A small group of creeping, twining, shrubby plants that provide attractive evergreen foliage and delicate flowers. Very popular as ground cover.
Family: Apocynaceae (dogbane family)
Botanical Name: Vinca
Common Names: Periwinkle
Foliage: Evergreen or deciduous, long twining stems, lined with green ovate leaves. Good variegated forms are available.
Flowers: Five petal star-shaped flowers, mainly in blue or white.
Flowering Period: Spring to early summer.
Soil: Moist soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH.
Conditions: Full sun, shade or partial shade. Can be grown in any aspect, in a sheltered or exposed location.
Habit: Creeping, low growing.
Origin: Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia.
Hardiness: Most evergreen cultivars are hardy in the UK.
This robust, spreading, hardy evergreen sub-shrub thrives in any ordinary well-drained soil. Grows almost anywhere, even in deep shade, although the more sun it gets the better it flowers.
Plant out between early autumn and early spring. Easy to grow but can be invasive in the border.
Good for use as dense, weed suppressing, ground cover in partial shade. Ideal for covering banks or tree stumps.
Water thoroughly during dry weather until well established.
Pruning is not normally necessary except to shape or restrict growth.
Generally pest and disease free.
Divided established clumps from autumn to early spring.
Also very easy to propagated by layering, and will often self layer.
The cultivated forms are mainly hardy evergreens.
Vinca major (great periwinkle) is a vigorous creeping/spreading evergreen with glossy oval dark-green leaves and attractive blue or blue-purple flowers. Provides excellent ground cover or as a scrambler through other bushes. Height to 18in (45cm), spread to 4ft (1.2m) or more. Available from Van Meuwen, Thompson & Morgan.
The cultivar 'Variegata' has lovely creamy variegations to the leaf margins (available from Thompson & Morgan). A less vigorous form is 'Wojo's Gem' bearing variegated cream and green leaves and pretty, violet-blue flowers (available from Van Meuwen). A particularly pretty form is 'Maculata' with dark green foliage that is marbled lime green at the centre, topped with bright blue flowers (available from Thompson & Morgan).
Vinca minor (lesser periwinkle) a smaller mat-forming evergreen with dark-green ovate leaves and pretty blue flowers from early spring to mid summer. Height to 18in (45cm), spread to 30in (75cm). Available from Gardening Express, Thompson & Morgan.
Good cultivars include 'Aureovariegata' with yellow in the leaves, and 'Burgundy' with wine-red flowers. For light blue flowers choose 'Bowles Variety' (available from Thompson & Morgan) and for white flowers choose 'Gertrude Jekyll' (available from Van Meuwen, Thompson & Morgan). Popular variety 'Atropurpurea' produces rich purple flowers (available from Van Meuwen, Gardening Express). Other new varieties include 'Illumination' a variegated form ideal for hanging baskets and containers (available from Gardening Express) and 'Ralph Shugert' with variegated leaves with dainty yellow margins and large violet blooms (available from Van Meuwen, Thompson & Morgan).
Vinca difformis is a less common spreading sub-shrub that dies back in winter, with pale blue flowers. It is well worth finding as it flowers almost non-stop from late autumn into the following spring. Height to 12in (30cm), spread to 3ft (90cm) or more. Available from Beth Chatto's.