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What is Pachysandra?

T. L. Childree
T. L. Childree

Pachysandra is a genus of several evergreen ground-cover species. These plants are native to the eastern portion of Asia and the southeastern United States. This type of shrub is a member of the Boxwood plant family and usually reaches a height of about 6 inches (15 cm) when mature. These plants usually have thin, woody stems and leathery, green leaves. Pachysandra terminalis, Green Carpet, variegate, and procumbens are the most common species of this plant.

The Pachysandra terminalis is a slow-growing perennial which produces thick foliage year round and small white blossoms in early spring. Many gardeners prefer to plant this evergreen in areas that receive little or no direct sunlight. This Japanese native sends out shoots along the ground that produce a dense carpet of foliage. It thrives in well-drained areas of acidic soil and is typically propagated using stem cuttings. This plant typically reaches a height of 6 inches (15 cm) at maturity and features waxy, dark-green leaves.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

A Pachysandra Green Carpet is an evergreen plant often utilized as a border for gardens, driveways, and sidewalks. This species is especially suited for planting in areas of partial shade and around pine trees. Once established, this plant will usually overtake any weeds or grass in the vicinity. Green Carpet does not send out shoots like other species but spreads across the ground in a uniform manner. These plants usually have short stems with dark-green leaves and grow to a height of about 6 inches (15 cm) when mature.

Pachysandra variagata, also known as Japanese Spurge or Silver Leaf, produces white flowers and berries in early spring. This evergreen groundcover is best suited for shady areas because its foliage often yellows when exposed to direct sunlight. It is a rapidly growing plant that produces silver edged green foliage throughout the year. The variagata species grows particularly well under trees and in moist or dry soil. These compact shrubs typically reach a height of about 6 inches (15 cm) when fully grown and are often used for edging along sidewalks and driveways.

The Pachysandra procumbens is native to the southeastern United States and produces clusters of small white flowers in the spring. This plant is sometimes referred to as an Allegheny Spurge and typically grows at a slower rate than other Pachysandra species. These shrubs are suited for full or partially shaded areas and thrive in well-drained soils. This species is a semi-evergreen that produces clusters of thick, green foliage at the ends of its branches. These plants typically grow to a height of approximately 6 inches (15 cm) when mature.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is Pachysandra?

Pachysandra, often referred to as Japanese spurge, is a shade-tolerant evergreen ground cover plant that belongs to the boxwood family, Buxaceae. It's known for its ability to thrive in low-light conditions and its use in landscaping for erosion control and as a low-maintenance green carpet in areas where other plants might struggle to grow.

How does Pachysandra spread and how fast does it grow?

Pachysandra spreads through rhizomes, which are underground stems that produce new shoots and roots. This plant grows moderately fast, filling in areas over a few seasons. It's an excellent choice for gardeners looking for a ground cover that establishes itself relatively quickly without becoming invasive.

Is Pachysandra invasive and how can I control its spread?

While Pachysandra is not typically considered invasive, it can spread beyond its intended area in favorable conditions. To control its spread, gardeners can install edging materials or regularly trim the plant's perimeter. It's important to monitor its growth and manage it accordingly to maintain the desired landscape design.

Can Pachysandra thrive in different soil types?

Pachysandra prefers well-drained, fertile soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. However, it is adaptable and can tolerate a range of soil conditions, including clay and sandy soils, as long as the area is not prone to standing water. Amending the soil with organic matter can help improve its growth in less than ideal conditions.

What are the common pests and diseases that affect Pachysandra?

Pachysandra can be susceptible to pests like scale insects and diseases such as Volutella blight. Good cultural practices, such as providing adequate spacing for air circulation and avoiding overhead watering, can help prevent these issues. Infected plants should be removed and destroyed to prevent the spread of disease.

How do I properly care for and maintain Pachysandra in my garden?

To care for Pachysandra, plant it in a shaded or partially shaded area, ensuring the soil is well-draining and rich in organic matter. Water it regularly during the first growing season to establish a strong root system. Afterward, Pachysandra is quite drought-tolerant. Mulching can help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Prune as needed to control growth and remove any damaged or diseased foliage.

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