When looking for a vibrant summer display for our garden beds, containers, and hanging baskets, many of us here in San Antonio look forward to planting vinca, a.k.a. periwinkle. It’s important to know that there are other vinca plants out there. We are talking about the Vinca that is also the Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), NOT the vinca major or vinca minor which is more of a groundcover plant for part shade areas.
Vinca (Catharanthus roseus) are 5-petaled, hot-weather, sun-loving annuals that produce bright colors in shades of pink, hot pink, lavender-rose, red, apricot, and white with variations of all. You can find standard vinca that grow in an upright form, and trailing vinca that grow in a cascading form. Again, this makes them suitable for multiple areas of your landscape. We even have a few unique varieties that are hot commodities because they usually come in limited supplies. More about them later, but let’s see how to take care of these summer faves.
Growing Vinca in San Antonio
Start your vincas off successfully by utilizing raised beds in landscape plantings to ensure your flowers have good drainage. Potted specimens whether in containers or hanging baskets need a well-draining soil and drainage holes are a must. Wet feet (roots sitting in soggy soil) are simply not tolerated. As a matter of fact, let the soil border on drying out a bit between waterings.
Once vinca take off growing, they go! If you find your plants look a little “leggy” (kind of stretched out), shear them back. It’s ok, they’ll grow back in fuller and healthier. If they grow leggy pretty quickly, double check your sun exposure. Maybe your vinca just aren’t getting enough sun.
Summer is the season for vinca to shine. Plant too early in spring and you’ll have problems. Plant too late in fall and you won’t have them for long. Rainbow Gardens carries disease resistant varieties of vinca, and once the warm weather hits after cool spring temps have passed through, our tables are usually full of them. These flowers are true sun lovers, thriving in full sunshine (or very light shade). Vinca can generally see you all the way to mid fall with gorgeous color, but once cold weather returns they’ll let you know they’re done.
These look best planted in mass, so pick up a few six packs (of flowers, heh heh), and load them up in colorful pot for a brilliant burst of color. Or plant a bunch of them in the front of your garden beds for a sea of color.
As a bonus, I would like to highlight a couple of unique varieties of vinca/periwinkle that we’ve seen come through the nursery the past few years: Kawaii and Soiree. These vinca are just plain adorable and I will warn that when they hit the nursery one day, they could be gone the next.
The flowers are much smaller, and petals further apart, to where they look somewhat like little pinwheels. Same vibrant color, same heat tolerance, but in a more diminutive size. Keep your eyes peeled when you are walking the sunny side of the greenhouse for these petite beauties. (Both locations got some in yesterday, 6/14/23, but hurry!)
~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy