Growing Periwinkle, Vinca Minor – How to Care for this Ground Cover

Vinca minor in the garden patch

Vinca minor, the “dwarf periwinkle”, is one of the groundcovers. In general, however, the plant is also referred to as “lesser periwinkle” or “myrtle”. With its long stolons it covers even large areas and forms beautiful, blue-violet flowers. You can enjoy this wonderful flower from spring to the end of the summer.

Plant Profile

  • Order: gentianales
  • Family: dogbane (apocynaceae)
  • Subfamily: rauvolfioideae
  • Genus: periwinkle (vinca)
  • Species: dwarf periwinkle (vinca minor)
  • Growth form: perennial prostrate shrub
  • Blossom: blue crown with yellow stamens
  • Flowering period: from early March to June (late bloom until autumn)
  • Origin: Europe

Whether in the garden or in parks, the dwarf periwinkle is a real eyecatcher. The plant is not only available in blue-violet, but also in many other colours. The unpretentious soil plant reaches a height of about ten centimeters. It thrives in different locations, such as under trees or on slopes. With Vinca minor you can cover your garden in an efficient and beautiful way.

Vinca minor with blue-violet blossom

In general, the dwarf periwinkle is believed to originate from the Mediterranean and Southern Central Europe. Later, the Romans brought this beautiful plant with them, spreading it throughout Europe. Later on, vinca minor was introduced in Northern Europe and the British Isles under the name “Gartenflüchtling”. In North America the plant is even growing in the wild. Today the “dwarf periwinkle” is very popular, so it is not surprising that the plant is often seen.


The dwarf periwinkle is not only a real eyecatcher, but also quite unpretentious when it comes to the care. The plant can thus also be easily cultivated by beginners. The evergreen leaves as well as the long lasting blossom splendor make the dwarf periwinkle something very special. In addition, the plant is very robust and not particularly prone to pests or diseases.


Location and soil

Vinca minor prefers a half schady or shady place. However, the beautiful plant is difficult to grow in completely dark spots. With regard to the soil, the dwarf periwinkle does not make any great demands. It grows in all circumstances, in permeable, fresh, warm and humid soils. The soil may also be slightly acidic or chalky. Only heavy as well as compacted soils are completely unsuitable for the dwarf periwinkle.


The sowing of the dwarf periwinkle is quite difficult for beginners. In addition, seed is rarely sold in the stores.

Vinca minor covers even large areas

For sowing, the procedure is as follows:

  • prepare jiffy pots as well as transparent ziplock bags
  • place the jiffy pots in a container with some water so that they swell
  • then you can put the swollen peat into pots with a size of about six centimeters
  • spread the seeds onto the peat and cover them with about two millimeters of the substrate
  • then place each pot in a ziplock bag with some water
  • close the bag and place it on the window sill
  • if you do not have ziplock bags on hand, it is also possible to sow under glass


When the temperatures are between 24 and 28 degrees in the day and between 20 and 24 degrees in the night, the germination conditions are perfect. The young plants are then pricked after about three to six weeks. When pricking, you should maintain a distance of about two to three centimeters between the plants.

Already towards the end of May you can put the plants in a bed. However, in order to successfully extract the dwarf periwinkle from seeds, all conditions have to optimally harmonize with one another. Because of this, dwarf periwinkle are mostly not cultivated from seeds.


Spring is the best time for the planting of vinca minor:

  • remove existing weeds at the chosen spot
  • afterwards, the soil should be well loosened so that the small roots can grow quickly and safely
  • if you have some, you should also mix some mulch or well-rotten garden compost to the soil
  • now remove the pot from the root ball and dig a plant hole
  • then place the vinca minor in the center of the hole and use the soil to fill it up to it’s half
  • afterwards, you should thoroughly slurry the hole with water and add the remaining soil

Optimal planting distance

When you finally plant the vinca minor into your garden, it is advisable to keep a certain planting distance, so that the dwarf periwinkle will delight you with a magnificent growth and a beautiful bloom. For example, you should only use ten to twelve plants on one square meter of area if you want the area to become green quickly. If a quick greening is not so important to you, then you can also safely use fewer plants.


Vinca minor can be completely or partially replanted without problems.

Proceed as follows:

  • carefully remove the chosen part of the plant from the soil
  • to do this, use a small garden shovel or a similar tool
  • shake off the old soil
  • if necessary, remove rotten or damaged roots
  • place the vinca minor to the desired location as described under “Planting” and pour it well
  • it won’t take long until the plant grows well and makes you happy with its fast growth and flowering


Cutting of the dwarf periwinkle is not necessary. Only in the case of unwanted, too strong multiplication, you may cut it back. In doing so, the plant easily tolerates a very strict cutting.

Cutting procedure:

  • cutting should ideally be done in March
  • cut the dwarf periwinkle to just above the ground
  • when cutting, you should ensure that as many branches as possible are kept with closed buds, so that they can sprout again
  • the more branches you leave, the more bushy the plant grows
  • if desired, you can use cut-off parts as cuttings for multiplying the beautiful plant
  • if no multiplication is desired, dispose the cut pieces via the organic waste

Vinca minor prefers a half shady place


Watering and fertilizing

The watering of the dwarf periwinkle is dependent on the location. If, for example, the plant has been placed in a very sunny spot, it may be necessary to water it every day during the hot season. In winter, however, you should only slightly pour the plant. Fertilizers are not necessary.


Vinca minor is a very robust plant and it is also winterhart. Depending on which variety of periwinkle you have, the plant may even tolerate temperatures down to -20 degrees. Thus you can leave the dwarf periwinkle in the garden, even in winter. For very severe frosts it is however advisable to cover the plant with brushwood or garden fleece.

On the other hand, you must not use bark to cover the plants, since it emits tannic acid. This adversely affects the growth of the plant. In addition, bark mulch promotes the growth of field horsetail. You should also make sure that the dwarf periwinkle gets enough water even in case of frost. Generally, however, you should sparingly pour the plants in winter.


The multiplication of the vinca minor is possible not only by sowing, but also by dividing it or by using cuttings.


Cuttings can generally be generated from May to autumn. However, the soil should not be frozen. Make sure that each cutting has one or two pairs of leaves. Immediately after cutting, you should place the cuttings either in a pot with conventional moist soil or in moist peat. Within a short time, the cuttings will already form roots, so you can then replant them into the garden or into a larger pot.


The perfect time to divide the plant is in spring. To do this, proceed as follows.

  • dig out the chosen plant first
  • then divide the root ball into different pieces
  • however, you should make sure that each part has a sufficiently large piece of root
  • afterwards, you can put the individual pieces right to their final locations and pour them well
  • it will not be too long until the replanted parts will please you with beautiful growth

Vinca minor beautifies bald spots


Since the dwarf periwinkle is quite robust, hardly any pests and diseases are known for this beautiful plant. Even slugs will usually avoid the plant. Only rusts, the grey leaf spot disease and the phoma root and stem rot may attack the vinca minor under certain circumstances.


Rust is recognizable by the characteristic round, black-brown spots. An infestation mainly occurs when the location is characterized by an excessively high humidity. Rusts can usually be fought only with chemical agents. However, it is often much better to remove and dispose the plant immediately, in order to prevent spreading.

Grey leaf spot disease

The grey leaf spot disease is recognizable by its clearly visible brown patches. In the later phase of the disease the individual spots on the leaves will merge. If the infestation is noticed at an early stage, the affected parts of the plant should be removed immediately. With a more advanced infestation, there is no other option left than to dispose the whole plant, since the grey leaf spot disease can usually not be fought. For prevention, it is advisable to pay attention for the plant spacing so that sufficient air can circulate between the individual plants.


The genus vinca has a total of five to seven varieties. However, besides the dwarf periwinkle, the bigleaf periwinkle, the vinca major, can be seen in gardens as well as in parks. Both sorts, however, are not only different in size. There are many different varieties in the stores, such as the vinca minor Elisa and the vinca minor Marie, which have different colours.


As an evergreen plant with magnificent, long lasting flowers, the vinca minor very much used in gardens and parks. Likewise, however, it is also possible to use the beautiful plant for grave decoration. For this purpose, usually quite flat growing varieties are chosen, such as the vinca minor Anna and the vinca minor Marie. These also have a fairly fine foliage, so they don’t have an all too bulky appearance.


The dwarf periwinkle belongs to the family of the dogbane plants and is thus poisonous. Because of this, you should not leave your pets, such as rabbits, dogs and cats, as well as your children, near this plant unattended. The vinca minor is toxic in all parts. If it happens that your children or pets are eating pieces of the plant, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible.