|B. Rosie Lerner|
Each year, the National Garden Bureau selects a flower to promote, and this year the annual garden flower known as vinca is the star of the show! Vinca is a popular annual bedding plant in the Midwest with loads of single-flower blooms in shades of red, pink and white.
More accurately identified botanically as Catharanthus, there is much confusion regarding the name of this plant. Catharanthus is the sun-loving, summer-flowering plant that is grown as an annual in Midwestern climates. The true Vincas, Vinca minor and Vinca major, have similar flowers in shades of blue-purple and are shade-loving, woody, ground cover plants. Originally, Catharanthus was named Vinca roseus, and by the time botanists reclassified the plant as Catharanthus, the name vinca was commonly used.
Catharanthus roseus has rose-colored blooms, but in modern times, it has been hybridized with other Catharanthus species to broaden the color range to include scarlet, red, peach, pink, white, and those with a contrasting color center or "eye."
Vinca should be readily available as started plants at local greenhouses, but it is easy to grow from seed, as long as you have a warm, sunny spot indoors. You'll need to start the seeds 10-12 weeks before the average date of last spring frost.
Wait until danger of frost has passed for your area before transplanting outdoors. Vinca does best in a sunny, well-drained location. Most cultivars grow about 1 1 1/2 feet tall, but new cultivars are being developed for a more dwarf, sprawling habit. Vinca is also well-adapted to container gardens.