Pollinating periwinkle or vinca minora

Insert the hairs into the centre, like so

Periwinkle is an easy to maintain perennial that bears flowers all year round. However, as they age, the plants may get tired and need to be replaced. If you want to replace your periwinkle without purchasing a new plant, you have two options. You can either take a cutting from the plant, or you can save seeds.

Let’s talk about the second option.

Now, seed saving is a fairly easy process. You let the plant bear seeds, and once they’re ready for picking, you pick them and store them. In the case of periwinkle, that’s when the seed pods start to turn brownish. You need to pinch the seed pods off, dry them in sunlight, and then store them for a few months before using.

Immature periwinkle seed pods

However, some plants may need a little help to form seeds. You may have noticed that unlike flowers with easily accessible centres (like petunias and lilies), periwinkle has a very compact reproductive region. It needs to be pollinated by insects with a long tongue, such as butterflies. So, if like me, you don’t have many butterflies visiting your garden, you’ll need to do the job yourself.

One thing you should know before you start, however, is that seed-bearing might cause your plant to bear fewer flowers. The plant will direct its energy into making seed pods, and relax, thinking it’s done its part in trying to reproduce. So, don’t be worried if you notice a drop in the number of blooms.

To pollinate a periwinkle, you’ll need an art brush (or a painting brush). If you don’t have one at hand, just cut off a few of your hairs and keep them in a pinch-hold to imitate a brush. In the image below, I’ve folded one of my hairs to show how, but you’ll probably need 3-6 hair strands.

Hold the hairs tightly together, so they resemble a brush of sorts

Now, separate some of the hairs of the brush, and carefully insert this into the centre of the flower. I suppose simply inserting them might do the trick, because pollen tends to be sticky, but I prefer to give it a couple of thrusts to be sure – and also for a giggle.

Insert the hairs into the centre, like so

Repeat the process with a few other flowers, assuming a 50% success rate (if you want 6 seed pod pairs, pollinate 12 flowers). When you’re done, scrape the remaining pollen off the brush with your nails, as it can stick to the brush hairs.

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