How to Plant and Grow Periwinkle

Tricky shady spots meet their match in periwinkle.

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. Its glossy evergreen leaves and cheerful blue star-like flowers can really brighten up a shady corner in your garden.

Periwinkle Overview

Genus Name Vinca
Common Name Periwinkle
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade, Sun
Height 6 to 12 inches
Flower Color Blue, Purple, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Attracts Birds, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant Periwinkle

It seems like every garden has a tricky dark corner where no grass will grow and perennials fizzle out. Enter periwinkle. This tough-as-nails shade lover seems to look increasingly lush year after year without needing much care. With its vigorous sprawling habit, periwinkle can easily colonize any area.

As periwinkle plants grow, they have a knack for laying down roots wherever their 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 offers a nice spot of color in dark areas. Periwinkle works well as a rock garden plant, too!

Invasive Plant

In harsh northern climates, periwinkle is not quite invasive, but in places 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.

How and When to Plant Periwinkle

Plant periwinkle in spring or fall in a partially shaded area using nursery plants. Periwinkle prefers slightly acidic soil that drains well. If the soil is heavy or needs other amendments, add them before planting. Carefully remove the periwinkle plants from the nursery containers and plant them in a hole large enough to hold the root system at the same level as in the nursery containers. Space them 8 inches apart in small areas or 12 to 18 inches apart in large areas. Avoid planting them near other small plants; they spread quickly, and the mats of growth will choke out nearby plants. Water deeply and keep the soil moist for a couple of months to give the roots time to develop; after that, only water when the soil is dry to 1 inch.

Periwinkle Care Tips


These plants prefer dappled sun, but they'll take what they can get and grow in anything from full sun to full shade.

Soil and Water

These plants are tough, and they grow in almost any situation, but the ideal soil is humus-rich and evenly moist. They'll also grow in poor soil that dries out a bit, but not as vigorously. Periwinkle does best with about an inch of water per week through rainfall or irrigation.

Temperature and Humidity

Periwinkle plants grow best in a warm daytime temperature of at least 75°F and a nighttime temperature above 60°F. The warmer, the better. Periwinkle plants tolerate humid and wet climates, but they are more susceptible to diseases in humid areas.


Although periwinkle will grow in poor soil, a 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer applied to soil that lacks organic matter increases the plant's growth rate and encourages blooming. For the amount to use, follow product label instructions.

Pests and Problems

Periwinkle plants don't have severe pest problems, but they can fall prey to aphids, scale, or spider mites, which can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil. When grown in wet areas, they may die back due to fungal diseases.

How to Propagate Periwinkle

Periwinkle plants are easily propagated using stem cuttings. Cut a 4 to 6-inch stem with leaves but no flowers, and remove any leaves from the bottom third of the cutting. Dip the cutting in rooting powder, and plant it in a small pot filled with a mixture of sand, peat moss, and perlite. Add water, enclose the pot in a large, clear plastic bag and place it in a warm, bright area. Open the bag daily to check that the planting medium remains moist. If needed, carefully add water to the soil or mist the cutting. The periwinkle will root in two to four weeks. Remove the plastic bag after the cutting roots.

Minor vs. Major

Most commonly, the periwinkle you find in a garden center is Vinca minor. This is the hardier and smaller plant of the two main species—minor in Latin means smaller. The other species commonly found is Vinca major. As you may guess, major means bigger. Vinca major is a 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.

Types of Periwinkle

Purple Vinca

purple vinca minor 'atropurpurea'
Jay Wilde

Vinca minor 'Atropurpurea' bears creeping stems and dark purple flowers on and off from spring to fall. Zones 4-9


purple vinca minor myrtle flowering plant
Jay Wilde

Vinca minor offers pretty blue blooms periodically from spring to frost. Zones 4-9

Periwinkle Companion Plants


purple lungwort pulmonaria perennial flowers
David McDonald

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.


lilyturf liriope spicata herbaceous flowering groundcover
Doug Hetherington

Used often as a groundcover or an edging plant, lilyturf or liriope is popular for a 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 thrives when protected from drying winds in rich, well-drained soil that retains moisture.

Hakone Grass

Japanese hakone forestgrass along fence near path
Peter Krumhardt

The elegant, sweeping lines of this grass are so lovely that it's a favorite among gardeners, and Japanese forest grass 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 tolerate dry conditions.

Garden Plans for Periwinkle

Hosta-Filled Shade Garden

lush shade garden bed with hostas and fountain
Matthew Benson

Create a beautiful, low-maintenance shade garden that's full of texture from spring to fall.

Corner of Shrubs

woody corner garden plan illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Trees and shrubs are the four seasons backbones of the landscape. Create an eye-catching vignette with these woody plants in your garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does periwinkle grow well in containers?

    Periwinkle is easy to grow in containers if the pot has drainage holes. Leave the container with the plant outdoors in warm and hot weather, but plan to move it indoors for the winter when the temperature starts to drop. Water it only when the top inch of potting soil is dry.

  • Do I need to bring in a periwinkle in the winter?

    Periwinkle is a perennial in Zones 4-9, where it usually survives the winter outdoors. It is grown as an annual in colder areas and must be brought inside to survive.

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