There are, interestingly, plenty of siblings in the world of plants that can make us bewildered and sweat to tell them apart.
Since my post about the impatiens vs. petunia comparison, many people have been hitting me up and sharing their struggles in differentiating common plant twins, including the Vinca major vs Vinca minor.
So, I am here again with this new article to help anyone struggling to identify these two evergreen plants.
What Are The Differences Between Vinca Major vs Vinca Minor?
Vinca major has a bigger size and heart-shaped leaves and flowers from summer to fall, while the minor one with elongated leaves will blossom from spring to mid-summer.
Their stems and calyx also draw a line between them.
Vinca major is also commonly called greater periwinkle, big (bigleaf) periwinkle, or large periwinkle.
Meanwhile, some other names of vinca minor are common/small/dwarf/lesser periwinkle and creeping myrtle.
Both are popular evergreen plants with exquisite foliage and elegant flowers and persistently thrive in shady gardens or woodlands.
In fact, they look so alike that I had hardly labeled them accurately until I figured out the following difference between Vinca and Periwinkle.
This is the most distinct feature to tell apart Vinca minor vs. major. Greater periwinkle is larger than Lesser periwinkle, as their names imply.
Generally, all features of the V. minor are slightly smaller than those of the V. major, despite both having widespread growth patterns and vegetative vines.
While the normal height of a dwarf periwinkle is about 40 cm or 15 inches, a greater periwinkle can reach up to 90 cm (35 inches) high.
Size comparison is also applicable in terms of Vinca leaves.
The size of the V. major leaves is from 1.5 to nearly double as big as those of the common periwinkle. That is the reason why the former is also called bigleaf periwinkle.
Specifically, large periwinkle leaves are 3 – 9 cm long and 2 – 6 cm wide. Meanwhile, in the case of small periwinkle, they are only 2-4.5 cm and 1-2.5 cm, respectively.
You will also see a slight difference in their leaf shapes.
While the greater periwinkle has heart-shaped leaves, those of the minor periwinkle are rather elongated with lance-shaped tips.
Both species have leathery-feeling, lustrous, and deep green leaves with hairy leaf stalks.
That said, the 20mm petiole of the big vinca is significantly longer compared to the common periwinkle plant, which is no longer than 3mm.
Both plants have similar-looking stems that are hairless, green, or flushed red.
Minor periwinkle stems are trailing, and this periwinkle vine can root throughout its length. In contrast, greater periwinkle can typically only take root at the stem ends.
Despite the difference, these branches aid the plants in taking over new areas and, under the right circumstances, create a rather thick ground cover.
The big wrinkle is in sporadic blossom throughout the summer to the fall. The common periwinkle flowers usually appear in spring.
However, some could produce blooms intermittently from early spring to mid-summer or late June to September, varying by different planting locations.
The flower description also sets Vinca minor vs. Vinca major apart. At first glance, both periwinkle flowers have five petals in a gradient hue of blue and purple.
Take a second look, and you will find a lighter lilac (and sometimes with a slight pink tint) of V. minor flower color in comparison with the rich purplish shade in the other twin.
Furthermore, the Lesser normally produces a single (or maybe two) flowers at each axle, while the Greater can yield up to 4.
The bloom width of the former type is also much smaller than those of the latter, roughly 2.5cm and 5cm, respectively.
The calyx is another distinguishable part between these two types of vinca.
When you look at shorter (0.5cm long), blunter, and hairless sepals of the creeping myrtle, the big vinca has its calyx doubled in size with pointy and hairy tips by contrast.
Technically, Vinca plants will easily grow in various growing condition both full sun or even very little light.
However, V. major thrives in the hardiness zones 7 to 9 and stays prevalent in the Southwest of the United States.
On the other hand, it is between 4 and 8 for V. minor. The popularity of this periwinkle variety is mainly found in the East and the Midwest. Small periwinkle seems to withstand less sun than major periwinkle.
Although both kinds are relatively drought tolerant, they prefer well-drained, moist soils with partial shade regardless.
Uses of Vinca Major and Vinca Minor
Vinca major vs. minor types are a popular evergreen groundcover due to its shiny green foliage and long stem flowers in striking violet-blue.
These evergreen perennials can make themselves the star of your gardens regardless of being planted in beds, borders, and containers.
Wherever their arching stolons contact the earth, roots develop and produce dense clumps of trailing vines that cover the ground like thick, damp forest mats.
Such extensive growth can easily smother weeds, so it does a good favor in terms of weed control.
Moreover, these wrinkles contribute to erosion control if planted on weak ground areas like unstable slopes and drainage ditches.
Apart from ornamental groundcovers, major and minor wrinkles are, surprisingly, utilized as herbal medicine.
The common periwinkle is used to treat circulatory system issues, particularly those involving the brain’s blood flow, like headaches, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, etc.
The extract of vinca alkaloid from its plant materials like leaves and roots is also a medicinal ingredient for remedies of a few heart conditions such as hypertension and stroke.
At the same time, Bigleaf periwinkle is frequently used by herbalists to treat female diseases, for example, period cramps, bleeding between periods, and discharge.
Other uses of V. major as herbal therapies also range from gastrointestinal issues like colitis and diarrhea to diabetes.
That’s not to mention several circulation-related mild problems such as nosebleeds, bleeding gums, oral ulcers, and sore throats.
How To Control Invasive Vinca
Periwinkle species are frequently grown in gardens as ground cover all year round. However, they can be extremely invasive plants in deep shade with your neglect.
It is challenging to eradicate them once they have taken hold. You might need considerable effort to dig them out if they get a chance to root deeply.
Excessively dominant periwinkle ground covering also hinders the development of other plants.
If you intend to plant them in your garden, keeping them clipped frequently is a must to prevent them from invading surrounding natural areas.
Early in the spring, hard pruning should be done on both V. major and V. minor. It not only encourages new development but also aids in restricting the spread of the plants.
In the case of established infestations, you’d better remove them from the ground than mow them, especially when they are not potted plants.
The hand-pulling method is acceptable, but you would have to sweat hard to dig them up sometimes.
Regardless of the measure, disposal of all the stems and roots in a plastic bag to trash is necessary as these resilient invaders can easily resprout from their left fragments.
Chemical herbicides can also be considered, but as a last resort and with limited use.
In my case, I usually use 5% glyphosate to destroy aggressive periwinkles.
To help the herbicide penetrate more effectively, I suggest trimming down the plants first.
The optimal time for substance application is in late spring and the beginning of fall when wrinkle is at its most productive.
This method must be deployed with extra caution, especially in areas near water resources, to avoid erosion, poor soil, or land contamination by chemical residues from herbicides.
For prevention of vinca spreading, it is more advisable to grow it in planters such as pots, hanging baskets, window boxes, etc.
For ground-grown periwinkles, they should be planted in beds or lawns with regular mowing.
After reading this article, you surely feel that differentiating Vinca major vs Vinca minor is no longer tricky.
Although periwinkles are attractive plants for ornamental ground cover, their infestation might be a severe problem for the habitat of other native plants.
My recommendation is prevention is better than cure. Keep a wary eye on these aggressive invaders before they topple your garden and create any ecological imbalance.