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On Gardening: Wojo's Jem Vinca is an extraordinary spiller plant no matter the season

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

I remember the day we were filming "Southern Gardening" as part of my duties with Mississippi State University. Friend and garden designer Lori Hitchcock presented an urn for the front porch of the historical home in Kosciusko, Mississippi. It was all decked out for the holidays with red cyclamen, holly fern and a Wojo’s Jem Vinca, which was a new plant to me. Each plant succeeded with its purpose, and although I had a deep love for cyclamen, the original Christmas plant, it was the Vinca with the funny name that was capturing my interest.

Whether you are thinking about designing mixed containers for the holidays, the winter season ahead or simply looking to add pizzazz to your warm season designer-style AquaPots, you need to remember the name Wojo’s Jem. This is an exceptional variegated gold, cream and green Vinca that gives an incredible performance as a spiller plant.

Wojo’s Jem is a variety of Vinca maculata, or greater periwinkle, which we have previously used as a ground cover. Now, thanks to Wojo’s Jem, we look at Vinca vine as a thriller spiller plant for large mixed containers (it's a spiller so beautiful it’s a thriller!).

In the holiday urn designed by Lori Hitchcock, she planted the red cyclamen, which by the sheer nature of its red color evoked excitement and passion. Red’s opposite color is green, and we often assume the leaves are enough to get the job done. But in this case, holly fern, which is cold-hardy to zone 6, was the perfect choice. After all, we think of hollies at Christmas, and the fern’s name says it all. But the long strands of Wojo’s Jem Vinca hanging down was the perfect finishing touch.

In a hanging basket, no matter the season, do much the same. If using sphagnum moss-lined baskets, you actually will plant in the bottom of the basket, letting the foliage hang down. Hang the basket high enough to create a great vertical element, with the Vinca growing downward 3 feet or more.

As spring rolls around, lucky is the gardener who has window boxes. You could not ask for a better cascading plant. Wojo’s Jem, African iris as a thriller with its spiky foliage, and Rockapulco double impatiens is a combination made in gardening heaven. Let your imagination run wild with your mixed containers. Angelface angelonia, Artist Ageratums, Diamond Frost Euphorbia and Flambe Yellow Chrysocephalum are just a few plant choices waiting for your touch, but the Wojo’s Jem Vinca will be there at the finish.

In these containers, use a light, airy mix that drains well but does have a good moisture- and nutrient-holding capacity. Heavy potting soil is not a good buy. Necessary daily watering during the summer months means more frequent feeding will also be needed.


Wojo's Jem Vinca makes great ground cover plantings, too. Filtered light seems to give the best performance, though morning sun and afternoon shade are also quite acceptable. Space them 8 to 12 inches apart. This is a great choice under trees where roots have grown above the soil surface. They are cold-hardy through zone 7, with many gardeners touting them as returning in zone 6 as well.

I have raved about the boldly variegated foliage, but also note that they will occasionally produce almost iridescent blue-violet flowers. This simply adds a wonderful complementary color combination with the gold and cream in the variegated leaves.

It’s time to design your holiday containers, so plan a visit to your garden center. Remember to pick up some Wojo’s Jem Vinca for the artistic touch to your designer containers no matter the season.


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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