Catharanthus roseus / Vinca rosea

vinca cora cascade

Vinca 'Cora Cascade' trailing over the wall of a low raised bed in a partially sunny area.

Common names: Vinca, catharanthus, Madagascar periwinkle
Latin names:
Catharanthus roseus (vinca rosea)
Lifespan: Perennial
Height: 18 inches
Zones rated:
USDA 9-11/Sunset 1-24, H1-H2
Position: Full to partial sun
Soil: Sandy soil or potting soil
Water: Regular
Xeric: No



This star performer is one of my favorites for its ability to put up with all kinds of mistreatment and still bloom and thrive. Catharanthus roseus does well in high temperatures and will withstand drought conditions for a few days, even in the heat of summer. They don’t seem to be affected by a light frost. It will bloom most of the year in the desert.

Vincas do best with some shade during at least some of the day during summer. They start to look a little frazzled by the end of the day without some shade and tend to get somewhat leggy when they get a lot of sun. You can grow them in a mostly shady spot, but you won’t get as many flowers. The shady spot will mean the foliage is more lush. Part sun seems to be their favorite spot, with good foliage and plenty of blooms.

As with many plants, they prefer a richer soil, but will grow in sandy garden soil. Plant them in a container or raised bed filled with quality potting soil, and you’ll get extremely healthy plants and a brilliant display. In a poorer soil, they’ll do OK, but may look a little worse for wear after summer. Mulch over garden soil helps keep their roots moist and adds some nutrients to the soil.

Vincas will withstand dry soil to some extent. A vinca in a planter will most likely survive a few days without water at the height of summer, but it won’t be happy. If you see the leaves curling under, you’ve gone too long without watering. The plant will generally recover after a good watering, though. This makes them a good plant for those who are forgetful or don’t always check their sprinkler system every day. They do grow well in larger containers where they can spread out.

The deep green leaves mean you’ll always have some color. When they’re in partial shade, the leaves grow larger and keep their deep green. In sunnier spots, the foliage sometimes fades and leaves may drop off, leaving you with a less attractive plant.

Vinca Cora lavender

This vinca 'Cora Cascade' is named lavender, but its true color is a deep pink.

The typical colors from a chain home improvement store are white with a pink center or a deep pink. You’ll usually only find the upright varieties at garden centers. If you want more variety in color and form, try online seed companies. Vinca ‘Cora Cascade’ is a mounding/trailing variety that seems extremely vigorous, even if it only comes in a few colors. It makes a beautiful display tumbling over a wall or the side of a planter. Vinca ‘Cora’ is a vigorous upright hybrid. If you’re buying seeds, you can find deep purples, lavenders, deep red, white with various center colors. As an added bonus, you don’t have to deadhead – the spent flowers simply fall off. They’ll occasionally self-seed, too.

I’ve had no problems with any pests on vincas.


If your vincas get leggy, cut them back close to the main stem. They’ll regrow bushy and healthy. You can use the clippings to propagate new plants.

You can buy Catharanthus roseus inexpensively in spring from garden centers in packs of six or more. It’s usually around $2 for a flat of six, which is plenty of bang for your buck for a perennial. The plants will be small, but they grow reasonably fast – up to their full size in a summer if conditions are right.

Even if the leaves have curled up from the soil being dry, all is not lost. Give the vincas some water and they’ll usually come back to life within a few days.


Take stem cuttings of at least 3 inches. Remove the lower leaves, dip in rooting hormone and plant in a pot. Water regularly. Take a few more cuttings than you need as the success rate can be patchy.

You can also grow vincas from seed. They take a while to be large enough to plant in the garden, but seeds offer more color options than chain home improvement stores. Start them indoors in winter for planting in late spring. Give the seedlings plenty of light. They’re not difficult to grow from seed as long as you provide warmth and light.

Catharanthus roseus will occasionally self-seed, but don’t seem to do it to the point of becoming invasive.

14 Responses to Catharanthus roseus / Vinca rosea

  1. Lesley Kotze says:

    I am looking for Vinca seeds with blue flowers, if you can help me please. Thanks.

    • TheDesertGardener says:

      I don’t believe there are any blue varieties. Even the purple ones tend towards more of a pink hue than a bluish purple. If you want something similar, plumbago might work.

  2. Philip says:

    I am looking for Catharanthus roseus seeds with red flowers, if you can help me please. Thanks.

  3. Dr. Keyvan says:

    I am very interested in Catharanthus roseus because of its hi medicinal importance. however here in Iran I cant access to this plant my anyone help me by sending some seeds of this plant.

  4. Confused says:

    A friend gave me some ‘Vinca Catharanthus roseus’. I was told to put them in an area that will give it full sun. Following those instructions, I was confused that within a couple of hours in full sun, the flowers started to shrivel and the stems were bending down. I’ve read what should be done as far as sun exposure, but the information is sometimes contradicting. Please help as I don’t want to kill the beautiful gift I was given.

    • TheDesertGardener says:

      It will depend on the climate where you are, what type of soil it’s in and how moist the soil is. If it’s wilting, it’s likely stressed and getting too much sun/heat or the soil is too dry. They’re hardy plants, but too much sun and not enough water will still kill them.

      • Bob says:

        My experience shows that over watering is a bigger issue with these plants than is under watering. Leaves will turn yellow and drop if the plant roots are constantly wet and they won’t grow. Water sparingly, let them ‘cook’ in full sun and they seem to excel.

      • Sai says:

        Hi please tell difference between vinca Cora and vinca rosea

  5. Hannah says:

    Hi! I would like to ask for some help please….
    I have a few pots of beautiful Catharanthus roseus in different colors (that was a few months ago though;)…) now mostly all of the leaves are turning yellow in color….what is the best way to cure it…thanks a lot for your help and effort ….;) have a good day

  6. Sai says:

    Hi I want to know difference between vinca rosea and vinca Cora… Actually I want to take vinca rosea as medicine…. But I don know the difference between both … I already bought vinca Cora and by mistakely I ate some flower for two days…. Please tell me it will create any problem or not? Please tell where to buy vinca rosea.. Any one please reply….

    • TheDesertGardener says:

      I really can’t comment on medicinal use differences, as I have no idea and I’m not a medical professional. Cora is a cultivar, which means it is a hybrid. Most trailing varieties are hybrids, although some may be naturally occurring.

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