Madagascar Periwinkle

Madagascar periwinkle

Madagascar periwinkle is a herbaceous plant native to the island of which it bears the name.

Madagascar periwinkle facts

Name – Catharanthus roseus
Family – Apocynceae or dogbane
Type – bush

Height – 10 to 20 in (0.25 to 0.5 m)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – well-drained

Foliage – evergreen (in warm climates)
Flowering – May to October-November

It will provide you with very cute blooming in summer. Formerly, the plant went by the names Alcea rosea and Vinca rosea. This is why the name “Vinca” pops up quite often.

Planting Madagascar periwinkle

Outdoor growing of Madagascar periwinkle

Planting Madagascar periwinkleThe Madagascar periwinkle is native to the island of Madagascar which has a tropical climate.

  • It therefore requires a temperature of at least 68°F (20°C) to thrive and grow.
  • When growing it directly in the ground, temperatures must be high in both summer and winter.
  • Planting is done in spring.

But it’s also possible to grow Madagascar periwinkle as an annual from May to October without any problems at all.

  • Find a very sunny spot for it.
  • Mix soil mix into your garden soil.
  • Water only if the plant shows signs of dehydration, because it resists arid conditions quite well.
  • Either let it die off, or bring it indoors for the winter. The pot-in-pot technique works well here.

Growing potted Madagascar periwinkle

To grow Madagascar periwinkle in a pot, it is advised to re-pot every 1 or 2 years, preferably in spring.

The pot provided upon purchase will quickly become too small: re-pot your Madagascar periwinkle as soon as its blooming is over.

Sowing from seed

Increasingly, Madagascar periwinkle is available as seeds.

It’s easy to sow the seeds:

  • plant directly in the ground, two or three seeds in a shallow seed hole.
  • Space them about 1 foot (30 cm) apart.
  • Cover with a thin layer of potting soil, about 1/4th inch (0.5 cm).
  • When they sprout, wait for several pairs of leaves to appear. Thin out the weaker ones to leave only one.

If there are many slugs or snails, wait for the plants to have at least 4 pairs of leaves before thinning or transplanting.

Pruning and caring for your Madagascar periwinkle

If you’re growing your Madagascar periwinkle outdoors like an annual, simply pull the plant out once the first frost spells have hit. It wouldn’t survive the winter anyways.

If growing a Madagascar periwinkle indoors, in pots, you’ll have to prune it on a regular basis. Doing this helps increase blooming and controls its growth.

To boost flower-bearing, remove Madagascar periwinkle wilted flowers regularly (deadheading).

  • It is best to prune lightly at the very beginning of spring to spur blooming.
  • Pruning can be done during re-potting.

Madagascar periwinkle in winter

Madagascar periwinkle is typically grown as an annual plant in temperate climates. It isn’t a hardy flower.

  • Indeed, wherever winters are cold, the plant can’t survive. It will die unless brought inside.

Growing Madagascar periwinkle in a pot or container

Choose a very well-lit space for your Madagascar periwinkle, but not in direct sunlight behind a window.

  • Avoid heat sources such as radiators.
  • Protect the plant from direct sunlight during the hotter hours if placed behind a window.

Water regularly but not too much, to avoid suffocating roots.

Finally, bring your shrub outdoors from May to October to give it fresh air.

When in a pot, Madagascar periwinkle needs a lot of moisture. It loves resting over a tray of wet clay marbles or gravel. Indeed, this recreates its natural environment.

Madagascar periwinkle after flowering

The usual blooming season for Madagascar periwinkle extends from May to October.

  • After blooming, its is best to winterize your plant: place it in a cooler but well-lit room.
  • Ideal temperatures are around 68 to 70° F (20 to 21° C) in summer, and 50 to 60°F (10 to 15°C) in winter.
  • Bring watering down to the minimum and refrain from adding fertilizer.

Diseases and issues related to Madagascar periwinkle

Madagascar periwinkle leaves turn yellow most often when they were exposed to the cold or to lack of water.

  • Protect your Madagascar periwinkle from drafts. In addition, regularly spray water on their leaves. Rainwater is best to avoid build-up of minerals.

If a cottony white substance starts covering the leaves of your Madagascar periwinkle, it means a scale insect colony has appeared.

Madagascar periwinkle can also be colonized by mites and ticks such as red spider mites.

Different types of Madagascar periwinkle

In the wild, only two colors exist: white and pink. Today, through cultivation and breeding, many new colors exist: red, peach, apricot…

Learn more about Madagascar periwinkle

This is a very simple plant to care for. It is perfect to cover flower beds. Excellent for very sandy soil.

There is no need to remove dead flowers, they will simply fall off and quickly give rise to more!

History of Madagascar periwinkle

This flower has been bred and cultivated for almost a hundred years. In the wild, only two colors can be found: purple-pink and white. In the 1920s, horticulturists started identifying promising Madagascar periwinkle varieties both tall and short.

Initially, breeders tried to expand the range of colors. Today, newer varieties are better at resisting disease, drought, cold and heat… thus generating savings for landscapers and hassle for owners!

Madagascar periwinkle trivia

Roots of this ornamental flower contain alkaloids. Research is ongoing that shows these compounds effective in treating cancer!

Double check labels

Madagascar periwinkle, a short shrub with nice flowersMadagascar periwinkle is different from common periwinkle, which has the scientific name “Vinca”.

  • The confusion arises from stores and horticulture centers using the same name, Vinca, for both plants.
  • In these stores, anything labeled “annual vinca” is actually Madagascar periwinkle.

Also, this plant is similar to Impatiens (and to sunpatiens). To tell them apart, look at the center of the flower and the rim of leaves.

  • Madagascar periwinkle has smooth edges on leaves. Leaf tips are rounder. The center of the flower is a hole.
  • Impatiens has toothy leaves (serrated is the botanical term). Leaf tips are sharper. The center of the flower has pistils sticking out of it.

Smart tip about the Madagascar periwinkle

Adding organic flower plant fertilizer will enhance its bloom.

Images: 123RF: Kotchasi Charoensuk, CC BY 2.0: Paul and Jill, CC BY-SA 2.0: Bernard Dupont