The Easiest Natural Way to Get Rid of Vinca (AKA Periwinkle)

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.

Invasive vinca taking over yard and killing star jasmine plant
Here it is coming for my tree, killing my star jasmine and moving into my neighbor’s yard.

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.

Materials

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.

Pulling up a vinca root hiding in my star jasmine plant

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.

Vinca damaging tree bark

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.

Vinca roots cut down to the ground

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.

Killing vinca roots with cardboard and wood chip mulch

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.

New wood chips over cardboard to kill the invasive vinca below

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 make it a risky plant to keep.

Exhibit A. This was my poor star jasmine before and after vinca attacked it.

Healthy star jasmine climbing up a trellis
June 1, 2016 (before the invasion)
Sad star jasmine plant damaged by invasive vinca periwinkle
June 1, 2022 (after the invasion)

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.

Vinca growing through boxwood shrubs

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!


How to kill vinca and other invasive plants with cardboard
The easiest natural way to get rid of vinca (periwinkle) and other invasive plants
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7 thoughts on “The Easiest Natural Way to Get Rid of Vinca (AKA Periwinkle)”

  1. Wow! We have bought little Vinca plants at Lowes for our patio pots. (They do look different than the pic you show so maybe different varieties?) I didn’t know it was considered an invasive plant. (Of course here I don’t think there are very many plants that could become invasive although our cactus that we started from 3 pieces went crazy and we got rid of it. Our neighbor has Hollyhocks which go crazy every year. I consider them a weed although I did play with the blooms as a child making them into dolls. You can look that up online. lol) At least you caught these before they totally took over like the ivy and were then easier to get rid of! Right?! Great info I wasn’t aware of about Vinca!!

    Reply
    • Not every state lists vinca as invasive, and I bet you are right…it probably wouldn’t be very invasive in Vegas! It’s definitely not as bad as ivy. It moves slower. But I thought I was watching it all these years until one day I finally realized how much it was damaging my star jasmine. It’s sneaky! And after working so hard to get rid of ivy, I have no patience for letting any other invasive plants grow around here!

      I have heard some people transfer them to pots and hanging baskets to control them, because they are very pretty.

      Reply
  2. I didn’t want to kills the periwinkle, but just control it from clibing the shrubs. If I lay cardboard around the base of the shrub and cover it, wouldn’t that kill the shrub as well as stop the periwinkle from spreading? I’m just trying to find a way for both to live happily ever after . . .
    Thanks for taking my question.

    Reply
    • As long as the shrub is still exposed to the daylight, it will be fine and able to get water through the cardboard. I did a similar thing to remove English ivy — I covered all the ivy with black plastic up to the base of my shrubs and trees. Your shrub will definitely be happy to have more space between it and the periwinkle. 🙂 But I’m guessing it will be a yearly chore to keep that periwinkle from encroaching on the shrub.

      Reply
  3. Me, too! I have thought of other options for this problem. But I have put way too much money into the yard now. . . I just wish that there was some native groundcover to western NY that would be fast growing, but not invasive to the rest of the vegetation. I think pachysandra can do the same as the myrtle is doing now. I hate to rip it out, but the shrubs are close together. I just hope the cardboard will leave enough of a gap between then at the ground level to work.
    Again, I much appreciate your thoughts. Have a good day there and thanks again. Take care.
    Steve

    Reply

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