Periwinkles are low-growing evergreen perennials, useful for covering the ground to prevent weeds and for planting up awkward spots. Periwinkles have long stems of glossy evergreen foliage in plain green or variegated with white, yellow, or cream, which provide colour and interest all year round. Blue, white or purple starry flowers appear from spring to autumn.
The most common types of periwinkle are lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor) and greater periwinkle (Vinca major). Choosing the right one for your garden is important as greater periwinkle is extremely vigorous and can become invasive. While greater periwinkle is fine for awkward spots like poor or stony ground, or a rough bank, it can become a big problem in a border with other plants. This is because greater periwinkle throws out long shoots that root where they touch the ground. These can quickly grow among other plants, where it’s then hard to remove.
How to grow periwinkles
Periwinkles are tough and easy to grow, thriving in all but the most extreme soils and situations. Lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor) is usually the best choice for gardens, forming neat mats of growth that look good all year and keep weeds at bay. The prostrate-growing shoots of lesser periwinkle root where they touch the ground and gradually spread to form dense carpets of foliage. Space the plants between 30-50 cm apart, depending on how big the plants are on purchase and how quickly you want to cover the ground.
Growing perwinkle: jump links
- Planting periwinkle
- Caring for periwinkle
- How to propagate periwinkle
- Controlling periwinkle
- Periwinkles to grow
Where to grow periwinkle
Periwinkle grows readily in all aspects from sun to shade but will flower much more freely in good light. Being one of the relatively few plants to thrive in shade, it’s extremely useful to grow in groups under trees or shrubs. Periwinkle also makes excellent ground cover for hard to access sites such as banks. For best results grow periwinkle in moist but well-drained soil, although it will grow in all but extremely dry or waterlogged ground.
How to care for periwinkle
Plant periwinkle in autumn or spring if possible. If the soil is poor, improve it by digging in well-rotted organic matter first. Plant with the top of the rootball level with the ground, firm the soil around the roots and water in thoroughly. If planting periwinkle in spring or summer, keep well-watered during dry spells until established.
How to propagate periwinkle
Periwinkle shoots develop roots where they touch the ground and plants can be divided during autumn. Alternatively, lift the stems to find sections that have rooted, then detach the individual stems from the parent plant and grow on individually in small pots.
How to control invasive periwinkle
The arching stems of greater periwinkle that grow quickly and root where they touch the ground can become a real problem. Growth can be restricted in several ways:
- To prevent stems growing into other plants, cut the plant back regularly, using shears or a strimmer.
- Remove the cut stems which could otherwise root
- Where greater periwinkle is growing amongst other plants, dig out each rooted section using a pronged hand weeder. Don’t put the rooted pieces on the compost heap where they may continue growing but dispose of in garden waste bags instead
- Periwinkle growing in the lawn can be mown regularly
- Chemical weedkiller can be used as a last resort. Choose a systemic weedkiller: this type is applied to the leaves and the plant then takes the poison down to the roots. The weedkiller will kill anything it touches so apply with care if periwinkle is growing among other plants
Advice on buying periwinkles
- Make sure you buy the right periwinkle for your garden. We strongly recommend you grow varieties of Vinca minor rather than Vinca major, which can be invasive.
- Check plants over to make sure they look healthy and have no signs of damage or disease
Where to buy periwinkles online
Periwinkle varieties to grow
- Lesser periwinkle, Vinca minor, has dark green, evergreen leaves and sky-blue flowers. Height x Spread: 20cm x 50cm
- Vinca minor f. alba ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ has dark green leaves and brilliant white flowers. H x S: 10cm x 1m
- Vinca minor ‘Argenteovariegata’ foliage is green variegated with creamy-white, a good foil for the blue flowers.H x S: 10cm x 1m
- Vinca minor ‘Atropurpurea’ bears rich plum-purple flowers, with dark green leaves. H x S: 10cm x 1.5m
- Vinca minor ‘Illumination’ leaves are brightly variegated with gold, making a striking contrast to the blue flowers. H x S: 50cm x 1.5m
- Greater periwinkle, Vinca major, is vigorous and can be invasive, with arching stems. Produces large blue flowers against mid-green leaves. H x S: 50cm x 2m
- Vinca major ‘Variegata’ has cream and green variegated foliage and blue flowers. Less vigorous than the green-leaved species but still has the potential to become invasive. H x S: 50cm x 2m