Vinca (Catharanthus roseus), also known as Madagascar Periwinkle, is an annual flower I would not like to live without. Though it is easily mistaken for Impatiens from a distance, Vinca couldn’t be more different; it features glossy leaves, thrives in hot sun, and prefers dry soil. Deer, woodchucks, and insects leave it alone. When its flowers are spent, they self-shed. In normal summers, I have good luck with it in boxes on my upper deck railing, where the sun shines brutally all afternoon.
I’m not sure which cultivar I have in my boxes this year; the tag said ‘Cora Deep Lavender’, but these pink flowers do not match the description or pictures I’ve found on-line! My best guess, based on the deep pink eye with a yellow center, is ‘Titan Icy Pink’.
These plants have grown to ten inches high and seven to eight inches wide. Their flowers are just under two inches across. They are well-branched, perhaps because I ruthlessly nipped their buds when I planted them.
Vincas are sensitive to too much moisture, so I worried over these containers last weekend when we had nearly six inches of rain. Thankfully, they came through it well. This picture, taken a few years ago, is what they look like after too much moisture:They don’t recover well.
Two summers ago, I planted ‘Cora Strawberry’ in my deck boxes, and was very happy with it. It is similar to what I have this year, but without the yellow center: The Cora series of Vinca was developed to be resistant to the Aerial Phytophthora fungus which causes the plant to wilt and suffer “sudden death”. Once the plant has this fungus, there is no help for it. To avoid it, plant the nursery plugs as soon as possible after bringing them home, keep them relatively dry, avoid overhead watering if possible, and immediately discard any infected plant.
This is ‘Pacifica Cherry Red’, from 2014. It is a slightly smaller plant, averaging about seven inches in height:
Only once in the fifteen years I’ve been using Vinca in my gardens has anything tasted it. Therefore I was comfortable choosing an assortment of Vinca to fill an empty spot at the far end of the rock garden this summer. Again, I’m unsure of the cultivars; I bought them late in the planting season, and everything was a jumble at the nursery! This is a mostly sunny, well-drained area, just right for Vinca:
I do know that the nearly blue variety is ‘Sunstorm Light Blue’:
These, which I chose for a lavender element in my side porch boxes, are ‘Blue Pearl’. The flower has a slightly different shape and form:Vincas are difficult in mixed containers; these are surviving here, but not thriving. They probably get more water than they really want, and they are crowded by some very assertive petunias!
I once tried to start Vinca from seed indoors in the early spring. It must be started very early, in very warm soil. Seedlings damp off very easily. I saw a slow, poor rate of germination. It’s worthwhile to me to buy these already started. They tend to show up in nurseries fairly late in the planting season, a week or two after Memorial Day, which is fine since they do best when transplanted into warm soil. As I mentioned before, it is best to plant the plugs as soon as possible. I am embarrassed to think about how many trays of Vinca I have lost over the years because I’ve delayed planting them!
I hope I haven’t scared anyone off trying Vinca. With just a few precautions, it can grow to be a beautiful bedding or container plant. My gardens and porches would not be complete without it every summer!
I apologize to Cathy and Frank, my most regular contributors to this weekly meme, for posting so consistently late on Thursdays! My intent is to write it on Wednesday night and set it to publish at midnight. Something often seems to get in the way of that, though–last night it was my need and desire to spend the evening with my son who had just arrived home after ten days away (and he leaves for college in 18 short days!). I vow to do better next week! Thanks for bearing with me and continuing to post!
Here are links to their Thursday’s Features for this week: Cathy’s at Words and Herbs: https://wordsandherbs.com/2016/08/04/thursdays-feature-succisella-inflexa/ , and Frank’s at Sorta Like Suburbia: https://katob427.wordpress.com/2016/08/04/thursdays-feature-standing-cypress/