In the crushing humidity and heat of a southern summer, there aren’t a whole lot of flowers than can thrive. Natives are the best option, but some bedding plants can fit the bill. Annual vinca is one great example, and you don’t have to live in the muggy south to enjoy this pretty charmer.
Annual vinca is a compact plant, growing to about 15 inches by 15 inches. The shiny green leaves are set off by the multiple five-petaled blooms, which appear continuously. Vinca is available in a range of shades including, white, pinks, red, purple, and lavender. Some of my favorites have contrasting center colors, such as pale pink with dark pink in the center. Vinca needs little maintenance, and deadheading isn’t required. They do well in full sun to part shade, and can tolerate some drought, although they flower best with regular watering.
Grow vinca as an annual in zones 2 – 8, and as a short-lived perennial in zones 9 – 11. Some varieties self-seed and return the following spring. Buy vinca as bedding plants at your local nursery in the early summer in northern areas, and spring through fall in the Deep South. You can also start them from seed, and grow some cultivars not commonly available at stores, like Jams ‘N Jellies Blackberry Vinca, which is a gorgeous deep purple. Trailing vinca is wonderful for containers or as ground cover. Butterflies visit annual vinca for nectar, although it’s not necessarily their preferred plant in the garden.
The Common Name Conundrum
Annual vinca is one of those plants that cause a lot of confusion regarding common names. Annual vinca is also known commonly as periwinkle or Madagascar periwinkle. Other flowers are also known by these names, though, and though they’re all related, each behaves differently.
Annual vinca’s botanical name is Catharanthus roseus. Annual vinca was once called Vinca rosea, but it’s been determined to be a different genus from true vincas like Vinca major and Vinca minor, both of which behave more like groundcover. These two are also commonly known as periwinkles and can be invasive.
Confused? That’s why knowing botanical names can be so helpful. If you’re looking to plant the annual vinca shown here, look for the botanical name Catharanthus roseus.