From mid-April, the lesser periwinkle shows its beautiful blue flowers. Here you can read how to properly plant and care for Vinca minor in the garden.
Profile of lesser periwinkle:
Scientific name: Vinca minor
Plant family: milkweed family or dogbane family (Apocynaceae)
Other names: dwarf periwinkle, small periwinkle, common periwinkle, myrtle, creeping myrtle
Planting time: autumn
Flowering period: April to May, August to September
Location: sunny to partially shady
Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: ground cover, embankments, grave planting, underplanting, cottage garden, natural garden, park area, rhododendron garden, forest garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 (-26 °C / -15 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of lesser periwinkle
Plant order, origin and occurrence of lesser periwinkle
The lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor), also known as dwarf periwinkle or small periwinkle, is native to southern and Central Europe. It belongs to the dogbane family (Apocynaceae). In the meantime it has also gained a foothold as a neophyte in the Near East. It originally comes from mixed beech forests.
Characteristics of lesser periwinkle
The small periwinkle is only 10 to 30 centimeters (4 to 12 in) high and spreads like a carpet by root shoots. Because the base of the shoot is lignified, the plants are botanically not perennials, but subshrubs. Vinca minor grows comparatively slowly, but the plant can still cover large areas over time. Lesser periwinkle is poisonous in all parts.
The evergreen, opposite leaves of the plants are oval shaped, dark green and leathery with a glossy surface. A white milky sap emerges from the kinked leaves and shoots.
The flowers of lesser periwinkle shine in pure blue and each consist of five petals. Like the blades of a propeller, these rotate asymmetrically to the right. The flowering period begins from mid-April. The small periwinkle shows a second bloom from August to September.
Lesser periwinkle forms small double follicles. These are brown-green seed pods that pop open when the seeds are ripe.
Lesser periwinkle – cultivation and care
The dwarf periwinkle is actually more of a ground cover for the sunny spot, but is also suitable for a shady location. However, it forms significantly fewer flowers in the shade and does not grow as densely as in a sunny location.
The plant is quite adaptable to the soil. A humus and nutrient-rich, moderately dry to moderately moist, sandy to loamy soil is ideal for Vinca minor. The lesser periwinkle is lime-tolerant and can also cope with acidic soil.
Planting lesser periwinkle
For an areal planting of the lesser periwinkle you should calculate seven to nine plants per square meter. Since the roots of Vinca minor grow well even at lower temperatures, planting in autumn is recommended despite the evergreen foliage. The soil must be well prepared before planting: free it of all root weeds such as wildrye and ashweed and mix ripe compost into the soil. After planting the small periwinkle you should also fertilize with horn shavings and then apply a layer of bark mulch about 5 centimeters (2 in) high. To ensure that the plants branch out well from the start, it has proven useful to shorten the shoots by about half before or immediately after planting. It is better to wear gloves because the milky juice is poisonous.
Care / Fertilization / Watering
Care for the lesser periwinkle is limited to regular weeding. In addition, you should occasionally apply fresh bark mulch or mulch the soil with autumn leaves, this acts almost like fertilization to the growth of the plants. The small periwinkle copes relatively well with temporary drought, but the plant should still be watered in good time if there is no rain.
A pruning of the plants, preferably in autumn after flowering, is possible, but usually only necessary if a ground cover area made of lesser periwinkles has not become really dense.
Tip: Simply insert the cut shoots into the gaps between the plants, as they usually take root without any problems.
Lesser periwinkle can be propagated very easily by dividing or cutting off individual ground shoots that are already rooted. The ideal time for this are the autumn and spring months. Propagation by cuttings is possible at any time during the vegetation period; the shoots reliably form roots in a not too sunny place in moist humus soil, even without a foil cover.
Diseases and pests
If the leaves of the small periwinkle are interspersed with light stripes and growth stalls, the plants have become infected with the cucumber mosaic virus. Immediately dig up sick specimens and dispose of them with household waste.
Yellowish discolored leaves with dark brown spore beds on the underside of the leaf indicate a rust infection from the small evergreen. Commercially available fungicides help against this.
The so-called shoot death occurs mainly on wet, compacted soils with mostly a low proportion of humus.
Occasionally, pests such as spider mites and aphids also spread to the plants.
Lesser periwinkle is generally hardy down to -26 °C / -15 °F. At a young age and with persistent frost, however, the plant is grateful for light winter protection with brushwood or similar.
Use in the garden
The small periwinkle is used almost exclusively as a ground cover in the garden. You should plant it mainly in bright, at best partially shady locations under larger trees with a light crown. It is not suitable as a ground cover for the deeper shade, as Vinca minor does not become reliably dense here and allows too many weeds to grow. In addition, small periwinkles can be used similar to perennials. It is suitable for planters, narrow planting strips on the house and for grave planting. Since it has a very tolerant root system, you can also use it to underplant less competitive woody plants such as viburnum, witch hazel and flowering dogwood. Perennials such as astilbe, cranesbill or foxglove are great partners.
- The variety Vinca minor ‘Anna’ with large blue flowers is good as a ground cover. Their flowering time also lasts from April to September
- Vinca minor ‘Marie’ has light foliage and lilac blue flowers
- The small periwinkle ‘Elisa’ blooms in white. In late summer, it ensures a blooming carpet once again with its abundant secondary bloom
- Other varieties that form a dense carpet and bloom beautifully are ‘Josefine’ and ‘White Power’.
- Those who prefer a uniformly green ground cover should plant the flowerless varieties ‘Green Carpet’ or ‘Gertrude Jekyll’