Need help identifying groundcover

West Des Moines, IA(Zone 5a)

Hello all,

I hope this is the right forum to visit. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is trying to identify a groundcover that I remember from my childhood home. Sorry I don't have more to go on. I thought it was called myrtle, but I looked in PlantFiles and nothing looked familiar. It had shiny oval dark green leaves and purple flowers. It grew very well in the shade underneath the big, spreading oak and maple trees of southern Ohio. I remember it grew in a viney kind of way - it sent out runners horizontally, if I remember right. But it only spread a total of about 6" vertically. It did a great job of camouflaging the fallen leaves so you didn't have to rake in the fall which is why I want some!

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edited for more description

This message was edited Sep 1, 2010 1:25 AM

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Vinca minor is sometimes called myrtle.
Your description sounds apt.
I steer clear of vinca ... way too aggressive for me.
But if you have a large area where you don't mind a garden thug running amok,
it may be perfect. Certainly easy with no care.
There are some pretty variegated cultivars also, if you want to check them out.
One called 'Ralph Shugart' (?sp) has a nice thin white outline to each leaf.
Still an aggressive grower, however.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Agree with Weerobin. Sounds like Vinca minor, which is sometimes called "myrtle". Also agree that it is very aggressive, at least in my area. Don't know how it will do in sub-arctic Iowa, but don't plant it near your property line without checking with your neighbor if they want some (because they'll probably end up with it too).

West Des Moines, IA(Zone 5a)

That's the plant all right! I don't remember it being particularly invasive, at least not like the English ivy - omg! The photos in PlantFiles are of plants that are a lot fuller than I remember. I wonder if it didn't grow as aggressively because it was very well shaded. And it was surrounded by asphalt on 3 sides, I think that helped a lot too!


Hobart, IN

I do keep Vinca (myrtle) around because of the blue flowers. In some places, instead of letting it run, I keep it pruned in a clump so I does make a nice dark green accent to other stuff. It seems like there are more blue flowers on the plants in clumps. I have the plain stuff with blue flowers and I have some with a yellow edge - the new leaves are a nice yellowish color and it has white flowers. Duh - don't have the name handy. I like the yellow one and, since I prune it to keep it in it's place, I get a lot of yellow leaves that light up the shady spots.

West Des Moines, IA(Zone 5a)

I think I read in a gardening book that you can buy, oh what do you call 'em, weed blockers or something like that. I think it was a sheet of metal that goes down 6" deep. Would that help at all or are the runners that bad?

I'm kind of sad because I think vinca minor is so pretty...

But totally not worth fighting a losing battle over.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

You can keep it contained with edging that has several inches in the ground as the roots are fairly shallow. You'll have to do a regular perimiter patrol to trim off runners that are pulling an escape "over the wall". Discontinuous edgings like bricks or pavers are ineffective as any gap seems to signal its location to all nearby runners.

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

I've had vinca in a bed all across the back of my house for 25 years. I've never had a problem keeping it where it belongs. In the spring we use the trimmer to cut off any that has trailed beyond the rock edging, and I do a quick weeding with an old knife of any that has rooted. It is at least 30 feet, and takes about an hour a year. I love it with spring bulbs.

Ann Arbor, MI

I agree with cathy4. I use this in a number of my beds and have for over a decade. As she says, it takes a few hours a year to trim back, but it's not really what I call aggressive. At least where I'm at, it's never been a problem. It's beautiful when in full bloom and has the additional benefit of being a very pretty evergreen ground cover in winter.


Covington, KY(Zone 6a)

Just make sure not to confuse vinca minor--myrtle with the highly aggressive euonymous. Euonymous is difficult to differentiate from the myrtle when they are new growth.
I have started putting the vinca in some temperamental pachysandra. After battling it over the years, I have decided to fill in the bare spots with the vinca. I have two large areas with the groundcover under two large oak trees. I do have to pull out the invasive euonymous. I have English ivy in other beds but it does have to be frequently trimmed back or it will grow over the porch, up the walls, up any plants in its way.

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