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Mojo's Gem, Illumination update 'old-style' vincas
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
One of the hottest plants for container gardens is the old-fashioned vinca. Maybe I should not say old-fashioned because the popularity is coming from selections like Illumination and Mojo's Gem.
It seems like it was only yesterday that the word vinca brought to mind the Madagascar periwinkle, now known botanically as Catharanthus, the common periwinkle we use as a groundcover. Now we look at the common periwinkle as a hot, new plant for large, mixed containers.
Mojo's Gem and Illumination offer the gardener great creamy-gold and green variegation on a vigorous groundcover or vining plant that will hang gracefully from a basket or cascade over the rim of a mixed container.
In mixed containers, combine them with colorful, blooming flowers like angelonias, salvias or any other flower that happens to capture your fancy. First, place larger plants in the middle of the container; then proceed outward, saving the vinca for an almost pocket planting.
In a hanging basket, do much the same. If using sphagnum moss-lined baskets, you actually will plant in the bottom of the basket, letting the foliage hang down. Hang the basket high enough to create a great vertical element, with the vinca growing downward 6 to 7 feet.
In these containers, use a light, airy mix that drains well yet does have a good moisture- and nutrient-holding capacity. Heavy potting soil is not a good buy.
Necessary daily watering during the summer months means more frequent feeding also will be needed. Use controlled-release granules per label instructions, or use a diluted, water-soluble fertilizer with every other watering.
Mojo's Gem and Illumination make great groundcover plantings. Filtered light seems to give the best performance, although morning sun and afternoon shade also are quite acceptable. Space them 8 to 12 inches apart.
Both varieties respond well to cutting back when too large for a container or to increase branching. In the landscape, pay attention to moisture as they are getting established. Once established, they are fairly drought tolerant.
This is a great choice as groundcover under trees where roots have grown above the soil surface.
I have raved about the boldly variegated foliage, but also note that they produce almost iridescent blue-violet flowers. This is a wonderful combination with the variegated leaves.
Don't give up on gardening just because it is late summer. In fact, if you have mixed containers where some annuals have already passed, plants like Illumination or Mojo's Gem quickly can fill in and make the container effective again.
Look for these and other fresh, summer-tough plants arriving at your garden center.