drip systems, rather than overhead sprinklers, because wet leaves can spread the disease. Remove any diseased plants promptly and discard dead plant material.

Periwinkle can also suffer from leaf spots and aster yellows. Treat these conditions as you would botrytis blight. Allow good air circulation between plants, water them carefully and keep the garden clean.

One final note about periwinkle: once it becomes established, it’s difficult to eradicate. Plant it in a permanent location and don’t let it become invasive.

Varieties Worth Trying

  • Vinca minor ‘Alba’ is a periwinkle variety that produces tiny, white flowers.
  • Vinca minor ‘Atropurpurea’ has dark purple flowers.
  • Vinca minor ‘Bowlesii’ has a vigorous, clump-like growth and produces large, dark blue flowers that are showier than most.
  • Vinca minor ‘Flore Pleno’ is one of the few periwinkles that have double flowers. The flowers are purple.
  • Vinca minor ‘Variegata’ has blue flowers like most vincas, but its outstanding feature is its variegated green and yellow foliage.

For more information, visit the following links:

Common Periwinkle from West Virginia University Cooperative Extension

Common Periwinkle from Virginia Cooperative Extension

Diseases of Common Periwinkle from West Virginia University Cooperative Extension



Leave no ground uncovered with the mighty periwinkle! This vigorous trailing plant can easily tackle any tricky shady situation and happily cover your planting space. With its glossy evergreen leaves and cheerful blue star-like flowers, it can really brighten up a shady corner in your garden.

genus name
  • Vinca
  • Part Sun,
  • Shade,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Perennial
  • 6 to 12 inches,
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • Indefinitely wide
flower color
  • Blue,
  • Purple,
  • White
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Spring Bloom,
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom,
  • Winter Interest
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant,
  • Groundcover,
  • Slope/Erosion Control
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Attracts Birds,
  • Good for Containers
  • 4,
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9
  • Division,
  • Stem Cuttings

Garden Plans For Periwinkle

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Vigorous Vines

It seems like every garden has that tricky dark corner where no grass will grow and where perennials fizzle out. Enter periwinkle. This tough-as-nails shade plant seems to laugh in the face of adversity and look more and more lush, year after year. With its vigorous vining habit, periwinkle can easily colonize any area. In some places, that can be a problem. In more harsh northern climates, periwinkle is not quite invasive, but in places like California with mild climates, these plants can quickly take over a garden. No matter where you are, it’s best to stay on top of them in case they need to fit within some bounds. See more drought-tolerant groundcovers.

As these vines grow, they have a knack for laying down roots wherever their stems come in contact with soil. This makes them a great option for preventing weeds from growing between their dense mats of foliage. However, it also means these plants can spread indefinitely. As long as you catch them early, they are easy enough to pull up as they spread, and they certainly don’t mind a good haircut every now and then. Cutting the plants back also encourages new growth, which is much brighter and shinier than the old leaves and is a nice spot of color in dark areas. Periwinkle works great as a rock garden plant, too!

Periwinkle Care Must-Knows

Overall, these plants are pretty tough and grow in almost any situation. Depending on which type of periwinkle you are looking to grow, the conditions may vary slightly. Ideally, soil conditions are humus-rich and have good moisture. They’ll also grow in something harsher, though it might slow them down. These plants prefer part sun, but they’ll take what they can get and grow just fine in almost anything from full sun to full shade.

If you are nervous about invasiveness, keep an eye on your plants. Remove any runners that go into unwanted territory. You can also shear your plants back to give them a nice flush of new growth and keep them a little tamer.

Minor or Major

Most commonly, the periwinkle you will find is Vinca minor. This is the hardier and smaller plant of the two main species—minor in Latin simply means smaller. The other species commonly found is Vinca major. As you may guess, major means bigger. Vinca major is an overall larger plant, with bigger leaves, flowers, and habit. However, Vinca major is less hardy and is therefore less often seen, especially in northern climates, or it is treated as an annual vine.

More Varieties of Periwinkle

Purple Vinca

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Vinca minor ‘Atropurpurea’ bears creeping stems and dark purple flowers on and off from spring to fall. Zones 4-9


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Vinca minor offers pretty blue blooms periodically from spring to frost. Zones 4-9

Plant Periwinkle With:

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In early spring, the brilliant blue, pink, or white flowers of lungwort bloom despite the coldest chill. The rough basal leaves, spotted or plain, always please and continue to be handsome through the season and into winter. Planted close as a weed-discouraging groundcover, or in borders as edgings or bright accent plants, lungworts are workhorses that retain their good looks. Provide high-humus soil that retains moisture. Although lungwort tolerates dry conditions, be alert for mildew.

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Used often as a groundcover or an edging plant, lilyturf or liriope is popular for good reason. It stays green year-round in many climates, produces pretty blue or white flowers, and is about as tough a plant as you’ll hope to meet. Its dense tufts of almost-evergreen, broadly grassy leaves are often striped. Stiff stems bear tight spikes of tiny blue or white bells, similar to those of grape hyacinth. It is best protected from drying winds in rich, well-drained soil that retains moisture.

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The elegant, sweeping lines of this grass are so lovely that it’s a favorite among gardeners. And Japanese forestgrass is one of only a few ornamental grasses that thrive in shade. Its mounding clumps of arching, grassy leaves gradually increase in size, never becoming invasive. Variegated cultivars are particularly attractive. All thrive in moisture-retaining, humus-rich soil and even tolerate dry conditions.

Annual Vinca and Common Periwinkle

When selecting flowering annuals this spring, don’t forget annual vinca (Catharanthus roseus). Annual vinca, also known as Madagascar periwinkle, is the perfect plant for sunny garden areas. In addition to being a wonderful plant for beds and borders, annual vinca can also be grown in containers, window boxes, and hanging baskets.

Annual vinca commonly grows 8 to 12 inches tall, but some varieties can reach a height of 18 inches. Plant spread is typically 12 to 18 inches. Annual vinca produces 1- to 2-inch-diameter flowers above glossy, dark green foliage. Until recent years, the range of flower colors was somewhat limited. Flowers varied from pink to white, often with dark rose or red eyes. Over the past few years, seed companies have developed a large number of new varieties. These new varieties have expanded the color range of annual vinca. Gardeners can select varieties with light blue, pink, salmon, apricot, orchid, raspberry, carmine, and burgundy flowers. Plant breeders have also introduced varieties with trailing and dwarf, upright growth habits.

Annual vinca is easy to grow. It performs best in well-drained soils in sites that receive partial to full sun. Annual vinca possesses excellent heat and drought tolerance, blooming continuously through the intense heat of mid-summer. However, Madagascar periwinkle does not perform well in wet, poorly drained soils or in cool spring weather. Plants turn a sickly yellow green in wet soils or cool spring weather. When choosing a planting site, make sure it has well-drained soil. Also, allow the temperatures to warm nicely before planting in the spring. Annual vinca is free of serious insect and disease pests.

Annual vinca is a low maintenance, relatively trouble-free bedding plant. It blooms from spring until a killing frost in the fall. The removal of faded flowers or deadheading is not necessary. While root and stem rots may occur, these problems can usually be avoided by planting in warm, well-drained soils.

Cultivars and series of annual vinca include:

‘Apricot Delight’ soft apricot-pink flowers with magenta eyes
‘Blue Pearl’ light lavender blue flowers with white eyes, grows to 18 inches in height
‘Passion’ deep orchid purple flowers with yellow eyes, grows to 18 inches
Cooler Series uniform growth habit, more tolerant of cool wet conditions, vibrant colors, grows to 14 inches
Heat Wave Series blooms early, grows to 10 inches
Mediterranean Series spreading growth habit, grows 6 inches tall and spreads over 2 feet, good for use in hanging baskets or window boxes, white, apricot, rose, and white flowers
Pacifica Series grows 12 inches tall, 2-inch flowers with overlapping petals, blooms early, white, pink, rose, and lilac flowers available
Tropicana Series blooms early, large rounded flowers, grows to 15 inches

(Varieties within a series possess uniform characteristics, such as height, spread, and flowering habit. The only characteristic which varies within a series is flower color.)

Annual vinca should not be confused with perennial periwinkle (Vinca minor), which is also known as common periwinkle, myrtle, and running myrtle. This species is a viney broadleaf evergreen and is commonly used as a groundcover in partial shade. Common periwinkle grows 3-6 inches tall and spreads over 2 feet. It has smooth wiry stems and lilac-blue flowers.

Common periwinkle, like annual vinca, is easy to grow. It grows best in well-drained organic soils with a pH between 6.0 and 8.0. Vinca minor flowers best in full sun. However, its leaves may burn in sunny locations.

Cultivars of common periwinkle include:

‘Alba’ white flowers
‘Atropurpurea’ purple flowers
‘Bowlesii’ larger, dark blue flowers, grows in clumps
‘Flore Pleno’ double, purple-blue flowers
‘Variegata’ blue flowers, yellow variegated foliage

Both annual vinca and common periwinkle are easy-to-grow species that are wonderful additions to the home landscape.

This article originally appeared in the May 4, 2001 issue, pp. 50-51.

Plants & Flowers

Common name: Madagascar Periwinkle, Rose Periwinkle, Old Maid, Chula, Chatas, Vinca

Family: Apocynaceae

Synonymous: Vinca rosea (basionym)
Ammocallis rosea
Lochnera rosea

Catharanthus roseus

Distribution and habitat: Catharanthus roseus is an evergreen shrubs or herbaceous plant, sprawling along the ground or standing erect to 1m (3 feet) in height, native and endemic to Madagascar where its natural habitat was almost been lost. It was found growing on sand and limestone soils in woodland, forest, grassland and disturbed areas.
This herb is now common worldwide as ornamental plant. It is naturalized in most tropical and subtropical regions being escaped from cultivation, spreading in rocky outcrops and roadsides in dry savanna, urban open spaces and in cultivated areas.

Description: Catharanthus roseus is a small, upright shrub prized for its shiny green leaves and delicate looking flowers. The glossy oval leaves are 2-5cm (0.8-2 inch) long, have a white centre vein and are borne in opposite pairs on slender stems. One or more flowers are produced at the stem tips throughout a flowering period that generally lasts from mid-spring to early autumn. Each flower has a 1cm (0.4 inch) long tube flattened out into five lance-shaped petals at the month, which is up to 4cm (1.5 inch) wide. Flower colour is usually soft rose-pink or occasionally, mauve.
These plants may self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

Houseplant care: Catharanthus roseus plants are usually acquired in early spring and discarded when the flowering season has ended. They are not normally worth overwintering because only young plants tend to look healthy and flower profusely when grown indoors.
Pinch it back early in the season to encourage branching and a fuller plant.

Light: Bright light, included three or four hours of direct sunlight daily, is essential for good flowering.

Temperature: Normal room temperatures are suitable at all times. Catharanthus roseus cannot tolerate temperatures that fall below about 10°C (50°F).

Watering: Water the potting mixture plentifully, but do not allow the pot to stand in water.

Feeding: Once flowering has begun, apply standard liquid fertiliser every tow weeks. These plants are not tolerant of excessive fertiliser.

Potting and repotting: Use soil based potting mixture when repotting these plants. Move them into pots one size larger every six to eight weeks. Probable maximum size needed is 10-13cm (4-5 inch).

Gardening: Catharanthus roseus is a tender plant and does not withstand frosts. It is best grown indoors in temperate climates. It thrives well in hot and humid environments, but it tolerates the hot temperatures in summer and it is also able to bear the extremes of drought and heavy rainfall.
In frostfree climates it develops a woody stem near the base and can get 0.6-1m (2-3 feet) tall and spread out just as wide. As annuals, they are usually smaller and more prostrate.
Pinch back early in the season to encourage branching and a fuller plant. The flowers drop off when they finish blooming, so no deadheading cleaning is needed.

Position: Catharanthus roseus should be planted in full sun or partial shade to promote flowers all year round in hot climates. They do best with some shade during at least some of the day during summer. They start to look a little frazzled by the end of the day without some shade and tend to get somewhat leggy when they get a lot of sun. A shady spot will promote lush foliage, but part sun seems to be their favorite spot, to obtain good foliage and plenty of blooms.

Soil: Catharanthus roseus plants are best grown as annual bedding plants in well-drained sandy loams. Superior soil drainage is the key to growing this annual well. Flowering will suffer if soils are too fertile.
The planting distance should be about 30cm (12 inch) between plants.

Irrigation: They need regular moisture, but avoid overhead watering. Catharanthus roseus plants should be watered moderately during the growing season, but it is relatively drought resistant once established. They will recover after a good watering.

Fertilising: Catharanthus roseus plants are not heavy feeders. If necessary, feed fortnightly or once monthly with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Too much fertilizing will produce luxuriant foliage instead of more blooms.

Propagation: Catharanthus roseus can be propagated from tip cuttings as well as from seed, since plants grown this way will flower more profusely. Take a 5-8cm (2-3 inch) long tip cuttings of new growth in late spring or summer. Trim each cutting immediately below a leaf, dip the cut end in hormone rooting powder and plant it in 5 or 8cm (2-3 inch) pot containing a moistened well drained potting mixture. Enclose the whole in a plastic bag or propagating case and stand it in bright filtered light. After rooting occurs (generally in three to four weeks), treat the rooted cutting as a mature plant.
In late winter or early spring, sow a few seeds in a shallow tray of moistened rooting mixture, place the tray in a plastic bag or propagating case and stand it in warm position where it will get bright filtered light. When the seeds have germinated – in two to three weeks – uncover the tray and begin watering the seedlings moderately – enough to make the potting mixture moist, but allowing the top 1cm (0.4 inch) to dry out between waterings – until they are about 1cm (0.4 inch) high. Transfer each seedling into an 8cm (3 inch) pot of potting mixture and treat it as mature Catharanthus roseus.
Outdoors, it will reseed itself if the soil is loose.

Stem rot, leaf spot and aster yellows may occur.
Treatment: Avoid overwatering and soggy conditions. Use suitable fungicide to treat these diseases.

Watch for slugs and snails.
Treatment: These pests are controlled using an appropriate molluscicide, both pellet and liquid forms or by hand pick at regular inspections.

Recommended varieties:
Catharanthus roseus cv. ‘Albus’ is a white-flowered form.

Catharanthus roseus cv. ‘Ocellatus’ has white flowers with a brilliant, carmine-red centre.

Toxicity: Catharanthus roseus is poisonous if ingested or smoked. It has caused poisoning in grazing animals. Even under a doctor’s supervision for cancer treatment, products from this plant produce undesirable side effects.

Uses and display: Catharanthus roseus makes excellent bedding or border plant for summertime annual or perennial garden. It is great as a ground cover, planted en masse with different colours or in mixed plantings. It is perfect for raised planters, containers or hanging baskets to display its colorful beauty at decks, patios, garden porches, windowsills and balconies. This plant is attractive to butterflies too. Certain varieties can be grown as a houseplant in a brightly lit location. Cut branches can be used as vase arrangement in homes.

Catharanthus roseus is grown commercially in the pharmaceutical industry.


Foliage – green
Features – flowers
Shape – bushy
Height: 1m (3 feet)

Watering in active growth period – plentifully
Light – bight
Temperature in active growth period – min 10oC max 24oC (50-75oF)
Humidity – low

Hardiness zone: 9b-11

Flowers Lady Annuals, Evergreen, Flowering Plants, Garden Plants, Indoor Plants Ammocallis rosea, Catharanthus roseus, Catharanthus roseus Alba, Catharanthus roseus Ocellatus, Chatas, Chula, Lochnera rosea, Madagascar Periwinkle, Old Maid, Rose Periwinkle, Vinca, Vinca rosea

Madagascar Periwinkle Care: Growing Madagascar Rosy Periwinkle Plant

Madagascar or rosy periwinkle plant (Catharantus roseus) is a spectacular plant used as a ground cover or trailing accent. Previously known as Vinca rosea, this species does not have the hardiness its look-alike cousin, Vinca minor, has attained. The rosy periwinkle plant is tolerant of many growing conditions where seasons are warm annually and soil is well draining. Some notes about rosy periwinkle and how and where to grow Madagascar periwinkles can be found in this article.

Where to Grow Madagascar Periwinkles

Starry flowers, glossy leaves and persistent fruits characterize the rosy periwinkle plant. It is a perennial in its native region of Madagascar and in tropical to semi-tropical regions. The flowers may be found in white, pink and rosy-purple. It is an easy to care for plant that may grow as a perennial or an annual in cooler zones.

The hardiness range is only USDA plant hardiness zones 9b to 11 as a perennial. However, you can use the plant for summer interest as an annual. Zones 7 and 8 should wait to install the plants outdoors until late May or

preferably early June. The native habitat is located off the coast of South Africa and is semi-arid and hot and sunny year around.

Due to the plant’s adaptive nature, growing Madagascar rosy periwinkle in wetter, temperate zones is possible. It will succumb when freezing temperatures arrive, but generally blooms prolifically until that time.

About Rosy Periwinkle Cultivation

Rosy periwinkle self-seeds, but the most common method of establishment is through cuttings. In the warmer climates, it grows rapidly to a height of up to 2 feet and a similar spread. Seeds germinate at 70 to 75 F. (21-23 C) in around one week.

Care should be exercised to ensure a dry garden bed. It is even useful to plant periwinkle in a raised bed or one amended heavily with sand or other grit. Rosy periwinkle plants are extremely affected by heavy rains or excess irrigation and may develop root rot in such situations. Growing rosy periwinkle in temperate zones usually results in a short season annual with three months of lovely flowers before a glut of moisture ends its life.

Madagascar Periwinkle Care

The biggest issue with Madagascar periwinkle care is overwatering. Apply infrequent supplemental water in only the hottest and driest periods. In temperate zones, water the plants only until established and then rarely.

The plant thrives in ideal zones, in either partial shade or partial sun. The key is heat and dryness for a healthy rosy periwinkle. It actually produces the best and most prolific flowers in poor soil and excessively fertile soils can adversely affect the number of blooms. For this reason, it is not necessary to feed the plants except at emergence and installation.

Pinch off new stems to promote a bushier plant. You can prune back the woody stems after the season has ended to improve the appearance and promote flowering.

This easy to care for plant will astound you with season long drama in proper environmental regions or a few months of fun in cooler zones. Either way, it is a worthy addition to most landscapes for any duration.

Vinca, Madagascar Periwinkle

The Vinca, or Madagascar periwinkle, is an annual flower that flowers constantly and stands up well to heat and humidity.

Description: Vinca flowers are divided but round, one to two inches in diameter, and borne at the tips of branches or shoots that bear glossy green leaves. The flowers of many varieties also have a contrasting eye in the center of the bloom. Colors include white, red, pink, and lavender flowers.


How to grow: Vinca is at its best in hot conditions- full sun, heat, and high humidity. Set out plants at 8 to 12 inches apart, after the soil has warmed.

Propagation: Sow seeds 12 weeks prior to setting out after last frost. Germination takes 14 to 21 days at a temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Maintain warm temperatures after germination and don’t overwater.

Uses: Vinca is good for massing and edging and exceptional as a container plant. It is extremely heat tolerant.

Related varieties: Popular varieties include the Pretty In series with clear tones and good shape.

Scientific name: Catharanthus roseus

Want more information? Try these:

  • Annual Flowers. Discover your favorite annual flowers. We’ve organized them by color, sunlight, soil type, and height to make it easy to plan your garden.
  • Annuals. There’s more to an annuals garden than flowers. Learn about all of the annuals that enhance your garden.
  • Perennial Flowers. Complement your annuals with these delightful perennial flowers. They are also organized by height, soil type, sunlight, and color.

How to Prune Vinca Vine

Vinca vine is a fast-growing perennial vine. It grows best in the shade, which makes it the perfect choice for planting under trees and shrubs where other ground covers and grasses might not do as well. Vinca vines produce small bluish-lavender blooms in the spring, which earned it the nickname of “periwinkle.” While vinca is a relatively no-care plant, it can be quite invasive if totally ignored. Periodic pruning can help to control the spread of this vine.

Pull the end of the vine up from the ground. Vinca spreads along the top of the ground and sends out new roots from the nodes (the thicker parts) along the stems. To make sure that you get this new growth cut away, pull the end of the vine completely out of the ground, thereby pulling any new roots out of the soil.

Cut away as much of the vine as desired. After you have pulled up the desired length of the vinca vine, just cut off the vine at the end of the section.

Discard the vinca vine in the compost bin or trash. Do not just throw the pieces of vinca vine on the ground. They will take root, and you will have more vinca than when you starting pruning.

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