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Periwinkle, Vinca minor, Perennial Groundcover for Shady

Gardens

Runners from Periwinkle Travel Over a Brick Path (Jen L. Jones)
Periwinkle,Vinca minor is a shade plant par excellence
While shady gardens may sometimes look forlorn and bare, one with a periwinkle groundcover looks
lush and luxuriant. This particular perennial plant looks slender and unassuming in its single pot in
the garden center. But when massed with many others, with runners intertwining, and little blue
flowers peeking out from the dark green foliage, periwinkle comes into its own.
Periwinkles Thrive in Deep Shade
Also called myrtle or creeping myrtle, this low-growing creeping groundcover with glossy evergreen
leaves is a well-known and useful shade plant. Native to Europe and Asia, periwinkle has naturalized
widely in North America. A very adaptable plant, it grows in deep shade (although it just blooms
lightly there) or full sun (where it must be well watered). But it prefers partial shade.
When shade is the limiting factor for the gardener choosing plants, why not go with periwinkle, a
plant whose shade-tolerance is renowned? In Making the Most of Shade, gardening expert, Larry
Hodgson, praises periwinkle: Their shade tolerance is legendary: Some places where periwinkles are
seen thriving see no sun whatsoever and precious little reflected light.
Flower Petals Give a Pinwheel Effect

The periwinkle blooms in early spring, bearing periwinkle-blue flowers for a few weeks, with later
intermittent blooms through summer and fall. Gardeners who have noticed these flowers but never
really studied them, might want to take another look. According to A Field Guide to Wildflowers, the
periwinkle has an unusually shaped flower, with each petal being asymmetric. Each is curved a bit
counter-clockwise giving the whole blossom a pinwheel effect. And to add to the effect, there is a
five-pointed star outlined in the center of each bloom.
Try Periwinkle in Patio Planters Too
Container plantings give the gardener another way to enjoy periwinkles form and color. Periwinkles
long runners will trail over the sides of a planter adding a delicate touch. Start the periwinkle in
outdoor planters early in spring by transplanting small rooted sections taken from the groundcover
area. These plants will not likely overwinter in a pa tio planter but replacing them next year with
new plants is easily done.
Why Choose Periwinkle for a Shade Groundcover?
Since periwinkle is possibly the most popular groundcover in the world, as garden writer, Larry
Hodgson, states, it is widely available and in high demand. Other favorite groundcovers, such as
bugleweed, sweet woodruff, pachysandra or goutweed, for all their good features, pale in
comparison.
Periwinkles advantages are many:
Glossy, evergreen leaves are attractive year-round.Quickly forms a dense carpet of green, quite
impenetrable to weedsIt is rarely bothered by any insect or disease.Adaptable to a wide range of
climates from temperate to tropical.Adaptable to full sun or deep shade.Easily propagated by
replanting rooted sections any time of year.Can be controlled with lawn mower if spreading too
far.Useful in controlling erosion on slopes.Attractive in p atio planters or flower
arrangements.Varieties of Periwinkle
Vinca minor, or common periwinkle, has dark green leaves and blue flowers. It has several cultivars
with other flower colors, flower sizes, and plant heights varying from four to ten inches:
Atropurpurea with deep wine red flowers.Alba with white flowers.Emily Joy with white flowers and a
longer bloom time.Bowles with larger dark blue flowers.
There is another common species of periwinkle,Vinca major which is a larger species, but less hardy
and more suited to the tropics. This has a cultivar Variegata, with green and creamy white
variegated leaves which bring more light into shady gardens.
Is Periwinkle an Invasive Plant?
Although not a native plant, periwinkles can be found in wooded areas around North America. Likely
spread by careless disposal of live plants by gardeners, periwinkle can colonize a wild area.
Although propagation by seed in these areas has not been shown, it has been classified as an
invasive species in parts of North America. The University of British Columbia's E-Flora website
describes this colonization by periwinkle as a minor upland invasion.
Periwinkle can be hard to control, but responsible gardeners will stop it from spreading into wild
areas, while continuing to enjoy the plant itself and the many benefits it provides.

Periwinkle is Likely the Worlds Top Groundcover for Shade
The thick deep green mat formed by mature periwinkle is a gardeners dream groundcover. Shiny
evergreen leaves, rich dark color, and intertwining runners, together make a perfect cover for that
bare area of the shady woodland garden.
To learn more about other groundcovers for shade, see these articles:
Goutweed Bishop's Weed Groundcover for Shady Woodland Gardens, Bishop's Weed, Groundcover
for Shady Woodland Gardens
Bugleweed Ajuga reptans Groundcover for Shady Woodland Gardens., Ajuga reptans, Groundcover
for Shady Woodland Gardens.
References:
Hodgson, Larry, Making the Most of Shade: How to Plan, Plant, and Grow a Fabulous Garden that
Lightens up the Shadows, Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2005.
Peterson, Roger Tory and Margaret McKenny, A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and
North-central North America, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968.
Taylor's 50 Best, Frances Tenenbaum, Editor, Perennials for Shade: Easy Plants for More Beautiful
Gardens, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.
E-Flora BC, University of British Columbia (Accessed July 12, 2010)
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (Accessed July 12, 2010)
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