How to Grow Vinca minor Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Lesser Periwinkle / Common Periwinkle

The Vinca minor plant is a subshrub that is native to Southern and Central Europe and Turkey.

It is usually referred to as the Lesser Periwinkle, but in some countries such as the USA, it is known as the Common Periwinkle.

This name tends to be reserved for the sea snail (Littorina littorea) (also simply known as the winkle) in European countries.

The plant has a trailing nature, and tends to grow very quickly in mass from roots produced on the wiry stem.

The shrubby mass typically reaches from 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) in height, with a spread of up to 3 feet (1 m).

Periwinkle photograph by Patrick Standish.

As a low growing evergreen, this plant is often used as a groundcover.

Due to its popularity many cultivars have been developed. These tend to have variegated leaves, have lower vigorosity, and more colourful flowers than the wild-type plant.

Common cultivars include:
Alba Plena: Double flowers, white, slower growth.
Atropurpurea: Deep plum purple flowers. Large blooms.
Bowlesii: common cultivar; strong climber, lavender-blue flowers.
Illumination: grown for its striking foliage (gold at center); purple flowers.
Ralph Shugert: Cream colored border around leaves.
Miss Jekyll: white flowers, small.

Quick Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Vinca minor
  • Common Name (s): Lesser periwinkle, Dwarf periwinkle, Small periwinkle, Common periwinkle, Myrtle, Creeping myrtle
  • Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): 4 to 8 / H6

Plant Details

  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Evergreen subshrub.
  • Plant Height: 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 cm)
  • Plant Spread: 18 to 36 inches (0.5 to 1 m). Mat forming. Plant can grow vigorously and may become invasive under the right climates; so consider planting out a slow growing Vinca minor Cultivar.
  • Blooms: Early spring and the Middle of summer in mass. Flowers will continue to be produced until autumn.
  • Flower Details: Showy. Solitary. Tubes. 2.5 cm (1 inch). Violet-purple, white, cream. Five-petals. Salver / Phlox.
  • Leaf Foliages: Dark Green. Glossy. Opposite. Broad. 2 to 4.5 cm (0.8 to 1.6 inches). Cultivars often variegated.
  • Fruit: Twin follicles. 2.5 cm (1 inch).

Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Full sunlight or partial shade for best results, can tolerate heavy shade
  • Suitable Soil Types: Well drained. Average soils.
  • Soil Soil Moisture: Medium
  • Planting, and Propagation: Divide in either spring or autumn. Or take Semi-ripe cuttings in the summer time. Space at about 8 to 16 inches (20 to 40 cm)(dependent on how quickly you want to cover the ground).
  • Care: Easy plant to grow, low maintenance. Deer and Drought Resistant. Prune from the start to middle of spring, well before blooming. Cut back previously year growth to about two buds of old and woody tissue. Following pruning provide a mulch and feed to help the plant recover.

Further Information

  • Best used for: Ground cover. Stabilizing soils on banks and slopes. Prevention of erosion. Winter interest. Filling in bare areas between other plants.
  • Family: Apocynaceae (Dogbane family).
  • Closely related species and genera: Annual Vinca and Dogbane members such as Adenium, Allamanda, Amsonia, Asclepias, Nerium, Pachypodium, Wrightia, Vinca
  • Miscellaneous: This flowers gives rise to the name for the color 'Periwinkle' (blue-lavender-violet). The genus name Vinca refers to its stems which bind and wind and were used in the making of wreathes.
  • Further Reading and References used for this Vinca minor growing guide: Vinca Minor, Free And Easy; Stepable plants

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Vinca minor plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Allamanda cathartica and Amsonia plants.