The Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

P&PDL Picture of the Week for
April 25, 2005

Vinca minor - Friend or Foe?

B. Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist, Department of Horticulture , Purdue University

Vinca minor, more likely to be known as periwinkle, creeping myrtle, or just myrtle is a commonly used, trailing, mat-forming evergreen ground cover. This plant is not only grown for its attractive shiny foliage, but the common name perfectly describes the pretty bloom color. The flowers are most numerous in mid spring, but plants will re-bloom sporadically throughout the growing season. There are some cultivars selected for different bloom color and variegated foliage.

The plant grows to about 6 inches tall and spreads quickly by branches rooting everywhere they remain in contact with moist soil. Periwinkle is widely adapted and hardy throughout Indiana. Though it prefers rich, moist, fertile soil and partial shade, it will tolerate poor, dry soils and sunny exposures.

However, those same characteristics that make this plant so effective as a ground cover also contribute to it becoming an invasive plant. And the conditions that it particularly thrives in (rich, moist soil and shade) just happens to describe many natural woodland areas. Because of this potential to out compete native plants in natural areas, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources recommends that plantings should be restricted to areas bordered by sidewalks, lawn, and other confined places.

Click on image to enlarge

Vinca Minor in bed

Vinca Minor close up

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service