Annual vinca

Annual vinca

Vinca or Periwinkle is a prolific heat and drought tolerant annual, perfect for hot, dry areas. It's easy to grow, and requires little or no attention. A grower once reported that he has grown Vinca in the same location for 30 years. It successfully reseeded itself each year, with no effort on his part.


This plant is known by three names: Vinca, Periwinkle (or Madagascar Periwinkle), and Myrtle. Botanists will tell you that there is also a separate strain or variety of Periwinkle. Vinca plants are native to North America, Europe, China and India.

The plants are grown for its attractive glossy, green foliage, as well as its flowers. Flowers bloom all summer, and up to frost. Common colors include white, rose, pink, and red. 


Vinca is commonly used for borders, edging, and groundcover or bedding plants. Plants grow 1-2 feet tall.


Medicinal Applications:

Over the years, Vinca has been used for medicinal purposes. Applications included:  

Lowering blood pressure

Lowering sugar levels for diabetics

Treatment for coughs, colds, sore throats

Treating eye and lung infections



Vinca is usually grown as a bedding or pot plant. Some excellent breeding has resulted in large-flowering cultivars available with pink, lavender, white, blue, magenta, or bicolor flowers. Vinca cultivar series include Cooler, Little, Pacifica, Pretty, and Tropicana.

The Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station has established a trial garden at the E.V. Smith Research Center near Shorter, Alabama, to evaluate annual garden plants. Thirty Vinca cultivars were visually rated bimonthly on a scale of 0 (dead) to 5 (superior plant in flower) for garden performance during the summer of 1997


Germination Medium

Many growers add dolomitic limestone to adjust pH, micronutrients, and a small amount of superphosphate to the germination medium. However, macronutrients are rarely added to the plug medium because Vinca seed are very sensitive to even moderate soluble salts levels during germination. The germinating medium should have a 5.5 to 5.8 pH, with the electrical conductivity below 0.75 mmhos/cm based on the 2:1 extraction method. Avoid ammonium levels greater than 10 ppm.


Seed Germination

In germinating Vinca seed, maintain very warm and moist conditions until the radicals emerge. Generally, superior germination occurs in 4 to 6 days at 78 to 80 degrees F, 95 to 100 percent relative humidity, and high soil moisture (visible soil moisture on medium surface). After the radicals emerge, reduce the temperature to 72 to 75 degrees F and the relative humidity to 75 to 80 percent until the cotyledons unfold. It is critical that the moisture and temperature be reduced once the radicles emerge because high moisture and temperature may cause damping-off disease. Ensure that the soil is moist to the touch at this stage but is not visible on the medium surface. It usually takes 7 to 10 days after the radicals emerge for the cotyledons to unfold.

Some growers start germination at 90 to 95 degrees F for the first 3 days and then drop to 78 to 80 degrees F to encourage the seeds to take up moisture. Bottom heat greatly benefits seed germination and early growth. The medium should be at least 70 to 74 degrees F during germination.



Begin fertilizing seedlings once or twice per week at 50 to 75 ppm nitrogen, using 15-0-15 or calcium nitrate and potassium nitrate when cotyledons unfold. Increase this rate to 100 to 150 ppm nitrogen when true leaves develop. Apply a protective fungicide for Thielaviopsis, Pythium, and Rhizoctonia once a full seedling stand is achieved.
Do not fertilize Vinca for 7 to 10 days after transplanting or until the roots reach the sides and bottom of the container. Thereafter, fertilize on a constant liquid fertilization basis at 100 to 150 ppm nitrogen, using a fertilizer about equal in nitrogen and potassium but low in phosphorus. Many growers alternate between 20-10-20 and 15-0-15 or calcium nitrate and potassium nitrate applied once or twice per week. The medium's electrical conductivity should not exceed 1.0 mmhos/cm based on the 2:1 extraction method. Growers should test the medium's pH and soluble salts in-house on a weekly basis and send samples for laboratory testing every 2 weeks.



Vinca or Periwinkle are grown from seeds. Sow Vinca seeds outdoors after all danger of frost. Many people will broadcast spread them across an area. These prolific, self seeders, will usually reseed themselves, if left unattended.

You can also start them indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost in your area.

Some varieties can also be propagated by rooting cuttings.


How to Grow Vinca:

Vinca or Periwinkle will grow in range of light conditions, from full sun to shade. They will do well in average soils. They are both heat and drought tolerant. This makes Vinca ideal in hot, dry parts of the country where other flowers will wither and wilt.

Space plants 12-15 inches apart. Water well, when planting. Once plants are established, water only during extended droughts.

Add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season.

Mulch around plants in dry areas to help retain soil moisture.


Growth Retardant

Plant growth retardants are usually not required if Vinca is grown with adequate light intensity. A-Rest (10 to 15 ppm), B-Nine (2,500 ppm), Bonzi (10 to 15 ppm), and Sumagic (1 to 3 ppm) are registered for Vinca application and are often applied about 2 weeks after transplanting or when new growth has occurred. Do not apply growth retardant when temperatures are higher than 80 degrees F because foliar damage may occur.



Vinca requires 5 to 6 weeks from seeding to transplant in plugs, depending on the cultivar and climate, followed by 5 to 6 weeks in market flats for a total production time of 10 to 12 weeks. Four-inch pots require about 2 or 3 weeks longer than market flats do. Ten-inch hanging baskets with five plugs per container will finish in about 12 to 14 weeks from transplanting, again depending on the environment and time of year. Crop production time will also decrease as light intensity and temperature increase in late spring. Growers should keep detailed records of crop performance and timing to improve future scheduling efforts.



Vinca requires warmer temperatures for production than many other bedding plants do. This frequently requires a separate greenhouse or greenhouse section with temperature control for growing Vinca. Growers should think of Vinca as a specialty crop like pansy in this regard. Grow Vinca at 68 to 72 degrees F night temperatures and 80 to 85 degrees F day temperatures. Night temperatures below 65 degrees F cause foliar yellowing, stunted growth, poor quality, and increased risk of root diseases. Low temperature is the

major cause of poor Vinca crops.


Recent work shows that average daily temperature is a better indicator of time to flower in Vinca than either day temperature or night temperature alone. Time to flower decreases and the rate of leaf unfolding increases with increasing average daily temperature between 59 and 95 degrees F. The average daily temperature can be altered to speed or slow the progress of a crop to meet market dates.

Improved air movement around the Vinca crop can reduce the potential for disease. Box fans suspended 3 feet above the crop or other forms of internal turbulent air flow can be operated when ventilation fans are not turned on, especially at night. Additional air movement reduces condensation on the foliage and maintains air circulation among plants and flats.



Give Vinca as much light as possible, especially with early spring crops. When arranging bedding plants in the production area, place Vinca crops in the brightest areas possible, preferably areas with glass or clear plastic glazing. Be sure the greenhouse glazing is clean and free of shading compound.


Growing Medium:

Transplant seedlings into a well-drained, sterile, peat-lite medium with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0 to ensure a disease-free start. Medium pH above 6.5 can cause iron deficiency. Be sure the growing medium contains micronutrients but is otherwise low in fertility.

Overwatering is a common problem in Vinca production. Allow the growing medium to dry between waterings, but do not allow the plants to wilt. Water plants early in the morning or when the temperature is increasing so that the foliage dries quickly to reduce the potential for diseases.



Insect and Disease:

Thielaviopsis, Pythium,and Rhizoctonia are most prevalent in Vinca when the plant is under stress, usually resulting from cool temperatures and overwatering. Pythium causes black lesions on the roots, and the medium has a musty smell. Thielaviopsis (Black root rot) produces similar lesions on the roots and causes older leaves to yellow and abscise. The best prevention for Black root rot is to maintain the proper growing conditions, especially proper temperature and medium pH, and pay careful attention to sanitation.

The major garden disease of Vinca is aerial Phytophora. This disease is prevalent where overhead watering splashes soil and fungus spores onto lower foliage and stems. Lesions develop on leaves and stems, killing the shoot but leaving a healthy root system. The best preventative is to use drip irrigation.

Specific control measures for insect and disease problems can be found in the Alabama Pest Management Handbook, Volumes 1 and 2 (Extension Circulars ANR-500A and ANR-500B) and in Extension Circular ANR-1023, "Diseases of Annual Vinca in the Greenhouse and Landscape." For information about obtaining these publications, contact your county Extension agent.



Vinca has very few insect problems except occasional thrips or aphids.



Cool temperatures, high fertilization, and overwatering are the most common problems both in the greenhouse and in the landscape. Trickle or drip irrigation rather than overhead irrigation is best for watering Vinca in the landscape. In the retail area, Vinca should be marketed in an enclosed area in early spring to prevent cold stress.


Light: Sun

Zones: 2-11

Plant Type: Annual

Plant Height: 6-16 inches tall

Plant Width: 6-16 inches wide

Landscape Uses: Containers,Beds & Borders

Special Features: Flowers,Drought Tolerant,Easy to Grow

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