Pachysandra makes the perfect low-maintenance ground cover in shaded areas. And you can grow it in most temperature zones.
If you are looking for beautiful ground cover plants and want to learn how to grow and take care of it, this is the guide you need.
Pachysandra Quick Facts
|Origin||China and Japan|
|Scientific Name:||Pachysandra terminalis|
|Common Names||Pachysandra, Japanese spurge, Green carpet|
|Type||Evergreen low-growing shrub|
|Height||Up to 10 inches|
|Watering||Maintain moist soil|
|Light||Partial to full shade|
|Pests||Slugs and snails|
Varieties of Pachysandra
Pachysandra terminalis is also commonly known as green carpet, thanks to its ability to form dense, bright green growth in shaded areas where many other plants will typically not thrive. It is a very popular type of ground cover, tolerant of many types of soils, pollution, and even drought tolerant once mature. The most common type of Pachysandra features glossy solid green leaves, but if you are looking for something slightly different to fill your shaded areas, other varieties of Pachysandra are available.
Pachysandra terminalis “Green Sheen”
The leaves of this variety are extra shiny, with a slightly curled quality. It grows more slowly than other Pachysandra.
Pachysandra terminalis “Green Carpet”
This variety has coarse-toothed foliage in a deep green shade. The plant is resistant to both deer and rabbits (Royal Horticultural Society).
Pachysandra terminalis “Variegata”
The leaves of this variety are variegated, with patterns in green and cream colors.
Pachysandra terminalis “Silver Edge”
This variety features dark green leaves with creamy colored edges. It has won the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Pachysandra Care Tips
Young Pachysandra plants should be watered regularly until a strong root system has developed. Once the plant is mature with a good set of strong roots, then it will be drought tolerant and need to be watered much less.
A mature Pachysandra would prefer to have moist soil, so try to water it regularly to prevent the soil from completely drying out, but if this does happen, your plant should be just fine provided it doesn’t have to go too long without water. It’s a good idea to use a few inches of mulch over the top of your soil where the Pachysandra is planted, as this will help the soil to retain moisture and prevent the plant from drying out. During the winter, you won’t need to water the plant at all.
This plant performs best in full shade. It is an ideal plant to use as a ground cover under the shade of large trees where grass and most other plants would not survive, or to create a green blanket underneath shrubs (University of Vermont Extension).
Pachysandra loves full shade, and when these ideal conditions are met, it will grow up to heights of ten inches. When grown in partial shade and partial sun, you can expect your plant to not perform as well, more likely growing to around six inches in height. The plant is much more tolerant of the summer sun than the winter sun and may struggle to cope with sunlight in colder temperatures.
If you must plant your Pachysandra in a spot of partial sunlight, try to ensure it gets morning sun and afternoon shade so that it is protected from the strongest light of the day. You will know your plant is getting too much sun if its leaves start to look bleached, and in this case, you should consider moving your plant to a more appropriate location with more shade.
Pachysandra plants are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures. They are not frost tender and are hardy in USDA zones 3-9.
Pachysandra can be propagated with both stem cuttings or division. The method of division will produce faster results, but stem cuttings root easily, so both methods are likely to result in successful propagation.
To propagate from stem cuttings, you will need to select a cutting from the plant of around four inches in length. Choose a stem that is mature at the base with new leafy growth at the tip and avoid any stems with buds or flowers on. Make the cutting just below a set of leaves and then remove all of the leaves from the lower half of the cut stem.
Prepare a small pot of moist growing medium, and create a hole in the center with the blunt end of a pencil. Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone and then insert it into the prepared hole, with the lower leaves at soil level. Maintain moist soil and keep the pot in a warm position. Roots should appear in six to eight weeks. You will know rooting has taken place by looking out for new growth on the cutting, or gently tugging the stem to feel for resistance below soil level. Once rooting has occurred, you should wait a further four weeks before transplanting the cutting to a shaded spot outside, planted directly in the ground.
You can propagate clumps of this plant by division every four or five years. To do so, heavily water the plants the previous evening, and then carefully dig them up with a shovel the following morning in cool weather. Once removed from the ground, divide the root ball up into two or more sections with a sharp knife, and then replant the Pachysandra in new spots. Water generously for several weeks after planting, and the newly divided plants should soon spread to cover more ground.
If you are a hands-off gardener and prefer plants that will mostly take care of themselves without any intervention from you, then Pachysandra can fulfill this need. It will grow and create a green blanket whether or not you prune it, but if you want to get the best out of this plant, then pruning is recommended.
When you initially plant your Pachysandra in spring, you should trim the ends until it is around half of its former size. This plant responds well to pruning, and the trim will encourage it to grow to a full blanket. As time goes on, if you notice any gaps in the plant, then cut the tips off stems in that area, as they will respond with more growth and fill out the gaps.
Trimming your Pachysandra annually in spring will help to keep the plant neat, but will also encourage new growth and keep its foliage looking fresh and glossy. You can trim it with garden shears, or if you have a large area filled with several Pachysandra plants, then it may be more feasible to use a lawnmower.
Set your mower to the highest setting, ideally around four or five inches, and mow over the Pachysandra to trim down the height. Be careful not to damage the plants, and ensure the blades of your lawnmower are in shape. You may wish to check for any loose rocks or other debris around the plant before you proceed, so as not to damage your mower blades. The Pachysandra will respond to the trimming with new dense growth.
Flowers bloom on this plant in late spring through to summer. The blooms are tiny and white in color, with a sweet fragrance. They have a fluffy quality and are not especially remarkable. It is generally considered that the glossy green foliage is the main attraction and real star of the show for the Pachysandra.
Common Pests and Diseases
One of the many benefits of this plant is that it is mostly disease and pest free. Most commonly, the pests that affect the Pachysandra will be snails and slugs.
How do you use Pachysandra? Let us know your ideas in the comments, and please share this page with others who might enjoy growing this ground cover.