Periwinkles are not easy to graft, says a horticulturist. But that has not deterred Father Muller Medical College gardener Umesh Devadiga from developing various shades of the flower in Mangalore.— PHOTO: H.S. MANJUNATH
Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) flowers are usually pink but they can be grafted to appear in bright red or white too. The common garden plant, often seen growing in the wild, can be grown in hanging pots or placed on the ground to add a spot of colour to any place.
Umesh Devadiga, gardener in Father Muller Medical College, who heads a team of four gardeners, has used grafting to grow five different colours of the flower. He has grown plants that have flowers in red, red with yellow centres, magenta, pale pink and white with pink centres.
The plants flower perennially.
Inspired by a TV programme on grafting that he saw five years ago, he tried grafting periwinkle of different colours, which worked well. He said the grafting has to be done when the plants were very young, when they were a few inches tall.
The base plant is wild (with the common pink flowers) and a tiny top cutting is taken from the plant, which has flowers whose colour is desired. He said the resulting plant is more robust and flowers for a longer period than the second plant.
The plants that he grafted are in full bloom now in various colours. But they will last only till June. It is very important to ensure that they are kept safe from rains or they will die, Mr. Devadiga said.
Aroor Prasanna Rao, horticulturist, said periwinkle is a desert plant (needing very little watering). They grow abundantly in Coimbatore, where they are called “sudugaadu” or graveyard plants. She said the different colours could be from seeds of hybrid varieties. When told the colours were from grafting, she said since it is a herbivorous plant, grafting would be very tough. “May not be easy. I think he is the only person who grows periwinkle (in different colours through grafting).”
She also said she does not recommend growing the hybrid varieties in Mangalore because they get diseases very fast. They are fine in places such as Coimbatore or Ooty but not in Mangalore, where the high humidity kills them. She once grew 24 hybrid periwinkle plants from Bangalore in window boxes, which flowered and looked beautiful in Mangalore. The photos even got several “Likes” on Facebook. However, the plants died due to “flagging”. They look like they are not watered even when they are and “die without reason”, she said. “Hybrid varieties don’t like humidity, water. I don’t grow them much,” she added.