December – Choose Vinca Cultivars

Get ready to set your beds alight this December with blazes of pinks, reds, oranges, purples and white with this month’s toughest little bloomer, Vinca. With its shiny green leaves and amazing flower power, this annual will liven up your garden a treat.

Vincas are tough little plants and actually flourish under our conditions although they are native to Madagascar. They like it hot and sunny with dry feet. Plant your seedlings in a full sun position, approximately 20cm apart. Remember to plant your Vinca seedlings in the early morning or late afternoon when the heat of the day is not too intense. Vincas prefer a slightly acid soil that drains well, but not one that is particularly rich or fertile. Dig the bed to a depth of about 30cm and incorporate a 10cm layer of compost or dry manure before planting. Apply a general fertilizer once or twice a season.

Once they are established, do not spoil them with too much water as they are very drought tolerant. Vincas are an excellent “water wise” choice. During times of drought the leaves may curl up but they’ll un-curl again at night or when the plant receives water. Don’t over water; you will do more harm than good.

Vincas are bred to perform at the height of summer when the rest of the garden is wilting, but help it out a little by mulching the soil around the plants. Not only will this help the soil conserve moisture and prevent weeds but it will also protect the plants during heavy rain. A layer of mulch, such as bark chips, helps minimize splashing, which stops fungus spreading from soil to leaves. Vincas make lovely companions in containers as well as brightening up your beds. This happy plant will give you months of colour. When not in bloom, it offers a neat green edge to your beds and paths.

You do not need to groom vincas. Dead flowers drop off quickly and the plants maintain their neat, glossy shape all season.This is one of the few plants whose botanical name you need to remember. Known variously as vinca or Madagascar periwinkle, summer-flowering vinca is called Catharanthus roseus, which means pure-flower rose-colored. It is often confused with Vinca minor/Vinca major. They are all members of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae) but Catharanthus likes the exact opposite conditions of its cousin periwinkle or Vinca minor/Vinca major. Catharanthus roseus prefers sunny, hot situations and blooms in shades of pink and red all summer. Vinca minor/Vinca major is an evergreen vine ground cover plant for shade that produce blue flowers in spring.

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