Periwinkle flowers are a favorite of many gardeners when they need something beautiful to act as a ground cover, filling in bare gaps in the soil, while also making sure that weeds can’t grow along the surface.
But what you might not know is that these flowers have a range of meanings depending on the context and the color of the flowers.
For some, blue periwinkles represent grief, and to others, they are given as a gift to celebrate someone’s unique or noble character. It depends on the context in which you give them.
Let’s take a look at what periwinkle flowers can mean, when to give them as gifts, and what you should know about the plants themselves.
At A Glance: What You Should Know About Periwinkle Flowers
Periwinkles are the common name for several types of flowers, including those belonging to the Catharanthus genus, and the Vinca genus. The former refers to the Madagascar periwinkles, while the latter references the European periwinkles.
When people talk about periwinkles, they usually mean the European kind that belongs to the Vinca genus, and that’s the one we’re taking a look at.
These particular plants belong to the dogbane plant family, and most are subshrubs or herbaceous plants, and have a very vigorous growth habit.
Most periwinkle plants produce violet or blue flowers, but some can come in white and other colors, too.
You’re most likely to see Vinca major (the bigleaf periwinkle) or Vinca minor (the small periwinkle) in gardens.
Where Does The Name Periwinkle Come From?
The name periwinkle is thought to be derived from the Russian word pervinka, which is another name for the flower. This itself is derived from pervi, meaning first, referring to how early you may see these flowers in spring.
Others suggest that the name periwinkle comes from the Latin pervincire, which means to entwine.
The botanical name for the genus, Vinca, comes from the Latin phrase to bind or fetter, referring to how this plant spreads and strangles its competition.
The Symbolism Behind Periwinkle Flowers
Periwinkle flowers usually represent your faith in someone, and how much you trust them. It also represents a love that withstands the test of time and any obstacles that could come your way, as well as resilience and determination.
You can see this in the plant’s growth habit, as it will alter habitats to suit the plant, and strangle any neighboring competitors to get the best light and nutrients.
Some people also think that these flowers represent a new start in life or a strong bond between friends.
For those in the Christian faith, periwinkle flowers represent purity, and faith in God.
Periwinkle Flowers Uses
While periwinkle flowers contain alkaloids which can be dangerous if used incorrectly, these plants have a lot of medicinal applications.
Vinca alkaloids are used to treat certain medical conditions, not just in herbal medicine, but in conventional medicine, too.
Vincristine, which comes from the Madagascar periwinkle, is used in chemotherapy to combat some forms of leukemia, lymphomas, and some cancers that occur in childhood.
The plant has been used for thousands of years as a medical treatment (some believe as far back as 2600 BCE), though these methods have gotten safer with time.
Vinca minor, the small periwinkle, produces vincamine, which helps treat dementia.
Periwinkle flowers, although invasive in some areas, attract a lot of beneficial insects into your garden, including pollinators.
Exactly what they attract depends on the species you go for, as the Vinca species attract plenty of bees, while the Madagascar periwinkle is a magnet for butterflies and moths.
The Meaning Behind A Periwinkle Flower Tattoo
Periwinkle flowers make for an unusual tattoo subject, but they are nevertheless filled with meaning.
You might get a periwinkle tattoo when you want to memorialize someone or a memory that’s deeply important to you, something that has shaped your outlook and experiences more than you could ever imagine.
White periwinkles in particular can represent faith in God, your spiritual path, the universe, or an unwavering constant in your life. It also represents innocence, grace, and purity.
Pink or red periwinkle flowers in a tattoo refer to everlasting love that time cannot diminish. It’s a great way of honoring someone on your skin, representing your eternal love for them.
The Best Time To Give Someone Periwinkle Flowers
Periwinkle blooms are at their best during spring, and work well in bouquets. They make great gifts for any occasion you can think of, celebrating new beginnings, your faith in someone, love, or celebrating new life.
Blue periwinkles are particularly fitting when you want to send someone a reminder of the good times you’ve had with them, as they represent certainty, tranquility, and friendship.
But it also depends on the context. When paired with flowers that signify sympathy and death, the blue periwinkle takes on the symbolism of your deepest sympathy, and how you are there for the recipient in their difficult time.
White periwinkle flowers usually represent grace, faith, and purity. Other shades including pink and red symbolize a love that endures everything time can throw at it.
As with most flowers, periwinkles are usually given as part of a cut flower arrangement.
Avoid giving anyone the plant itself, as this can cause some harm (and even damage your relationship!) when the recipient finds out just how thuggish this plant can be.