Leave no ground uncovered with the mighty periwinkle! This vigorous trailing plant can easily tackle any tricky shady situation and happily cover your planting space. With its glossy evergreen leaves and cheerful blue star-like flowers, it can really brighten up a shady corner in your garden.
It seems like every garden has that tricky dark corner where no grass will grow and where perennials fizzle out. Enter periwinkle. This tough-as-nails shade lover seems to look more and more lush, year after year, without needing much care. With its vigorous sprawling habit, periwinkle can easily colonize any area. In some places, that can be a problem. In more harsh northern climates, periwinkle is not quite invasive, but in places like California with mild climates, these plants can quickly take over a garden. No matter where you are, it's best to stay on top of them to keep them in bounds.
Related: Drought-tolerant Groundcovers
As periwinkle grows, it has a knack for laying down roots wherever its stems come in contact with soil. This makes them a great option for preventing weeds from growing between their dense mats of foliage. However, it also means these plants can spread indefinitely. As long as you catch them early, they are easy enough to pull up as they spread, and they certainly don't mind a good haircut every now and then. Cutting the plants back also encourages new growth, which is much brighter and shinier than the old leaves and is a nice spot of color in dark areas. Periwinkle works well as a rock garden plant, too!
Periwinkle Care Must-Knows
Overall, these plants are pretty tough and grow in almost any situation, but ideally, soil conditions are humus-rich and evenly moist. They'll grow just fine in poor soil that dries out a bit, too, but maybe not as vigorously. These plants prefer dappled sun, but they'll take what they can get and grow in anything from full sun to full shade.
Minor or Major
Most commonly, the periwinkle you will find in a garden center is Vinca minor. This is the hardier and smaller plant of the two main species—minor in Latin simply means smaller. The other species commonly found is Vinca major. As you may guess, major means bigger. Vinca major is an overall larger plant, with bigger leaves, flowers, and habit. However, Vinca major is less hardy and is therefore less often seen, especially in northern climates, or it is treated as an annual.
More Varieties of Periwinkle
Vinca minor 'Atropurpurea' bears creeping stems and dark purple flowers on and off from spring to fall. Zones 4-9
Periwinkle Companion Plants
In early spring, the brilliant blue, pink, or white flowers of lungwort bloom despite the coldest chill. The rough basal leaves, spotted or plain, always please and continue to be handsome through the season and into winter. Planted close as a weed-discouraging groundcover, or in borders as edgings or bright accent plants, lungworts are workhorses that retain their good looks. Provide high-humus soil that retains moisture. Although lungwort tolerates dry conditions, be alert for mildew.
Used often as a groundcover or an edging plant, lilyturf or liriope is popular for good reason. It stays green year-round in many climates, produces pretty blue or white flowers, and is about as tough a plant as you'll hope to meet. Its dense tufts of almost-evergreen, broadly grassy leaves are often striped. Stiff stems bear tight spikes of tiny blue or white bells, similar to those of grape hyacinth. It is best protected from drying winds in rich, well-drained soil that retains moisture.
The elegant, sweeping lines of this grass are so lovely that it's a favorite among gardeners. And Japanese forestgrass is one of only a few ornamental grasses that thrive in shade. Its mounding clumps of arching, grassy leaves gradually increase in size, never becoming invasive. Variegated cultivars are particularly attractive. All thrive in moisture-retaining, humus-rich soil and even tolerate dry conditions.