HOW TO Plant, Grow And Care For The Colorful Periwinkle Plant

The periwinkle plant – Catharanthus roseus or lochnera rosea, also known as rosy periwinkle, is a lovely small plant that grows outside very well but also finds itself at home in a summer window.

The plant Catharanthus roseus is sometimes called Vinca minor and common periwinkle. It’s also commonly called the Madagascar Periwinkle.

flowers of the periwinkle plan up close

Here is the primary reason to use the correct botanical names of plants. Vinca minor also known as the common periwinkle is a different plant and is considered an invasive species in:

  • Georgia
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky

Periwinkle vinca minor (lesser periwinkle, periwinkle myrtle or dwarf periwinkle) serves as a ground cover plant where grass won’t grow. On the other hand, Catharanthus roseus grows as an annual plant mainly used in sunny flower beds and pots. Both vinca minor periwinkle and vinca rosea are found in garden centers from early spring to late summer but they have different uses.

This article focuses on periwinkle plant care, with its shiny green foliage and flowers of pink, red or white which cover the plant all through the summer.

Is The Periwinkle Plant An Annual Or Perennial?

Normally, the plant last only one year, however, that depends on where the periwinkle plant is growing.

In northern climates it would be considered an annual that usually last for only one year. However, in warmer climates it can grow as a perennial. Indoors it makes and excellent windowsill plant.

How Big Does A Periwinkle Grow?

This small upright grower and has a maximum height of about 8 inches. The leaves are very shiny and long, with a clear almost white center vein. I have seen plants stretch and grow taller than 8 inches when they did not have adequate light.

The Ralph Shugert periwinkle, under the vinca minor type, is an evergreen shrub that bears dark green leaves and violet-blue flowers. Like most species, Ralph Shugert is drought tolerant, requires well-drained soil and enjoys full sun to partial shade. It can only grow up to 15 cm.

On the other hand, Vinca major or greater periwinkle is a bigger perennial species of family Apocynaceae. Vinca major plants grow up to 25 centimeters tall and dense masses can pile up to 70 cm.

What Colors Do Periwinkle Flowers Come In?

Periwinkle flowers come in shades of pink, red or white and the flowers can be in several different shades and can either be plain or variegated.

What Kind Of Soil Do Periwinkles Need?

Periwinkles can be grown in the ground on in pots. No matter how they are planted they appreciate a well-drained soil. When planting in pots or containers a bagged potting soil will be fine.

If grown indoors on a windowsill, I would recommend an African violet soil mix. This is because many potting soil mixes used outdoors may contain wood products and you could soon find yourself with a fungus gnat problem indoors.

Where Can Periwinkles Be Grown or Used?

Periwinkle plants are easy to grow and care for. Provide them a well-drained moist soil, plenty of bright light, warm temperatures 65° F and above and they will do wonderfully out on the patio or deck as potted plants.

Since they are relatively low ground growing plants they make excellent additions to container gardens, or in beds to add color below larger shrubs.

They also provide lots of easy color when grown in hanging baskets. Give plants lots of light but protect them against the strong rays of the sun.

If plants become a little straggler, they can simply be cut back to make them more bushy!

Plant periwinkles where they get good air, sun and drainage and there will be no keeping them from blooming.

How To Grow Periwinkle From Seed

Periwinkles are easy to grow from seed. This may be a better alternative than overwintering plants.

Where can you find seeds? Like so many things – at Amazon!

You can sow seed at anytime of the year but it is normal to do sow during the months of January through April. The seed is very, very light with 1 gram containing 700 to 800 seeds.

Cultivation usually is for 3 to 4 months and the seeds should germinate within the first 2 to 3 weeks at a temperature of 63 to 65°.

The seed should be sown in a normal potting soil and covered with a thin layer of sand.

I like to mix fine seed with builder sand – available at home improvement centers – when sowing to get an even distribution.

Keep the soil damp during this period. The total growing time from sewing to mature plant is about 3 to 4 months.

What Pests, Disease or Problems Does The Periwinkle Face?

During the summer months aphids may attack. Usually, a good blast of water will simply wash them off. You could spray with an insecticide like neem oil, but I have never need to.

Lower Leaves Turing Yellow and Falling Off

When lower foliage turn yellow and fall off, it usually is the sign of too much water or the plant has been subjected to cold.

Back off the water or with it is cold related move the plant to a warmer position.

Leaves Droop and Fall

When leaves hang, droop and fall it normally is a periwinkle plant growing in a pot and has dried out too much. The best solution is to drop the whole pot into a bucket of Luke warm water for at least half an hour.

When the weather is warm, plants may need to be watered daily.

Uses For Periwinkle Plant

Apart from functioning as a ground cover to areas where grass won’t grow, periwinkle also serve as a source of alkaloids for medicinal use. With a total of 86 alkaloids, the periwinkle plant extract covers a lot of benefits.

One of its products is vinpocetine, a synthetic derivative coming from the vincas alkaloid vincamine. This compound aids short-term memory and serves as an anti-aging agent.

Vincristine and vinblastine can treat various forms of cancer such as leukemia, child cancers, hodgkin disease or hodgkin lymphoma, and other types of lymphoma.


This native of Europe, India and Madagascar is a fine plant to add color with minimal requirements. I prefer to grow the plant outdoors in the landscape in containers, where color can be moved as needed.

Give the periwinkle plant a try… you won’t be disappointed.