Periwinkle Plant Care: Growing Colorful Vinca Flowers and Plants

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

This plant was first introduced in the 1700s as an ornamental plant in North America.

flowers of the periwinkle flower up closePin

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

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

  • Georgia
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky

Periwinkle vinca minor carries the common names:

  • Lesser periwinkle
  • Periwinkle myrtle
  • Creeping periwinkle
  • 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 as a bedding plant in sunny flower beds, pots, and as a ground cover.

Both periwinkle vinca minor and vinca rosea are found in garden centers from early spring to late summer but have different uses.

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

Periwinkle Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Catharanthus roseus
    Common Name(s): Periwinkle, Madagascar periwinkle, Vinca
    Synonyms: Vinca rosea, Lochnera rosea
    Family & Origin: Apocynaceae family, native to Madagascar
    Growability: Easy to grow
    Grow Zone: 4-11
    Size: Grows up to 8-12′ tall
    Flowering: Blooms in shades of pink, red, white, and purple from spring to fall
    Light: Full sun to partial shade
    Humidity: Tolerates low humidity
    Temperature: Prefers warm temperature of 65°F
    Soil: Well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0-7.5
    Water: Water regularly, but do not overwater. Allow soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
    Fertilizer: Fertilize every 2-3 weeks during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer.
    Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to spider mites, aphids, and whiteflies. Can also be affected by root rot and leaf spot.
    Propagation: Propagated by stem cuttings or by seed.
    Plant Uses: Used as a ground cover, in borders, and in containers. Also used in traditional medicine for its anti-cancer properties.

Is The Periwinkle Flower An Annual Or Perennial?

Normally, the vinca minor plant lasts only one year. However, that depends on where the periwinkle plant is growing.

In northern climates, this ornamental plant would be considered an annual that usually lasts for only one year.

However, in warmer climates, it can grow as a perennial. Indoors it makes an excellent windowsill plant.

It grows best in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 11.

Vinca Periwinkle Care

Vinca minor is a small upright grower and has a maximum height of about 8″-12″ inches tall. The leaves are very shiny and long, with a clear almost white center vein.

Moreover, its stems have a habit of creeping along the ground which creates a trailing mat.

 I had seen plants stretch and grow taller than 8″ inches when they did not have adequate direct sunlight.

The Ralph Shugert periwinkle, under the vinca minor type, is an evergreen shrub that bears dark green leaves and violet-blue flowers with narrow petals.

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 the family Apocynaceae.

Vinca minor plant grows up to 10″ inches tall (25 cm), and dense masses can pile up to 28″ inches wide (70 cm).

What Colors Do Periwinkle Flowers Come In?

The periwinkle flower comes in shades of pink, red, or white; the flowers are borne in abundance and can be in several different shades and are either plain or variegated.

What Kind Of Soil Conditions Do Vinca Flowers Need?

Periwinkles can be grown in the ground on in pots. No matter how they are planted, they appreciate well-drained soil rich in organic matter. 

When planting in pots or containers, bagged potting soil will be fine.

If grown indoors on a windowsill, I recommend a soil mix for growing African violets.

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.

Moreover, you can apply a 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer into the soil to encourage blooming and increase the plant’s growth rate.

Where Can The Periwinkle Flower Be Grown or Used?

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

Since the plant grows relatively low to the ground plants, they make excellent additions as an ornamental ground cover or to container gardens in beds to add color below larger shrubs.

They also provide lots of easy colors when grown in hanging baskets. Give plants lots of light with a little partial shade or full shade to protect them against the strong rays of the sun.

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

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

Related: You may also like –> Growing Trailing Vinca

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 periwinkle seeds? Like so many things – at Amazon!

You can sow seeds at any time of the year, but it is normal to sow seeds during the months of January through April. The seed is 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 normal potting soil and covered with a thin layer of sand.

I like to mix the 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, plant lice aphids may attack. Usually, a good blast of water is one of the natural ways to get rid of aphids or other insects. 

Another is to apply organic insecticide neem oil sprays if needed, but I have never needed to.

The periwinkle plant is also susceptible to fungal diseases, such as wilt, dieback, leaf spot, and canker lesions. 

To avoid this, water the plant and not the leaves. 

Lower Leaves Turing Yellow and Falling Off

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

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

Leaves Droop and Fall

When evergreen 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 lukewarm water for at least half an hour.

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

Related: Is The Periwinkle Plant Poisonous?

Uses For Periwinkle Plant

Apart from functioning as a groundcover for natural areas where grass won’t grow or helping with soil erosion control, periwinkle also serves as a source of alkaloids for medicinal use. 

This plant also grows well on slopes, banks, hillsides, and under trees and shrubs.

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.

Summary Of Periwinkle Catharanthus Roseus

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 as a ground cover or in containers, where color can be moved as needed.

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

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