Vinca vs. Impatiens: What’s the Difference?

Written by Larissa Smith
Updated: August 3, 2023
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Vinca and impatiens are two of the most popular annual flowers used in gardens and landscaping. While they are similar in some ways, there are also major differences.

Vinca, also known as periwinkle, is an evergreen vine with shiny green leaves and small purple or white flowers. It is a versatile plant that you can use as a groundcover, a climbing vine, or a trailing plant in hanging baskets. Vinca is very easy to care for and is drought-tolerant once established.

Impatiens, on the other hand, are annual flowers that come in a wide range of colors. They are often used as bedding plants and add a splash of color to any garden. Unfortunately, impatiens are less versatile than Vinca and do not tolerate drought. They also require more care, such as regular watering and fertilizing.

Let’s learn about vinca vs. impatiens and why either option would be a great fit for your growing yard!

Comparing Vinca and Impatiens

ClassificationKingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Rauvolfioideae
Tribe: Vinceae
Subtribe: Vincinae
Genus: Vinca
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Balsaminaceae
Genus: Impatiens
OriginEurope, southwest Asia, and Northwest Africa   Africa and Northern Hemisphere
Plant TypeHerbaceous perennial, annual   Perennial, annual
Physical DescriptionDark green and glossy leaves with a pointed tip. Slender stems can reaching 6-18 inches tall. Five petaled flowers in shades of lilac, white, pink, and rose.Sizes vary according to species. They can be 2 inches to 8 feet long. Five petals in shades of pink, yellow, violet, purple, and coral. Leaves are dark green with scalloped edges.
Bloom TimeJune to frostSpring, summer
How to Grow– Plant in late spring
– Grow in full sun
– Use sandy loam soil
– 6.0-7.0 soil pH
– Use well-draining soil
– Moderate weekly watering
– Plant in the late spring
– Grow in partial shade
– 6.0-6.5 soil pH.
– Use well-draining soil
– Space plants 2-4 inches apart
– Provide 2 inches of water weekly
– Fertilize regularly

Vinca vs. Impatiens: Classification and Origin

Vinca is a flowering plant in the Apocynaceae family; you may recognize the English name periwinkle. The two most common species are Vinca minor and Vinca major in the genus vinca. They are low-growing plants with trailing stems and glossy, dark green leaves, and the flowers are typically purple, but white and pink varieties are also available. Vinca is native to Europe, southwest Asia, and Northwest Africa.

While Vinca minor and Vinca major look amazing, they can become invasive as they grow and spread suffocating native plants in their habitat. For example, the coast of California, Australia, Canada, and the United States have gotten affected by their rapid growth.

Impatiens is a genus that consists of over 1,000 different species. These flowering plants grow throughout the tropics, Northern Hemisphere, and Africa. Along with the one species genus, Hydrocera, impatiens make up the Balsaminaceae family. Some of the most common names for impatiens are touch-me-not and snapweeds. In addition, the name jewelweed is a common name for the Nearctic species.

Most impatiens are perennial herbs, but there are some annual species. Some species can form trees or shrubs, especially those in southeast Asia. In addition, you can find many species along streams, riverbanks, or forest edges that don’t have much sunlight.

Impatiens walleriana, also called Balsam, flowerbed of pink blossoms.

Impatiens (pictured) and vinca both grow beautiful flowerbeds of pink blossoms.

©Yui Yuize/

Vinca vs. Impatiens: Physical Description

Vinca is a herbaceous perennial plant that is often grown as an annual. They have slender stems that average 6 – 18 inches tall and take root wherever they meet the ground, which helps the plant to spread easily. The leaves are dark green and leathery with a pointed tip. They are roughly 0.5 – 3.5 inches broad.

Periwinkles produce beautiful flowers whose petals join at the base creating a tube-like shape. These beautiful 5-leafed flowers come in shades of white, lilac, pink, or rose.

Impatiens will offer your garden an array of warm colors, such as coral, yellow, and orange. Some varieties have double flowers whose petals curl into the shape of beautiful mini roses. They grow fast and make great fillers in garden beds and containers.

Most of the species in the impatiens genus are herbaceous perennials or annuals. With so many species, sizes can range between 2 inches to 8 feet. Once the stems meet the soil, roots start forming and anchoring themselves into the ground. The flowers have five petals and come in stunning colors to beautify your property, including violet, purple, white, pink, yellow, and coral.

If there are no flowers on vinca or impatiens, one of the best ways to differentiate between them is by their leaves. While vinca is smooth and glossy, impatiens leaves are dark green with scalloped edges. Both plants will also develop dense ground cover, but impatiens will often grow upright when planted close to each other.


Periwinkle can vary by color, but they are always 5-petaled and fused in a pinwheel shape.

©Dewi Cahyaningrum/

Vinca vs. Impatiens: How to Grow

How to Grow Vinca

When deciding which annual flower to plant, it is important to consider the different growing requirements of vinca and Impatiens. Vinca, periwinkle, is a low-maintenance plant that can tolerate drought and poor soil. Impatiens, on the other hand, require moist soil and consistent watering.

Growing vinca tips:

  • Plant in late spring.
  • Grow in full sun, but tolerate partial shade.
  • Use sandy loam soil.
  • 6.0-7.0 soil pH.
  • Use well-draining soil.
  • Moderate weekly watering.
  • Periwinkles prefer hot and humid temperatures.

How to Grow Impatiens

Impatiens are perennial plants when grown in tropical areas. Expect blooming to occur in the fall and spring, brightening your garden with a display of bright colors. People plant impatiens in hanging baskets, as bedding plants, and in window boxes. They grow easily but keep them away from cold and frost to ensure they thrive.

Growing impatiens tips:

  • Plant in the late spring when temperatures are above 60 degrees Farenheight.
  • Grow in partial shade.
  • 6.0-6.5 soil pH.
  • Use well-draining soil.
  • Space plants 12 inches apart.
  • Provide 2 inches of water weekly.
  • For the best flowers, fertilize regularly.

Final Thoughts

What is the difference between vinca and impatiens?

Vinca is an evergreen climbing plant with dark green leaves that are a stark contrast to its beautiful purple, blue, or white flowers. They are sun-loving plants and do best in well-drained soil.

Impatiens, on the other hand, is a shade-loving plant with brightly colored flowers that are a welcome addition to any garden. In addition, they are relatively low-maintenance and are perfect for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time caring for their plants.

So, whether you’re looking for a plant to add a pop of color to your garden or something easy to care for, a vinca or impatiens is perfect for you!

Note: Not all vinca and impatiens species are toxic to pets and humans. However, some are. Be sure to contact the ASPCA and determine whether the species you want to plant is toxic, so you can take the necessary precautions to protect your pets.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kluciar Ivan/


  1. Wikipedia, Available here:
  2. Wikipedia, Available here:
  3. ASPCA, Available here:
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About the Author

Larissa Smith is a writer for A-Z Animals with years of experience in plant care and wildlife. After years spent in the South African bush while studying Nature Conservation, she found her way to writing about animals and plants in her work. She hopes to inspire others to appreciate and care for the precious world around them. Larissa lives in Florida with her two sons, a miniature golden retriever named Pupples, and a colorful succulent garden. In her spare time, she is tending to her garden, adventuring with her kids, and hosting “Real Housewives” watch parties with her friends.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Will Vinca choke out other plants?

Periwinkles can spread rapidly, and when it has covered a lot of ground, they can choke out native plants.

Do Vincas like shade or sun?

Periwinkles thrive in full sunlight, and too much shade can cause fungal problems. However, they will tolerate partial shade.

Do Impatiens like to be crowded?

The closer together they get planted, the faster they will cover an area. You can plant Impatiens 2 to 4 inches apart, and they will thrive.

Can Impatiens get too much shade?

Impatiens do best in filtered sunlight for a few hours throughout the day and in full shade in the afternoon.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.