Periwinkle, Myrtle (Vinca)

Quick facts and care essentials

• Evergreen perennial
• Zones vary
• Full sun, partial shade, or full shade
• Moderate watering

These useful ground covers have trailing, arching stems, shiny oval leaves, and phloxlike spring blossoms; they'll grow in any soil, even competing well with surface tree roots. If plantings mound too high or become layered with old stems, shear or mow in late winter or early spring to encourage fresh new growth.

V. major. Zones 5-24, 28-31, warmer parts of 32 and 33. This species mounds 1 to 2 feet high and bears lavender blue blooms; it spreads rapidly and can be extremely invasive in sheltered, wooded areas. Space 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart.

V. minor. Zones 1-24, 28-43. Known as dwarf periwinkle, V. minor has smaller leaves and flowers than V. major; it reaches just 6 inches high and is less likely to invade adjacent plantings. There are sorts with flowers in white and various blue shades, as well as some with variegated leaves. Space 1 1/2 feet apart.