Pretty and dependable, that’s Catharanthus roseus

Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle, Rose Periwinkle)

White Catharanthus roseus (Cooler Peppermint Vinca) with red eye in our garden, April 2009An old-fashioned and reliable bedding plant that never fails to shine year round in our tropical climate, abounding in pretty little flowers that are usually of the purplish-pink, rose-pink or white form.

But, of course, many marvelous cultivars/varieties of various vibrant colors and dwarfish forms have been developed over the many years by horticulturists and are readily available for gardeners worldwide. Be enthralled with the many beautiful cultivars at PanAmerica Seed.

We too enjoy planting these dependable Madagascar Periwinkle that self-sow so readily for the taking, providing plants to fill empty pots or as groundcovers in garden beds. Lovely, isn’t it? ;)

Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :

  • Botanical Name: Catharanthus roseus (synonyms: Vinca rosea, Ammocallis rosea, Lochnera rosea)
  • Common Name: Madagascar Periwinkle, Cape Periwinkle, Rose/Rosy Periwinkle, Periwinkle, Vinca, Old-maid
  • Family name: Apocynaceae (dogbane family)
  • Plant type: Herbaceous annual or perennial
  • Origin: Native to Madagascar but widely cultivated in subtropical and tropical regions worldwide
  • Purplish-pink Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle) in our gardenFeatures: Catharanthus roseus, a species of the genus Catharanthus, is an evergreen perennial herb, widely cultivated for its medicinal properties, yet popularly grown too in home gardens. In the wild, the semi-woody plants can reach 1m tall or more but garden cultivated plants typically grow between 15-60 cm, and with an equal spread.
    Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle), a purplish-pink form in our garden, July 29 2009Of moderate growth rate, some plants are small, low-growing and sprawling while others are larger and fairly erect. The taller plants may need to be staked for support against wind and storm.Glossy green leaves are borne in opposite pairs along the fairly stiff stems and branches. Leaves are simple, oblong to obovate, 2.5-9 cm long and 1-3.5 cm wide, with a pale midrib and a short petiole.
    Pretty and colorful tubular flowers emerge singly or in small clusters at upper leaf axils, in fabulous contrast with the deep green foliage.
    Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle), a purplish-pink form in our garden, July 29 2009Each flower has a basal corolla tube 2.5-3 cm long that expands to a 5-lobed corolla 2.5-5.1 cm in diameter, with petals that are sometimes overlapping.Flowers come in numerous stunning hues of white, purple, lavender, mauve, light to hot pink and magenta, bright red to crimson and scarlet, salmon and orange, etc. Most have darker or contrasting throats or central eyes.

    Seeds of Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle)Check out at NC State University’s site to enjoy images of about 33 periwinkle cultivars in magical colors!

    Fruits develop as paired follicles 2-4 cm long and 3 mm wide at leaf axils. When matured, they split open to release seeds that self-sow easily on suitable soil. Good news is, blooming starts early too on young plants.

  • Culture (Care): Catharanthus roseus or Rosy Periwinkle is one of the easiest plant to grow, relatively fuss-free and rewards handsomely with non-stop flowering, year-round in the tropics or all summer long in cooler regions.
    Light: Best growth in bright light with some sunshine, or filtered sunlight or partial shade. Preference for morning sun but can tolerate full sun (not too strong and harsh though, resulting in curled leaves).
    Moisture: Water regularly, especially during hot and dry seasons, as well as during the growing season. It does not tolerate overwatering and can be mildly drought tolerant once established.
    Soil: Grows best in poor and well-drained soils. It does enjoy moist soil though and occasional misting in dry environment.
    Others: Trim plant when young or pinch back new stem tips to encourage denser branching for a bushier and compact plant, hence promoting more flowering. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lanky subshrub that is top heavy and needs staking! Deadheading is unnecessary as the withered flowers fall off themselves. They are not heavy feeders. If necessary, feed fortnightly or once monthly with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Too much fertilizing will produce luxuriant foliage instead of more blooms. No serious insect or disease problems, though do watch out for slugs and snails. Stem rot, leaf spot and aster yellows may occur.
    For sub-tropical and temperate regions: Hardiness: USDA Zones 9b-11. Plant as an annual in cooler regions and as a perennial in warmer regions. Check for more information at Floridata.
  • Propagation: Easily propagated from seed or by softwood stem cuttings or tip cuttings that root easily in soil. It self-seed easily too.
  • Usage: Cephrenes trichopepla (Yellow Palm Dart) on Catharanthus roseus, in our gardenCatharanthus roseus makes excellent bedding or border plant for summertime annual or perennial garden. Great as a ground cover, planted en masse with different colors or in mixed plantings. Perfect for raised planters, containers or hanging baskets to display its colorful beauty at decks, patios, garden porches, windowsills and balconies. Attractive to butterflies too (that’s a skipper butterfly, Yellow Palm Dart, on the above image.
    Certain varieties can be grown as a houseplant in a brightly lit location. Cut branches can be used as vase arrangement in homes.
    For centuries, Madagascar Periwinkle has been well-known worldwide for its herbal and medicinal uses, hence commercially grown in many countries, namely Australia, Africa, India and southern Europe to tap its medicinal content. Traditionally, it has been used to treat diabetes, wasp stings, lung congestion, asthma, high blood pressure, menstrual problems and as an astringent, diuretic, and others. It is a source of the anti-cancer alkaloids. However, be aware that this plant is poisonous if ingested or smoked and is toxic to livestock. And, alkaloids from periwinkles can have serious side effects. More information at National Tropical Botanical Garden, HI, USA.

More Catharanthus roseus photos from our garden and elsewhere:

Purplish-pink Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle) in our garden
purplish-pink/lavender-magenta petals with red eye
Catharanthus roseus 'Cooler Peppermint' (Cooler Peppermint Vinca), white form with red centre in our garden, Arpil 2009
Catharanthus roseus ‘Cooler Peppermint’, white petals with red or cerise centre
White Catharanthus roses 'Cooler Coconut' (Cooler Coconut Vinca) with yellow eye in our garden, Arpil 2009
Catharanthus┬ároses ‘Cooler Coconut’, white petals with yellow eye
Pink Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle) with yellow eye, around our neighbourhood, May 2009
baby pink petals with yellow eye
Magenta Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle) with red eye, around our neighbourhood, May 2009
magenta petals with red eye, large 5 cm flowers
Catharanthus roseus (Cape Periwinkle), a lovely apricot variety with red eye
Could this be Catharanthus roseus ‘Pacifica Apricot XP? It has apricot petals with red eye
Catharanthus roseus (Cape Periwinkle), a lovely light-pink variety
Wondering whether this is Catharanthus roseus ‘Pacifica Icy Pink XP? It has light pink petals with yellow/white/pink eye
Catharanthus roseus (Cape Periwinkle), a lovely light-pink variety
Periwinkle ‘Pacifica XP Really Red’ It has dark red petals with white and yellow eye

Last edit: June 2, 2016

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2 Responses to “Pretty and dependable, that’s Catharanthus roseus”

  1. james Says:

    What a wonderful vinca’s. I always marvel at them. Now there is a new cultivar with so many beautiful flowers where its placed in hanging basket and the plant is a hanging type and not the usual tall standing type.

    I had checked the price where it was sold in pasar malam – RM15.00. Quite expensive for a simple easy growing plant. Hoping that it will be all too common everywhere and I can get the seedpod and plant it myself.

  2. Jacqueline Says:

    Yep! Thanks for reviving my memory, James. We did plant the trailing kind on a hanging pot many years ago but found it not hardy at all. Though expensive, we found it irresistible then. Too bad our RM15 got burnt within a month with its demise. It could have been caused by the sudden change of sunlight conditions though, but we never wanted one again since.

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