Nick Leech's practical guide to garden plants of the UAE. This week: the Madagascar periwinkle.
Plant library: Catharanthus roseus
Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle, vinca)
When planted well, white Catharanthus is as chic as any gardenia. Unfortunately, it comes in a range of hot, saccharine colours and suffers from a ubiquity that breaks the initial spell once you get to know the tough, reliable old-timer. Despite being a perennial, Catharanthus is usually grown as an annual because the first, continual flush of flower is impressive. It is drought tolerant and can bloom in the height of summer when very little else does. Regular pruning will encourage the development of a more compact plant that can be used as bedding, ground cover or in a container. Catharanthus self-seeds freely and can be easily propagated from cuttings.