Gena asks me:
“I PLANTED WHITE PERIWINKLES 2 WKS AGO. THEY LOOKED GREAT AND NOW ONE BY ONE IN A ROW EVERY DAY THEY LOOK WILTED . I AM SO MAD. WHAT COULD IT BE?
Annual periwinkles or vincas (Cathaaranthus roseus) are susceptible to a fungal disease. A great deer-resistant annual color plant for sun or partial shade, periwinkles have been plagued by this fungus for several years, although it effects only the periwinkles and not other plants. But once it gets in your soil, anytime you plant periwinkles in that spot, water mixes with the soil and it splashes back up onto the new plant, it will be re-infected. There have been steps suggested to reduce the chance of re-infection, but in my experience periwinkles simply aren’t worth it, rotting before your very eyes as you watch all your money go down the drain.
The Texas A&M University horticultural team rides in once again to save the day. My friend Dr. Brent Pemberton has found a solution while doing a trial of a specific variety of periwinkle seed – ‘Nirvana’ – from Goldsmith Seeds, Inc.
“The results were UNBELIEVABLE!!!! During the fourth wettest spring and early summer in San Antonio weather-keeping history!!, not a one of these plants died of the disease. These plants were planted in the contaminated beds rather than *clean* beds. The deer walked all around the flowers and did not touch a one!” (from www.PlantAnswers.com)
You no longer have to give up on annual periwinkles in your garden, even if you lost them in years past. Look for varieties that are resistant to the Aerial Phytophthora fungus, like ‘Nirvana.’ But don’t be afraid to try other great annuals like white dwarf zinnias or even our American native perennial, desert zinnia (Zinnia acerosa). Now you can have your flowers and deer won’t eat them, too!