Here’s a tropical home-garden ornamental that merits a gold medal for beauty and environmental friendliness. Known as rose or Madagascar periwinkles(Catharanthusroseus), these lovely flowers are seen in most regions of the country as common patio ornamentals. In Spanish, they are called mariposillas or chavelitas.
Although Madagascar was the original home of the rose periwinkle, it is now found naturalized around the world in tropical climates. The flowers come in many colors varying from pure white and pastel rose to violet, red or orange.
They bloom most of the year, while the glossy, evergreen, opposite leaves provide a dense cover for planter boxes, flowerbeds, foundation plantings and as borders for walkways. THE Madagascar periwinkle is one of the hardiest home-garden ornamentals, requiring little care or maintenance. Since they are insect and bug resistant, they do not require risky and expensive pesticides or fungicides. Periwinkles grow in a wide range of well-drained soils and thrive on the typical red-clay soil so common in the tropics.
Additions of homemade organic compost will keep your periwinkles healthy and blooming throughout the year; however, over-fertilization can result in heavy foliage production and poor flowering.
Periwinkles grow well in full sun or partial shade, making them versatile for planting locations. Leading nurseries around the country offer a wide variety of colorful periwinkles, but you can also try starting them at home from woody stem cuttings or seeds.
Neighbors may be willing to supply you with young seedling plants that emerge beneath mature plants. Young cuttings and seedlings should be started in flats or cups in partial shade and watered regularly.
As the plants become well rooted, slowly introduce them into full light conditions, so they can be transplanted to their permanent sites. Once they are well established, there’s not much more to do than enjoy their beautiful blooms around the home. It’s interesting to note that the Madagascar periwinkle is a virtual cornucopia of useful alkaloids. Recently, extracts from these plants have been shown to be effective in the treatment of various kinds of leukemia, skin cancer, lymph cancer, breast cancer and Hodgkin’s disease.
A modern-day success story in the search for naturally occurring anticancer drugs, the plant is now grown commercially for its medicinal uses in Australia, Africa, India and southern Europe. Why not invite this award-winning ornamental into the garden this year? I’m sure you’ll enjoy the company.
Until next time, happy gardening!