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How To Grow And Care For Variegated Vinca

7 de desember de 2023

Variegated vinca goes by many names. It’s a variegated form of Vinca major or greater periwinkle. It’s also known as bigleaf periwinkle (Vinca major «Variegata»), and the «variegated» part of its name means that the leaves of the plant exhibit markings of different colors.

Vinca vine has big leaves with a distinctive appearance. The leaves of variegated vinca have central patches of deep green, edged in white and varying shades of light green. These patches look like brush strokes painted across the leaf’s surface and are stunning.

In addition to their year-round leaves, vinca vines also bloom. Small lavender, blue, or purple flowers appear on the vine in early-to-late spring. The flowers are shaped like pinwheels and have five petals each.

Those pretty variegated leaves last all year, and their flowers reappear yearly. It’s a reliable source of green garden color and adds year-round green as a houseplant. However, vinca leaves are mildly toxic to pets.

Plant Attributes

Plant Attributes
 Common Name:  Bigleaf Periwinkle, Large Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Blue Periwinkle
 Botanical Name:  Vinca major
 Family:  Apocynaceae
 Plant Type:  Perennial, Vine, Groundcover
 Mature Size:  6-18 in. tall
 Sun Exposure:  Full, Partial
 Soil Type:  Moist, Well-drained, Rich
 Soil pH:  Acidic (5.5 to 6.0)
 Bloom Time:  Spring
 Flower Color:  Blue, Purple, White
 Hardiness Zones:  Zones 7-9 (USDA)
 Native Area:  Mediterranean, Asia Minor
 Toxicity:  toxic to dogs, toxic to cats, toxic to pets

Variegated Vinca Care 

This plant doesn’t require a green thumb to maintain. It’s pretty hardy and thrives in various environments. The «Vinca major» is tolerant of even difficult soils. Vinca vine grows just as well in full sun as in the shade and is drought resistant—a big plus for hands-off gardeners.

When planted outdoors, it’s an aggressive spreader, but it makes a lovely and easy-to-care-for indoor plant when tended inside. It is a reliable groundcover species. Since considered invasive, some states call for moderate plant management outdoors.


Variegated vinca grows well in partial to full sun. In partial sunlight, growth might be less extensive, but in areas where the sun is plentiful, be sure to trim back as necessary to encourage healthy, manageable growth. Full sun exposure can also cause leaves to dry out during the summer or periods of drought. 


Variegated vinca adapts to most soil environments, but to start growing this plant, add some organic peat moss or compost mixture to help improve soil drainage and nutrients.

Since plants grow vertically, choose an area where it can spread, preferably near a structure to help the vine to grow freely. The hole should be at least two times the size of the root ball—cover the root top to meet the top of the soil level.


When first planting, water until the roots are well-established. Continue to keep variegated vinca well-watered by maintaining moist but well-drained soil. Apply water to the roots instead of the entire plant. It helps to water earlier in the day to allow the afternoon sun to dry the vine’s leaves and prevent disease or mold from forming.

Temperature and Humidity 

Variegated vinca prefers moderate climates. Planting near a wall can help shelter the plant from colder weather, but it can withstand temperatures down to 30°F to 40°F. This plant benefits from high humidity and partial shade. 


As an aggressively growing plant, fertilization is unnecessary, but it benefits from a balanced, water-soluble 10-10-10 option. Fertilize monthly during the growing season or when first establishing plants to encourage blooming. Apply fertilizer in the mornings to prevent leaf scorch.  

Types of Vinca

Vinca plants have a sprawling nature with trailing stems. Here are some varieties of vinca to know:

  • Vinca Major: An evergreen perennial often used for groundcover. This invasive plant produces flowers that reach two inches across and glossy dark green foliage. 
  • Vinca Minor: A smaller periwinkle variety, this plant is less invasive and has several cultivar varieties. This plant produces white or purple blooms.
  • Vinca Rosea: This variety contains several cultivars resembling vines with blooms that resemble impatiens.


Prune variegated vinca by pinching off wilted or spent flowers. Pinching will help encourage blooming and reduce unwanted seed production, but deadheading is unnecessary. Pruning at any time during the growing season helps prevent plants from getting too leggy and helps maintain an attractive shape and size. Removing some growth also allows for better air circulation and increases sun exposure, which helps prevent diseases. 

Propagating Variegated Vinca

Select a healthy stem in early spring or summer to propagate variegated vinca through cuttings. Here’s how:

  1. Select a stem at least four to six inches long with no flowers. Remove the bottom leaves. 
  2. Dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone to promote new growth. 
  3. Root the stem in a container filled with a combination of moist potting mix, peat moss, and perlite. Cover the stem with soil, so the entire cut section is under the top soil line. 
  4. Cover the container with a plastic bag to encourage humidity. Place the container in indirect light and moisten the soil with a spray bottle. 
  5. In two to three weeks, after roots form, transplant new growth into its final location.

How to Grow Variegated Vinca From Seed

Grow variegated vinca from seed by starting indoors and moving outside or to a potted plant. Collect seeds from seed pods to dry about 12 to 15 weeks before the last frost. Save the seeds in a dry, dark place over the winter before sowing them in the spring. Start seeds by lightly covering them with seed-starting formula soil. Keep the temperature of the tray around 75°F. Maintain moist soil and warm temperatures for seven to 21 days. After seedlings emerge, transplant new growth into a container and gradually expose it to colder temperatures in the spring. 


Depending on your climate, variegated vinca can remain outdoors or be brought inside for colder regions. Before the first frost, cover the area where the plant grows with a three-or-four-inch layer of organic mulch. Use wood chips, straw, leaf compost, or other material to help insulate the plant’s roots. Continue watering variegated vinca throughout the winter but allow enough time for the plant to dry between waterings.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases 

Variegated vinca is susceptible to diseases and pests, especially when growing in environments without optimal care conditions. Common problems include aphids, spider mites, scales, and whiteflies. These pests are treatable with an application of insecticidal soap or neem oil. 

Diseases like phtyophthora blight and leaf spots commonly occur in variegated vinca. Avoid wet soil and maintain proper sun exposure to help prevent these fungal infections from occurring. If left untreated, the roots of variegated vinca can rot, but if caught early is treatable with fungicides. It might be necessary to remove plants with advanced rot.

Common Problems With Variegated Vinca

Curling Leaves

Variegated vinca needs proper nutrients to avoid curling foliage. If the soil lacks nutrients or variegated vinca is overwatered, the foliage will appear discolored and dramatically curled. If this issue persists, black necrotic spots might appear on the foliage. Test the soil and treat it with fertilizer to help achieve a balanced nutrient level.

Leaves Turning Yellow

Variegated vinca’s foliage might turn yellow because of a lack of iron. Iron is typically lacking in alkaline soil, so amend it with a fertilizer rich in nitrogen, iron, and sulfur. Added fertilization should help balance the soil’s pH levels. Too much water will also cause yellowing leaves because this plant needs well-draining soil.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does the vinca vine spread?

    The vinca vine spreads in every direction, growing long trailing vines that develop from rooting shoots. Each vine is about six inches tall.

  • Do you have to deadhead vinca vine?

    Vinca vine is a low-maintenance plant and does not require deadheading spent or faded blooms. This plant blooms annually and only requires pruning to prevent it from becoming too leggy.

  • How do you tell the difference between a vinca minor and a vinca major plant?

    The first difference between vinca major and minor is the size. Vinca minor has dark green foliage with blue blossoms, while vinca major has light green foliage and yellowish-white flowers. Both species are used for groundcover and can grow in containers or hanging baskets.


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  1. ASPCA. Vinca.