With blue, purple or white flowers paired with dark, glossy leaves, the periwinkle plant is a fast-growing crawling vine that will quickly cover trouble spots in your garden. A member of the Dogbane family, the Vinca minor and Vinca major will take root in virtually any area as long as you provide adequate water. The vining plants will thrive in partial sun and will produce blooms most commonly in April and fall.
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The Vinca periwinkle is a plant native to Europe, North America, northwest Africa and southwest Asia. The history of this plant is superstitious---some early works of literature from macabra-influenced writer Abertus Magnus describing it as a powerful plant, able to invoke feelings of love and even exorcise evil spirits. The Book of Secrets of Albertus Magnus: Of the Virtues of Herbs, Stones and Certain Beasts by Saint Albertus Magnus cites, "Perwynke when it is beate unto pouder with worms of ye earth wrapped about it and with an herbe called houslyke, it induceth love between man and wyfe if it bee used in their meales..."
In Germany, the periwinkle is known as the "flower of immortality," in Italy, the "flower of death." In France, the periwinkle is a sign of friendship, although centuries ago it was referred to as "sorcerer's violet" or "Violettes des sorciers."
When And How to Plant
Since it is such a versatile plant, the Vinca varieties are planted in any season except harsh winter. Break up the spoil, mix in fertiliser or mulch to help the process, and avoid watering overhead as fungus can become an issue. Once the vines have established themselves, the plants need little care aside from water and some light trimming if you find the often invasive plant moving into undesired areas of your garden.
The rosy or Madagascar periwinkle (Vinca rosea) is an upright, perennial plant that prefers hot dry conditions to keep it in bloom all summer long. The flowers bloom in several colours---though often pink and white---and when taken care of, the plant will grow up to 18 inches in height.
The rosy periwinkle caught the eye of medical and scientific communities around the world in the 1950s for useful diuretic action and lowering blood sugar. Because of these traits, the periwinkle is often used in herbal and homeopathic remedies for intestinal issues, circulatory problems, and inflammation or bleeding of the skin. The periwinkle may also have anti-cancer properties, largely due to the alkaloids vinblastime and vincristine---chemicals which seem to be capable of killing cancer in affected cells.
The most common ailment to the periwinkle plant is often induced by too much water. Whether it is a humid environment or the gardener being a little too heavy with the watering, the periwinkle becomes susceptible to root rot and various fungi when surrounded by excessive moisture.
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