Bigleaf periwinkle (Vinca major) is a perennial ground cover that looks like a larger version of its more diminutive cousin with violet-blue flowers, periwinkle (Vinca minor). Bigleaf periwinkle grows best in locations where it has room to spread without bumping into or crowding out other plants. It thrives in all kinds of conditions, including sun or shade, and any type of well-draining soil, but it does best as a perennial in warmer temperate zones. Bigleaf periwinkle may be mildly toxic to humans and animals.
|Common Name||Bigleaf periwinkle, greater periwinkle, blue periwinkle|
|Botanical Name||Vinca major|
|Plant Type||Evergreen perennial|
|Mature Size||6-8 in. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Well-drained, clay, loam|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic|
|Bloom Time||Mid to late spring|
|Flower Color||Purple, blue|
|Hardiness Zones||4-9 (USDA)|
|Native Areas||Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Asia|
|Toxicity||Mildly toxic to humans and animals|
Bigleaf Periwinkle Care
Here are the main care requirements for growing bigleaf periwinkle:
- Choose a spot with dappled sun for best results.
- Plant in well-drained soil that's on the acidic side.
- Water only when drought conditions occur or if the plant is growing in full sun.
Bigleaf periwinkle is considered an invasive species in various parts of Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia. Before planting any type of periwinkle, check your local town hall to see if it is prohibited in your area.
Bigleaf periwinkle can be grown in full shade to full sun, though it seems to do best in partial shade. Planting in full sun may cause the leaves to dry out in hot weather, so keep the plant watered during periods of intense heat.
Not very fussy about soil, bigleaf periwinkle has a habit of appearing in surprising places, such as creeping out from under other plantings or growing near a foundation. It prefers a well-drained, slightly acidic soil to flourish. If your bigleaf periwinkle is growing in clay soil and seems to be lackluster or not forming very many flowers, try enriching your soil with a mix of peat moss and compost.
If growing in the shade, your bigleaf periwinkle should not require extra watering. But if there's a long period of drought supplemental watering may be necessary.
Temperature and Humidity
Bigleaf periwinkle is not as cold-hardy as ordinary periwinkle. It prefers a temperate climate. But if it's planted near a stone or brick structure it may retain enough warmth to become a perennial in a colder zone.
This hardy ground cover should not require any fertilizer if the soil it's planted in is healthy and has good drainage.
Types of Bigleaf Periwinkle
All types of bigleaf periwinkle have blue flowers.
- 'Maculata': Green leaves with golden centers
- 'Variegata': Green leaves with white edges
- 'Wojo's Gem': Cream or variegated leaves with green edges and pink stems
Propagating Bigleaf Periwinkle
The best way to propagate this plant is by dividing from an established clump, though you can try growing it from cuttings as well.
How to propagate by dividing:
- Dig up a clump of the plant and gently shake off soil.
- Divide the clump into a couple or several divisions.
- Plant the divisions immediately where you would like to fill in with the ground cover. Typically space divisions 8 inches apart in small areas. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart to fill larger areas.
- Moisten the soil.
How to propagate with a cutting:
- Take cuttings in early fall.
- Water the plant before taking the cutting. Snip a stem that is between 4 to 6 inches long.
- Root the cutting in a container with a potting mix containing peat moss and perlite.
- Keep the soil moist; using a plastic bag to hold in humidity may help.
- Roots should form in 2-3 weeks.
How to Grow Bigleaf Periwinkle From Seed
Growing bigleaf periwinkle from seed is also possible though it takes longer. You will need to harvest seeds from the seed pods after blooms fade which could be in the late summer or early autumn. Start seeds in the spring before the last frost.
- Collect the seeds from seed pods after blooms wilt. You will find the skinny pods close to the ground under the leaves. If the pods are already split there will not be any seeds inside because they have already dispersed.
- Dry the seeds you do find and save them in a cool, dry place over the winter.
- Start the seeds in a seed tray with potting medium.
- Keep this tray in a dimly lit, warm (75-77 degrees Fahrenheit) spot.
- Use a mist sprayer to keep them moist until seedlings appear, then water lightly but regularly.
- Seedlings can be transplanted to containers once they're 2 inches tall.
- Plant outside once all danger of frost has passed.
Potting and Repotting
Bigleaf periwinkle is an ideal nearly zero-maintenance plant for container gardening because of its pretty flowers and trailing vines. It's best planted on its own without companion plants. It doesn't matter what type of pot you use as long as it has several drainage holes and is filled with well-draining soil. Place the pot in dappled sunlight and water when the top 1 to 2 inches of soil is dry. There's no need to water the plant, however, if the pot is receiving regular water from rainfall.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Not much can stop this plant from growing. Pests may include aphids. Root rot, leaf spot, or blight can also affect a swath of bigleaf periwinkle.
How to Get Bigleaf Periwinkle to Bloom
Bigleaf periwinkle blooms from April to May, but can go longer depending on conditions.
What Do Bigleaf Periwinkle Flowers Look and Smell Like?
Simple and small, the brilliant blue flowers have five petals and pale blue centers, blooming on a matted and trailing growth of glossy, leathery dark green leaves. Though the plant is most commonly seen with violet-blue flowers, there are some different cultivars with other colors, such as white flowers or variegated foliage, though these are not too commonly available. The flowers may have a very faint, sweet fragrance.
How to Encourage More Blooms
If you are not seeing many flowers, it may be that your field of bigleaf periwinkle needs a little bit of sun to potentially encourage more blooms. Bigleaf periwinkle in pots can use light fertilizer every couple of weeks to keep the plant blooming.
Common Problems With Bigleaf Periwinkle
Bigleaf periwinkle is so trouble-free (except for its vigorous growth) that the only problem you may encounter is the result of overwatering. Too much water can be the result of frequent watering or rain, poor soil drainage due to compacted or heavy dirt, or poor drainage in a container if you have potted periwinkle. Waterlogged plants have oxygen-deprived roots and will begin to show these signs:
- Droopy, wilting flowers and foliage
- Yellowing leaves
- Spotty leaves
Try fixing the problem if it is not too severe by watering the ground only when the first 2 inches of soil are dry to the touch. Water in the mornings, as well, so the air can dry excess moisture. For potted bigleaf periwinkle showing these signs, do not water as frequently. Eliminate the damaged areas If the problem is minor, repot the plant and cut off damaged roots, then try adding more drainage holes to the container to avoid further root rot.
Is Vinca major a good ground cover to grow?
As long as you are not planting it as a ground cover with other plants, bigleaf periwinkle can make an excellent ground cover for large patches of empty space. It is a very aggressive grower so be aware of where you plant it and how far you want it to grow.
Does Vinca major come back every year?
Bigleaf periwinkle will grow as a perennial in warmer climates but as an annual in colder regions, especially in areas where there is frost. Although bigleaf periwinkle is not cold-hardy, it will reappear in colder regions because it can self-sow its seed.
Can Vinca major grow in full sun?
Though the plant seems to prefer dappled sunlight, it will usually tolerate full sun quite well.
Vinca major-greater periwinkle. Native Plant Trust. National Science Foundation.
Vinca Major. Arizona State University.
Big periwinkle. Invasive Plant Atlas.
Vinca major. Missouri Botanical Garden.