File:Catharanthus roseus - Kolkata 2010-07-12 6485.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

This tender perennial, usually grown as an annual, is native to Madagascar where it grows on sand and limestone soils in woodlands, forests, grasslands and disturbed areas. When grown in frost-free areas as a perennial it is shrubby but maintains a herbaceous nature when grown as an annual in cold areas. It  is a member of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, that also includes oleander, bluestar, and Mandeville.  Plants grow up to 3′ tall and have slender branched stems that carry shiny, oval green leaves up to 2″ long and with a white center vein.  From mid spring to early autumn one or more tubular flowers  appear an the stem tips. They are 1.5″ wide and have 5 petal- like lobes.  The species is soft pink to mauve but red, lilac and white cultivars are available.  Cultivars also have larger flowers than the species and resemble phlox.  Plants may self-seed.  Drought, heat, and humidity resistant, Madagascar periwinkle is an excellent choice as a bedding plant for borders in formal or informal settings, and for xeriscapes,  as well as containers and even houseplant. The genus name, Catharanthus, comes from the Greek word katharos meaning pure and Greek suffix -anthus meaning flowered.  The specific epithet, roseus, is the Latin word meaning rose colored, and refers to the flower color of the species.

Type: Tender perennial grown as annual

Bloom: Tubular pink flowers from mid spring to frost

Size: 6″-3′ H x 6-18″

Light: Full sun; afternoon shade in hot climates

Soil: Average, dry to medium moist, well drained

Hardiness: Zones 10-11

Care: Low maintenance; fertilize sparingly; no deadheading necessary as old flowers fall cleanly away

Pests and Diseases: stem rot, leaf spot, aster wilt, slugs, snails

Propagation: Seed,  tip cuttings

Companion Plants: Lamb’s ear, Verbena ‘Homested Purple’, celosia

Outstanding Selections:

‘Albus’ (white flowers)

‘Grape Cooler (rose-pink flowers; cool-tolerant)

‘Peppermint Cooler’ (White with red center; cool tolerant)

Photo Credit: Biswarup Ganguly Wikimedia commons

By Karen