Taxonomy and Botany of Vinca Minor Vines
Plant taxonomy classifies this plant as Vinca minor. Its common names are "creeping myrtle," "common periwinkle," and "periwinkle flower." But this is a case where the scientific name is at least as well known as the common names, so most gardeners just use the scientific name, Vinca.
Because they are used most often for filling in large patches of earth, Vinca minor vines are also classified as ground covers. They belong to the dogbane family.
Qualities of the Plants
Vinca minor vines stay short, sprawling out over the ground. They typically stand only 3-6 inches off the ground, but their trailing stems can reach 18 inches in length. The stems of these plants root at their joints as they creep along the ground and spread rapidly to become a pretty flowering ground cover able to fill in a large area and keep weeds down.
Vinca minor vines put out a bluish-lavender flower in spring. They may bloom now and again in summer, too, but the summer display will not be nearly as good as the spring display.
Sun and Soil Requirements, Planting Zones
Vinca minor vines require good drainage. Plant them in partial sun to full shade. Space them about a foot apart if you want to fill in an area quickly.
This is a good choice for a ground cover for an area with dry shade. While the plants will grow better in moist soils, Vinca minor vines are pretty drought-tolerant once mature. Achieving vigorous growth is usually not difficult for these plants. Indeed, the very fact that they grow so well can sometimes be a problem (see below under "Warning").
They will thrive in soils rich in compost, but they will tolerate poorer soils.
Native to Southern Europe, this ground cover is best grown in USDA planting zones 4-8.
Uses, Care for Vinca Minor Vines in Landscape Design
Vinca minor vines have often been planted beneath big trees, where most lawn grass would fail to grow well due to not getting enough sunshine. A vine for shade will do much better in such spots than grass, generally speaking, so why bother trying to grow a lawn there?
Also, because tree roots compete for moisture in such areas, many plants will not grow well there due to a lack of water. Drought-tolerant ground covers such as Vinca minor vines have a greater chance of surviving than thirstier plants would.
Because of their ability to root and spread, they can help hold the soil in place. This can be important on the side of a hill, where soil erosion might be a problem.
The vines need little care. They are deer-resistant and rabbit-proof flowers, and few insects eat them, so there is not much pest control to worry about. At the southern end of their range, they can be damaged by blight.
Warning About Growing This Ground Cover
But remember, the flip side of the coin for so-called "invasive plants" is that they are vigorous growers, meaning that they tend to be successful at filling in an area. This is often exactly what you want out of a ground cover.