Vinca Minor - Lesser Periwinkle

© Sophie W. Smith

Joined October 2012

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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Vinca
Species: V. minor
Binomial name
Vinca minor

Vinca minor, Lesser periwinkle and Dwarf periwinkle, is a plant native to central and southern Europe, from Portugal and France north to the Netherlands and the Baltic States, and east to the Caucasus, and also in southwestern Asia in Turkey. Other vernacular names used in cultivation include Small periwinkle, Common periwinkle, and sometimes in the United States, Myrtle or Creeping myrtle,1 although this is misleading, as the name myrtle normally refers to the Myrtus species.

Vinca minor is a trailing, viny subshrub, spreading along the ground and rooting along the stems to form large clonal colonies and occasionally scrambling up to 40 cm high but never twining or climbing. The leaves are evergreen, opposite, 2-4.5 cm long and 1-2.5 cm broad, glossy dark green with a leathery texture and an entire margin.

The flowers are solitary in the leaf axils and are produced mainly from early spring to mid summer but with a few flowers still produced into the autumn; they are violet-purple (pale purple or white in some cultivated selections), 2-3 cm diameter, with a five-lobed corolla. The fruit is a pair of follicles 2.5 cm long, containing numerous seeds.

The closely related species Vinca major is similar, but larger in all parts, and also has relatively broader leaves with a hairy margin.


The species is commonly grown as a groundcover in temperate gardens for its evergreen foliage, spring and summer flowers, ease of culture, and dense habit that smothers most weeds. The species has few pests or diseases outside its native range and is widely naturalised and classified as an invasive species in parts of North America.2 Once established, it is difficult to eradicate Vinca minor, as its waxy leaves shed most water-based herbicide sprays. Removal involves cutting, followed by immediate application of concentrated glyphosphate or triclopyr to the cut stems. Repeated chemical treatments may be necessary, along with digging up the roots where feasible.


There are numerous cultivars, with different flower colours and variegated foliage, including “Argenteovariegata” (white leaf edges), “Aureovariegata” (yellow leaf edges), “Gertrude Jekyll” (white flowers), and “Plena” (double flowers).Read more

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