Don’t be fooled by the adorable periwinkle flowers and evergreen leaves. Vinca is EVIL. I let it fester in my yard for too long, but I have finally choked out this invasive plant.
Vinca is like English ivy’s devious little cousin.
Since vinca is more attractive, less invasive, and still sold in some stores, it finds its way into the yards of unsuspecting gardeners. Then it gradually decimates all life.
Luckily, because it’s not as bad as ivy, vinca can be a bit easier to remove. Instead of the black plastic solarization method I used on ivy, I went with the cardboard and mulch smothering method to get rid of vinca.
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How to Kill Vinca With Cardboard
This easy method will work on a variety of invasive plants. Here’s how it works.
1. Remove Vinca From Nearby Plants
When left unchecked, vinca tends to invade surrounding plants, shrubs, trees…mailboxes, decks. Start by carefully pulling it away from everything you want to keep in your yard.
Try to rip out the vinca roots, since these areas won’t be under the smothering cardboard. Gardening gloves help.
Vinca was growing through my star jasmine plant, and it was tricky to tell the vines apart. The star jasmine had brown vines with some new green shoots, while the vinca had thinner, all green vines.
I sifted through the star jasmine and removed all the vinca I could find.
Vinca was also starting to climb up my tree and damage the bark. I gently pulled it off the tree.
2. Cut Vinca Down to the Ground
Next, cut the vinca down as close to the ground as possible. You might use a weed wacker or lawn mower (or flame thrower?), depending on your preference.
We used a battery-powered weed trimmer with a hardcore metal blade to chop it up. Then we threw away the big pile of vines.
At this point, it looks like the vinca is pretty much dead and gone, but you just know it’s going to spring back healthier than ever the next time it rains.
So…time for smothering!
3. Smother Vinca With Cardboard
Cardboard acts as a more natural weed barrier that will block the light and kill the vinca as it slowly breaks down and feeds the soil.
Use non-glossy cardboard, and remove any staples and tape. Lay it over the vinca roots, overlapping by about six inches to prevent gaps.
Some people also wet the cardboard to help hold it in place and start the decomposition process.
4. Cover the Area With Wood Chips
Now it’s time for the finishing move. Bury the vinca under wood chips or your favorite mulch to make sure it never sees the sun again.
We used a bow rake to spread the wood chips about six inches thick over the cardboard.
I expect there will be a few shoots of vinca trying to poke out around the edges and in my star jasmine, so I will remove those as they come up.
Over time, the chips will break down and feed the soil. The vinca roots will die, and the healthy soil will be ready for planting!
Free Wood Chips: I recently learned about ChipDrop, a free wood chip service that is changing my life. It connects homeowners and arborists, so you can get free or cheap wood chips for your garden, and the arborists can get rid of all their extra chips. You might also find similar services in your area. We got a full truckload to freshen up our yard (and smother this vinca!).
Is Vinca Really That Bad?
Some gardeners say vinca minor is less invasive than vinca major. Others love to use it as a pretty ground cover in shady areas where nothing else will grow.
But the tendency for vinca to sneakily take over yards and crowd out other greenery makes it a risky plant to keep.
Exhibit A. This was my poor star jasmine before and after vinca attacked it.
At first it was thriving and lush. Then the nearby vinca overtook it, and now the star jasmine is on the brink of death. It didn’t even flower this year.
Over by my mailbox, a second patch of vinca was constantly encroaching on other plants. It grew up through my pom pom boxwood and out the top.
So yes, vinca can be pretty bad.
But the good news is you can easily smother it, reclaim your yard and make room for better plants in the future.
Update: 1 Year Later
A year later, the results are still looking pretty good! As expected, there have been a few resilient sprouts popping up, especially around the edges and near other plants where I couldn’t use as many chips.
The first picture shows my star jasmine bouncing back, and the second picture shows a tiny vinca sprout, which was yanked shortly after the photo was taken.
Around my mailbox where I smothered another patch of vinca last year, I added some sun-loving plants this April. When I dug, there were no signs of vinca. Like my other vinca patch, this area has only had a few lingering sprouts along the edges where the chips weren’t as thick.
So definitely chip up. I recommend making the chips as thick as you can to choke out the vinca, and make sure the cardboard extends past the vinca roots to get those tricky borders. If needed, you could add another layer of cardboard and chips a year later to bury the sprouts again until any remaining seeds finally relent.