Vinca major

Common Name: greater periwinkle 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Apocynaceae
Native Range: Northeastern Asia Minor and adjacent western Caucusus
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 0.50 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Violet-blue
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Heavy Shade, Erosion, Dry Soil


Reliably winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-9 where it is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Plants prefer moist, humus-rich soils in part shade, but will tolerate close to full shade. Space starter plants 8” apart for quick cover of smaller areas. Space 12-18” apart to cover large areas. In the St. Louis area, this plant may not survive harsh winters even if grown in a protected location, and may be best utilized as an annual for pots, baskets and containers.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Vinca major, commonly called greater periwinkle, large periwinkle or blue buttons, is an evergreen, prostrate, mat-forming perennial with long trailing stems. It is widely used as a ground cover and container plant. North of USDA Zone 7, it is more commonly used as a container plant. Dark green leaves (to 3” long) are ovate to lanceolate. Solitary, tubular, phlox-like, pale violet-blue flowers (to 1 1/2” across) bloom on upright stalks from the leaf axils in spring, and usually continue to bloom intermittently throughout the summer into autumn. Foliage of this periwinkle typically grows to 12-18" tall and spreads indefinitely. Once established, this plant will spread aggressively, rooting at the nodes where the stems come in contact with the soil.

Genus name is from Latin meaning to bind or wind around in reference to the long, flexible stems that were used in wreath making.

Specific epithet means bigger or larger.


No serious insect or disease problems. Potential insect pests include aphids and nematodes. Potential disease problems include root rot, leaf spot and blight. In southern climates where winter hardiness is not a problem, plants can spread somewhat aggressively into adjacent lawns or garden areas.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, greater periwinkle is a versatile ground cover for shady areas. Good cover for bulbs. Effective on slopes or banks to stabilize soils and prevent erosion. Trailing stems may be cascaded over stone walls. Dense foliage discourages weeds. Excellent selection for hanging baskets, window boxes and containers.