Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1014 Vinca minor

Common Names: common periwinkle, creeping myrtle, lesser periwinkle Family: Apocynaceae (dogbane Family)
Image Gallery

common periwinkle
This rugged evergreen vine is handsome throughout the year but especially so in spring when it covers itself with pretty periwinkle blue blossoms.


Common periwinkle is a fast growing vine with slender woody stems that sprawl along the ground, rooting at every node. The leaves are evergreen, opposite, about 2 in (5 cm) long and elliptic in shape. Common periwinkle has violet-blue flowers shaped like funnels with a star shaped mouth of five widely flared lobes, about an inch (2.5 cm) across. The flowers are borne individually at leaf axils and held above the foliage on shoots 4-8 in (10-20 cm) tall. They are produced abundantly in spring and then sporadically through the summer. Several named cultivars are available. 'Alba' has white flowers; 'Atropurpurea' has burgundy flowers, 'Alboplena' has double white flowers, and 'Aureovariegata' has yellow variegated foliage.


Vinca minor is native to Europe, from Spain and France east to southern Russia and the Caucasus, from near sea level to over 4000 ft (1200 m) above sea level in the Alps. It has been in cultivation for centuries. Five or six other species of Vinca can be found from northern Africa to central Asia.


Common periwinkle will grow in almost any soil, spreading rapidly to the point of invasiveness in the best sites. Light: Periwinkle is a great groundcover for shady areas under trees, but it tolerates full sun, too. It produces more flowers when grown in full sun. Moisture: Periwinkle grows fastest in a moist soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 9. This is the hardiest of the periwinkles. Common periwinkle doesn't do as well as big periwinkle in the extreme south where summers are hot and humid. It will need considerable shade in zones 8 and 9. Propagation: Propagate periwinkle by dividing rooted shoots.


Common periwinkle is one of the most widely used groundcovers in the U.S. and Europe. It is ideal for covering banks and as an evergreen groundcover in shady areas. Like its close relative, big periwinkle (V. major), common periwinkle can be invasive under ideal growing conditions. You will probably need to cut it back at least annually to keep it in bounds. Common periwinkle is neater and has a finer texture than its big leaved cousin, and it tends to cover the ground more thoroughly.

common periwinkle
Common periwinkle is evergreen, low-growing and able to form tough mats of stems and foliage so it is often used as groundcover for both sunny and shady areas.


The names, periwinkle and Vinca come from Old English and ancient Latin respectively, and both refer to wreaths that were woven from the slender stems and worn on the head. Madagascar periwinkle was formerly placed in the genus Vinca, but is now called Catharanthus roseus .

The common periwinkle is the source of an alkaloid called vincamine from which the drug vinpocetine is derived. Vinpocetine and vincamine are widely prescribed in Europe and other parts of the world for the treatment of cerebrovascular and cognitive disorders and to reduce the effects of certain types of stroke. In the United States vinpocetine is commonly known as a "smart drug" that is sold in health food stores as a dietary supplement said to enhance focus and cognition by stimulating blood flow to the brain.


All parts of the periwinkles may cause stomach distress if ingested.

Steve Christman 3/18/06

Master Plant List

Click here to find plants in our Encyclopedia using the Master Plant List grid. Use this widget to search, sort and filter Floridata's plant database to easily locate Plant Profile pages. Use the dropdown menus to filter the grid to display items matching the selected Plant Type and Feature tags.

Plant Type Tags

tree icon
shrub icon
perennial plant icon
aquatic plant icon
cactus and succulents icon
grass icon
vine icon

Feature Tags

Attracts Birds
Attracts butterflies
Attracts Hummingbirds
Edible Plants
Cutting and Arranging
for pots and containers
drought tolerant plants
grows in wet soils
ornamental fruits
fall color
foliage plants
easy to grow plants
fast growing

Site Search

Use Google to search all of the pages on Floridata including the Plant Profile pages

Vinca species profiled on Floridata:

Vinca major

( large periwinkle, big periwinkle )

Vinca minor

( common periwinkle, creeping myrtle, lesser periwinkle )

More Floridata:

Copyright 2015 Floridata.com LLC