Vinca plays a major and minor role in garden design

Periwinkle is more than a paint chip or crayon color. The paint and crayon get their name from the bloom color of Vinca minor.

The small flower in that glorious shade of blueish-purple appears in the spring. The blooms are a bonus from this workhorse groundcover.

Vinca minor is an evergreen perennial vine that will quickly spread when it is happy. Consider this your warning-some say invasive; I say fast-growing.

Seriously, use this plant responsibly in your landscape. If not trimmed and kept under control, it can become a nuisance.

I have periwinkle growing on a slope under a tree. I’m not sure how it got there, but it turns out this is an ideal spot for the plant to flourish.

Because Vinca plants have shallow roots and are drought resistant once established, they grow well under trees and do not compete for moisture from the soil. The dappled shade from the tree helps prevent the leaves from being sunburned.

The glossy dark green leaves are small and provide the perfect backdrop for spring blooms. It is not a tall plant, maybe 3 -6 inches off the ground.

Periwinkle spreads as the plant produces runners, and they root into the ground at the joints of the vines. Mine has traveled down the slope and into my garden beds. I don’t want it to become established in the bed, so I trim it back or dig and transplant it to another area.

Other than the trimming, the plants are maintenance-free. They add to what would be a bare slope. Should you notice the leaves turning brown, prune that portion of the vine and make sure the soil has good drainage and the roots are not staying wet.

Protection from soil erosion is another reason to plant Vinca minor on a slope. As the vines take root in the soil, they will help hold the soil in place during rain and other weather events.

Greater periwinkle or Vinca major is a second variety. 

Years ago, I used variegated leaf vinca, (Vinca major ‘Variegata’) as a spiller in several pots on the edge of my deck. As they spilled onto the ground, they rooted and have been there ever since. These vines have been slow growers and have lasted through winter snow and cold temperatures. 

I let them do their thing and have not had to trim or manage uncontrolled growth. The leaves are bigger than minor and not as compact on the vine. 

The variegated leaf is a much paler green bordered by creamy white. In containers, the cool colors of the leaf are a pleasant contrast to summer’s hot pinks and reds. I have also seen it used in green and white plantings, where it proves to be the perfect spiller.

Both the Vinca major and minor are deer-resistant. The periwinkle or Vinca minor grows near one of my deer’s favorite paths, and they have never even nibbled. This could be because they innately know the plant is toxic if ingested. Keep this in mind when planting near play areas for small children and young pups.

I like having both major and minor mixed between the gardens and containers at the little house on a big hill. The plants are happy and have not overstayed their welcome in their spaces. I will enjoy the tiny spring flowers and the greenery that continues to be an unexpected guest in my ever-changing gardens.