Zones 4 through 9
Pachysandra (also called Japanese spurge) is a great evergreen groundcover that is ideal for growing under those hard to grow conditions often found under trees. These plants are adapted to thrive under deep or patial shade common underneath trees and on the north sides of houses.
The evergreen leaves of pachysandra commonly “burn” and turn brown when grown in sunny, exposed places during the winter.
Pachysandra is a low and compact plant and almost foolproof when planted in the right location. It forms a solid mass of glossy foliage about 6" - 8" high.
Pachysandra is commonly sold in mass flats that you will need to separate. Plant about 12" apart in deeply prepared soil with enriched compost. Keep the soil evenly moist until the plants get established.
Pachysandra prefers well-drained, slightly acid soils and generous amounts of organic matter. Clay or sandy soils and full sun promote yellow, skimpy looking plants.
Mulch between plants after initial planting. This helps control weeds and provides a natural slow release fertilizer. Use lawn fertilize in early spring. Few weeds can grow in dense foliage of established pachysandra.
It takes about 3 years for the plants to fill in the open space, but after that they will maintain their boundaries with a few occassionally popping up in the lawn next to the bed. There's an old expression that goes: the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps.
Remove tree leaves that cover the planting in the fall. Pachysandra beds should be cleaned thoroughly in spring. Gentle raking or using a leaf-blower is essential for removing debris from beds. Litter on beds leads to stem cracks and these breaks promote bacterial and fungal infection.
Fertilize with a combination of slow-release fertilizer and high water-insoluble nitrogen. Work fertilizer under the leaves to bring it close to the soil and prevent possible leaf burn, spotting and wasteful runoff.
Pachysandra spreads rapidly by underground stems to form large masses. It is better to avoid overhead watering. Occassionally thin plants to promote good air circulation, particularly if plants have experienced problems with leaf blight.
Japanese pachysandra are most susceptible to infection on older parts of the plant and those parts wounded by exposure to bright sun, winter drying, insect feeding, shearing, and transplant damage.
The fungus Volutella pachysandricola cause leaf blight and stem canker on Japanese pachysandra. Initially, Volutella blight causes tan blotches with brown concentric rings on pachysandra leaves. In addition, stem infections disrupt water and mineral transport and sizeable parts of the plant beyond or above that point turn brown and die.
In the spring, the fungus produces pinkish spores (in sporodochia) on infected tissue. During wet weather in summer and fall, buff to orange colored masses of spores are produced in fruiting stuctures known as perithecia. Both spore types cause new infections and help spread the fungus. They are carried by splashing or running water or during wet weather. Weak or injured plant material is much more susceptible than healthy tissue, so damage may be very severe when plants have been stressed by excessive sunlight, winter injury, drought, or insect attack. Spread of the fungus is also more rapid in dense plantings or where heavy mulches are used.
New infections can occur any time during the growing season. These are apparent on the undersides of leafs and along stems. Small lesions develop and may continue to expand until the entire plant is killed.
Remove all severely infected plants. These should be buried or thrown out with the garbage. General thinning of the planting to promote good air circulation will help reduce spread by allowing plants to dry out more quickly after rain.
Homeowners can use chlorothalonil, mancozeb, or Basicop according to label directions, when new growth begins in the spring.
Green Carpet - Compact form with good green color.
Green Sheen - Glossy green leaves that hold color in sun or shade.
Silver Edge - The light green leaves have white margins.
Variegata - The leaves have white margins.