Vinca major

Today’s photograph is shared with us by Wayne Weber@Flickr via the UBCBG Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Group Pool (original). Thank you!

Greater periwinkle is native to the Mediterranean, but has naturalized in places such as British Columbia, milder areas of the United States and Australia. Despite its utility as a shady groundcover, it is not recommended for use in many areas due to invasiveness. The California Invasive Plant Council rates it as “moderate“, and this species also finds its way into the Global Invasive Species Database: Vinca major. This latter site provides this brief description of the species: “Vinca major is introduced to new locations usually as an ornamental or medicinal herb. It spreads locally from dumped garden waste, plant fragments carried downstream and as a garden escape along shady corridors. It grows most vigorously in moist shady areas in forests, along streams and urban areas. Once established the herb competes with native vegetation by smothering all native groundcover vegetation and preventing the regeneration of trees and shrubs. Vinca major is a serious threat to the understorey of forested areas and streamside vegetation.

The Plants for a Future database provides a list of traditional medicinal uses. has additional photographs and a description of the plant, as well as a brief argument for the use of scientific names: Vinca major.

Vinca major

25 responses to “Vinca major”

  1. Hallie Anderson

    I highly recommend NOT planting this….it is terribly invasive. I live in California and have been trying to eradicate it for years from my garden!

  2. Eric in SF

    Evil evil EVIL weed.

  3. Christina

    It’s invasive here in Maryland too. It’s been in my yard for many years since my grandmother planted it, and I’ve found pulling it up by the roots the best way to get rid of it. Oh, I forgot I also put it out with the trash, not yard waste pick-up.

  4. Melissa

    Talk about growing well in moist shady areas! Every shrub along my house here in South Carolina is filled with vinca vines. I admit the flowers are pretty, but then when all your azaleas are interwoven with those vines…Argh. Rip, rip, pull, pull!

  5. Quin

    Ha! I knew as soon as I saw its notorius name there’d be an outpouring of protests. In the west, in old deserted homesteads I still see V. major and Honeysuckle a hundred years after the last gardener closed the gate!!!!
    May I suggest one horticultural possibility (no?) – in hanging containers? With all of the flower colors and different variegation possibilities (V.minor too!) I must argue (mildly) for this possibility (am now installing lightning rods on my computer!)…….

  6. Annie Morgan

    I grew up with periwinkle as a ground cover and soil holder on hilly cottage property. Somehow my gardener mother managed to keep it contained to the areas she wanted. How, I haven’t a clue, but she was a dominant personality, so maybe the periwinkle were cowed into staying put.

  7. Lynne

    Interesting! I love this plant, precisely because of its hardiness. I live in the high desert climate of the southwestern U.S., though, so there’s not enough moisture in non-irrigated areas for the plant to escape into.

  8. John Murtaugh

    WE and many of our neighbours like our Vinca minor groundcover on our tiny front yard in downtown Toronto and it really has nowhere to escape to. It will soon be blooming.
    It also grows up north at our cottage in the very shady otherwise bare earth ground under thick pine and cedar.
    The website does describe areas where vinca minor has become a problem in B.C. parks and they recommend using other native grouncovers.

  9. marjorie lacy

    Hi, I live in West Yorkshire, in the U.K., Vinca Minor grows in my garden. Several years ago, I took one small cutting from a friends plant and started it off in my garden. Now it is everywhere.
    I let it flower, the colour it super, and then I go round and pull it all up! Within days in it back and growing – it has helped to break up my clay soil. Yes, even in the cold and damp of northern England, this flourishes and is invasive.
    P.S. Love your site, your photos are a joy. Thank you

  10. Lanie

    this is a lovely ground cover here in the Denver area. it is sold in the nurseries. it stays green year round and is the first thing to bloom every year. it is the best ground cover I have and isn’t invasive. probably because of the colder weather here keeps it in check. I love this plant.

  11. Jackie

    AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! Be very afraid! Vinca ate my back yard! Now I have to use ROUND-UP!

  12. Edith

    I have to agree with Lanie here. I’m in NY, so it must be cool enough to keep it subdued. We based wedding colors partially on the flowers 🙂 I wish it would thicken a little more where we have it, but between my DD and the neighbor dog, the trampling is also helping to keep it down.

  13. Sue in Bremerton

    Sorry folks, I love blue flowers of any kind, and I’d much rather have these lovely things on my lower forty that a 1/4 acre of BLACKBERRY vines. No one picks them and I am unable to… Thesw gems I would gladly have if the would drown those berries.
    I made a mistake of planting a cutting of spearamint, and suddently my whole flower bed was full of it, and it was choking my other flowers.
    Finally yanked the plants out, and there are only a few this year which will be yanked one of these days, too. I almost lost my beautiful bleeding heart. Sigh

  14. elizabeth a airhart

    we have all kinds of periwinkles in florida
    or vincas major and minor and in between
    containers planters hanging baskets tis fine
    thank once again

  15. Sara

    Could someone please explain the difference between vinca major and vinca minor? I don’t know which I have, but my Saturday will be spent ripping it up. Suggestions for replacement plant between 70 ft.long sidewalk and low wall? This one keeps jumping the walk and taking over the yard.

  16. Trish Murphy

    I like variegated Vinca major in containers; a cold winter will do it in if it escapes in southern Ontario. Vinca minor, however is a dangerous weed. I woud recommend not using it even in city gardens – you never know, the plant can be long-lived and the gardener who comes after you or who lives beside you may be the sort who dumps yard waste into the ravines.
    Visit Crawford Lake CA to see Vinca minor as an unstoppable invasive in a high quality natural area, wiping out walking fern and hepatica and toothwort and foamflower and…. all the things native insects and thus native birds depend upon.

  17. Trish Murphy

    I don’t know what part of the continent you are gardening it but I have replaced a narrow border of periwinkle with a native evergreen sedge Carex pensylvanica underplanted with tommy crocus. It’s tough, at least as evergreen as Vinca, and charming in spring bloom. The tommy crocus is less attractive to squirrels than some other species and once the sedge roots fill in the squirrels leave the crocus bulbs alone.

  18. Anne Marie

    Well I know you’re all going to think that I’m completely mad, but I think it’s gorgeous! I live in the wet and windy West of Ireland and first saw this plant being grown as a low hedge inside a wire fence ouside a local pub. It was really eye-catching and I decided right then that I must have one! That was three years ago, and I’m still trying to get the couple of plants I bought then to establish! Vinca major is no match for West of Ireland weeds!
    To be fair, our house was built on an acre of abandoned farmland which had been completely overrun and its competition consists (among many others) of horsetail,hedge woundwort,creeping buttercup, clover, vetch, nettles, many different grasses and thousands of evil brambles! I wage constant war on these “enemies”, and even with the help of my mates ajuga and pachysandra, nothing keeps a good Irish weed down for long! Though I would be quite happy for it to spread, my beautiful little Vinca doesn’t stand much of a chance…perhaps we’d better move to the med…?

  19. CherriesWalks

    It is growing here in the Swiss Alps as well. Maybe being at 1050 meters altitude keeps it under control, I dont know.
    In any event the flowers are out right now and I love it.
    There are some way worse weeds out there with no pretty flowers (cannot beleive how the stinging nettle is installing itself already!!)

  20. chuck

    We must live in a horticultural dead zone [north of Denver along the foothills], because our vincas, planted as ground cover five years, are just holding their own despite being hand watered and weeded. Plucky little guys.

  21. Dana

    I must not be getting a good pic of the foliage because this sure looks like Vinca minor to me. When I see Vinca major here (Oklahoma)the leaves are much fatter (wider)and they have longer internodes. Either way, apparently a little drought goes a long way to controlling this plant. The places that complain of this being troublesome seem to be (mostly) rainy. We have drought for at least 6 weeks each summer and this plant just seems to hold its own. It also has a terrible time if transplanted and not watered heavily for the first few weeks.

  22. jan phillips

    I’d rather fight Vinca than rhodedendron!

  23. Andrea

    Dana, if you look closely at the leaf margin, you should see ciliate hairs which indicates Vinca major; V. minor’s margins are glabrous. V. minor’s leaves also always seem thinner (more lanceolate than ovate) and shinier than V. major.

  24. Debbie

    I live in the Southeastern US and have both V major and V minor. The minor I planted and love it for its tiny leaves and beautiful ground cover – much easier to control. I hate the V major that was left by the previous owner. It is terribly invasive and I constantly fight to keep it from taking over my yard. V major has much larger leaves and is taller than V minor, not nearly as pretty and much more difficult to control.

  25. Sparks

    Vinca Major has been the only plant that the deer won’t eat so it has been very beneficial here at our N. Texas residence. It holds the soil and provides cover for the deer who rest and have their fawns within.

Leave a Reply