A June-to-frost annual, Madagascar periwinkle forms a nonstop mound of pink, lavender, red, and white flowers in the summer garden.
The petals look like impatiens, but this annual prefers sun and does well in hot, dry weather. The glossy, dark green foliage provides a handsome backdrop for the flowers--whether they're part of a border garden or planted in mass as a ground cover. A note of caution: All parts cause severe discomfort if ingested.
Common name: Madagascar periwinkle, vinca, old maid
Botanical name: Catharanthus roseus, syn. Vinca rosea
Height: 6 to 18 inches, depending on cultivar
Plant type: Evergreen perennial in tropical climates, but usually grown as an annual
- Sun: Plant in sun to part shade.
- Soil: Prefers well-drained, sandy to average soil.
- Moisture: Medium moisture
- Mulch: None required
- Pruning: If the plants look leggy, give periwinkle a midsummer shearing. Because it's a perennial in tropical climates, it usually doesn't need deadheading.
- Fertilizer: Use a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season.
- Plant in well-drained, light soil to prevent root and stem rot.
- In areas with hot summers, give periwinkle some afternoon shade.
- Look for best flowering in hot weather.
- The Cooler Series has deep pink and white flowers. Plants grow 12 to 24 inches tall.
- Stardust Mixed is a mixture of red, white, and pink flowers with a star-shaped center. This group is nice for containers and grows 9 to 12 inches tall.
- Berriwinkle Mix has red, purple, and lavender flowers with white centers. These grow 12 to 14 inches tall.
- ‘Pacifica Red' has 2-inch flowers with overlapping petals. They do well in heat and poor soils and grow 10 to 12 inches tall.
Pests and diseases
- Stem and root rot may occur when soil is too wet.
- While usually not serious, leaf spot or aster yellows occasionally attack the plant.
- Sow seeds in early spring about 12 weeks before the last frost.
All in the family
- Greater periwinkle (Vinca major) is an evergreen-trailing subshrub with blue-violet flowers from spring to fall. It's attractive in containers or hanging baskets and is hardy in Zones 7 to 9.
- Creeping myrtle or lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor) is a mat-forming evergreen with long, trailing shoots; dark green leaves; and blue or white flowers. Used as a ground cover. Hardy in Zones 4 to 9.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo by Amy Sumner