The periwinkle plant is one of the few plants which has a combined Latin and common name, Vinca minor. While there are several types of periwinkles, the Vinca minor is a member of the dogbane family. It is an evergreen type of plant that is used for ground cover. In many locations, the periwinkle plant is considered invasive and cannot be legally planted, so check your local statutes before growing Vinca minor.

As a ground cover, the periwinkle plant is like a long, green mat, with growth only about six inches high. The leaves are bluish-green and it forms stems approximately two feet long before clamping down roots. Periwinkle blooms in the spring (March) with flowers which are lilac-blue or purple.

There are now over a dozen different types of Vinca minor, all with differing flower colors. The periwinkle plant originated in Europe and Asia Minor but has been in North America since the 1700s. It has the capability of taking over large tracts of land by spreading out of control. In many states, such as Michigan, the periwinkle plant has overtaken the natural forest ground cover in deciduous woodlands. Check your state statutes regarding plants before growing any plant which has been added to an invasive list.

The periwinkle plant is extremely hardy and grows in almost any type of soil. It prefers shady placement but too much sun won’t be an insurmountable problem. The plant will not live over the winter in locations that go beyond thirty below zero. The periwinkle can be propagated by root cuttings or by seeds. It will grow where many other plants will not, such as in sandy soil and rock gardens. It is also deer resistant. After the flowers have finished blooming, the periwinkle plant grows cylindrical fruit up to two inches long. Each contains three to five seeds which are released to the wind.

If you wish to grow periwinkles from seed, you can start them inside eight to ten weeks before the final frost or outside after the last frost. Inside you can use a regular plant starter mix and outside you should plant in loose soil fertilized with compost. Simply cover the seeds with dirt, water them, and you will be growing periwinkle in no time at all. Do not transplant any seedlings grown indoors, outside, until all danger of frost has past.

When you plant outside, space your periwinkles around one foot apart. Mulching will help to keep in moisture. The periwinkle plant is undaunted by too little rain or too much rain. It will grow in very dry, hot locations where other plants fail. The only care this plant needs is watering in a long drought.

The periwinkle plant is used by herbalists as an astringent. Its major use throughout the centuries has been to help treat menstrual periods where there is too much heavy bleeding. It can be used during your period or in-between periods. It is also used to treat urinary tract problems, such as hematuria, or blood in the urine. Periwinkle has been used to treat colitis and diarrhea, plus other types of digestive problems which involve bleeding. Some people also use periwinkle in the treatment of such conditions as nose bleeds, bleeding gums, ulcers in the mouth, and sore throats. In medicinal use, the periwinkle plant is used in tinctures and infusions.

There are no warnings about using periwinkle as an herbal remedy and no negative consequences have been reported. Still, err on the safe side by consulting an herbalist who knows how to dose the astringent. Also let your doctor know you are using periwinkle as an herbal remedy as some herbal treatments can react badly for people with certain physical conditions or those taking prescribed medications.

How to Grow Periwinkle

Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) is a reliable bedding plant that's hardy in all zones. In the north it's an annual and blooms until frost, but in warm climates this little garden favorite is a perennial. Small dark green glossy leaves are adorned with flat, one-inch, five-petal blooms. Perfect for mass plantings, it's also a reliable choice for containers and window boxes. Here's how to enjoy the perky periwinkle.

Things You'll Need:

  • Periwinkle
  • Garden trowel
  • Water
  • Mulch (optional)
  • Instructions

  1. Choose a planting site. Periwinkle is an excellent bedding plant for sunny, dry locations. Average, well-drained soil is all that is required. Periwinkle will tolerate some shade, but flowering will be reduced. Plants should be spaced 10 to 12 inches apart. Allow for adequate spacing when choosing a site.

  2. Purchase the plants. Flats of periwinkle containing individual plugs of the flower are readily available at nurseries and garden centers in spring. Available colors are usually white, pink, red and purple.

  3. Plant the plugs. Use a garden trowel to dig a small hole slightly larger than the soil covered roots and at the same depth they were growing in the packs. Gently backfill the original soil and firm the soil around the transplant with your hands. A granular or water soluble fertilizer may also be applied. Follow label instructions carefully.

  4. Water the transplants and cover with a thin layer of mulch if desired. Water periwinkle regularly during dry periods.

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