Vinca minor

Name and Family

Periwinkle, Vinca minor, is a member of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae).


  • Periwinkle is known to have been present in North America as early as the late 1700’s. 
  • The plant is native to the Mediterranean region of Eurasia, where it is not considered invasive, and indeed a “slow colonizer”. 
  • It has been introduced to North America numerous times, primarily as an ornamental for use as a groundcover in gardens. 
  • Unfortunately, despite its known invasiveness, it continues to be found in garden centres across the country. 
  • Other uses for periwinkle include employment as a medicinal or herbal remedy and use as an erosion control plant in the past. 

Identification Guide

Here are some distinguishing features that may help to positively identify periwinkle:

  • Leaves are glossy, evergreen and have a faint, white mid-vein
  • It has long, trailing stems that grow along the ground
  • Single flowers bloom along the stem
  • Flowers are pale blue-purple, 3 cm wide and have 5 petals
  • Flowers bloom from May to June
  • Grows well in shade and tolerates a wide range of soil types

What it does in the ecosystem

Have you ever visited Strathgartney Provincial Park? If so, you may have seen an area where a dense, low-growing monoculture of green-leafed plants with purple flowers dominates the forest floor. This is periwinkle, also called vinca. 

  • Periwinkle is a hardy, evergreen groundcover plant that is often used in gardens for its ability to suppress weed growth.
  • This same capacity for suppressing weed growth unfortunately makes it a prolific invader. 
  • If the plant escapes a garden and establishes itself in the wild, it can outcompete native groundcover species and forest understory plants, significantly altering habitats. 
  • The habitats periwinkle prefers are, unfortunately, sensitive, high-value areas like woodlands and riparian zones.
    • It can invade these areas because of its growth habit (groundcover), aggressive growth, and shade tolerance. 
  • It spreads vegetatively using stolons (runners) and rhizomes, forming dense monoculture mats that prevent native species growth and reduce local biodiversity. 
  • As periwinkle can reproduce from root fragments, it may be difficult to control once established. 
  • Its presence has been shown to reduce populations of native spiders.
  • Periwinkle is unpalatable for livestock and may reduce the grazing capacity of pasturelands where it invades.



Before selecting a control method consider: 

  • The size of the infestation, 
  • Resource availability.
  • The amount of effort you are willing and/or able to expend. 
  • Often, multiple control methods are used simultaneously. 
  • Consider the local ecosystem and what other organisms or ecological processes may be affected by management.
  • When managing periwinkle in a sensitive environment, work carefully to minimize the disturbance to local wildlife and native vegetation. 


  • Depending on the location and extent of spread, the most feasible method of periwinkle control may be hand-pulling the plants
  • This method is feasible thanks to a shallow root system. 
  • Pulling must be done carefully, as the plant will resprout from any root fragments that are left behind. 
  • A rake can be used to pull runners up from loose soil. 


  • If you are in an area where not much else is growing, after removing all periwinkle parts, the area may also be covered with a thick tarp. 
  • This tarp is used to suffocate any new growth that may arise from seeds or root fragments that were missed. 
  • Be mindful that the tarp will also suffocate any other species found beneath it. 
  • A thick tarp of a dark colour is best, as this will block sunlight and gas exchange most effectively. 
  • Weigh the tarp down adequately with debris, bricks, wood chips, soil, or some other weight. You can also bury the edges of the tarp to avoid its catching the wind. 
  • Return to the site regularly to check beneath the tarp. The tarp will need to be left in place until no live plants are found beneath it.
  • On your returns, manage any new growth that has popped up around or through the covering. 
  • If the population has expanded from beneath the tarp, you may want to consider extending the tarped area. 
  • Tarp at least three feet out from the perimeter of the infestation.
  • Aside from areas where periwinkle grows in monoculture, tarping can also be used where other control methods have proved unsuccessful.


  • Mechanical controls such as mowing are not recommended if hand-pulling is feasible. 
  • Roots will resprout vigorously after mowing.  
  • Any stem fragments that are spread around the area by the mower may also root at the node and resprout. 


  • The PEIISC does not provide advice on chemical control measures at this time. 
  • If using chemical controls, it is imperative that all local legislation and manufacturer’s instructions be followed during application. 


  • After work is completed, it is important that all equipment be cleaned thoroughly and that all plant parts are removed from boots and clothing before leaving the area. 
  • All plant parts must be collected, bagged, and properly disposed of.
  • After work is completed, it is imperative that all equipment be cleaned thoroughly and that all plant parts are removed from equipment, boots, and clothing before leaving the area.
    • There is a significant risk of exposure to sap during cleanup, so protective equipment must be left on during this stage
  • All plant parts must be collected, bagged, and properly disposed of
  • Each time you manage the site, collect, bag, mark, and dispose of all plant parts properly.
    • Bag the plant material in clear plastic bags.
    • Mark the bags boldly with a permanent marker. Write “INVASIVE PLANT” or “PERIWINKLE” on the bags. 
    • If you have a place away from foot and wildlife traffic, you can dry out the material, making it much easier to move.
      • Leave the bags open and in the sun for a week to dry. 
      • Only do this if you can guarantee that the plant will not be spread from where it is drying
    • If the bags are thin, double bag them to prevent accidental dispersal later on.
    • Tie the bags tightly and place them in your usual residential waste collection (THE BLACK BIN)
      • Never place invasive plants into the compost. This may allow them to become established once they reach the heap. 
  • Clean and remove all plant parts from any equipment, clothing, or vehicles before leaving the site to prevent spread.
  • Plant suitable native plants at the site to compete with any regrowth that may occur after management and begin restoring the site to its natural beauty.
    • Plants should be selected to suit the site’s conditions. Choose plants that thrive in the environment for the best results.
    • Reach out to the PEIISC for assistance with selection.


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Vinca major, V. minor, US Fire Service Information (

Large & Small Periwinkle (Vinca minor & Vinca major) – Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District (

Common periwinkle – Invasive Species Council of British Columbia (

Periwinkle, Assessment of invasiveness, IPSAWG.pdf

Common Periwinkle (Vinca minor) (