Catharanthus roseus

If last summer's heat and drought wilted your pansies, consider planting Madagascar periwinkle this year. For sunny sites with dry soil, few flowers can beat this heat-loving beauty.

In tropical or subtropical climates (such as its native Madagascar), it's an evergreen perennial. Here in Minnesota, it makes a great summer annual for difficult sites, such as boulevard strips and beds near hot driveways. It's also great for containers on sunny decks and patios.

Madagascar periwinkle grows about a foot tall and wide and has a rounded habit. It sports glossy, deep green foliage and loads of flat, five-petaled flowers that range in color from white to shades of pink and purple, including varieties with a contrasting center eye.

Madagascar periwinkle prefers full sun and well-drained soil. New transplants should be watered regularly, but once they're established, water only when the soil is dry. (Soggy soil can cause fungal disease in this plant, although the new Cora series is more disease-resistant.)

Plant type: Evergreen perennial grown as an annual.

Size: 12 inches tall and wide.

Season of interest: Blooms all summer.

Available as: Seeds or plants.

Fun fact: This plant is also known by the name vinca or annual vinca. It's not the same as the creeping perennial groundcover known as vinca or common periwinkle (Vinca minor), but they are in the same plant family.