Vinca or periwinkle is a common ornamental frequently planted as ground cover. It is prized as a genuinely no-maintenance evergreen plant that is both attractive and functional. In some parts of the country it is planted as a fire resistant ground cover and works reasonably well for erosion control. There are two species commonly available: Vinca minor has smaller leaves (about 1” in length) than its sister Vinca major which has leaves about 2” long. Both species usually have purple flowers and shiny foliage. Vinca grows well in full shade to partial sun and is very drought tolerant.
According to the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health (www.invasive.org) Vinca is native to Europe and was introduced during the 1700’s. It is naturalized in some parts of the country. It can be found growing wild throughout the eastern, southern and western states.
Growing thick and able to root from just about any part of the plant that is in contact with the ground, if not actively controlled periwinkle is a plant to avoid. On the bright side it can be reasonably contained if planted in an area where it is restrained by buildings, sidewalks, roads or active mowing on all sides. One should never plant Vinca at the edge of a forest without some form of restraining barrier. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources lists Vinca spp. as an invasive species.
Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)
Photo: Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1991.
Southern wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. South National Technical Center, Fort Worth.