Pachysandra
Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
Credit: Derek Fell
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Pachysandra

This rugged perennial forms dense mats of glistening green foliage. Pachysandra looks good year-round. In spring, short spikes of fragrant white flowers top these plants. The blooms themselves may seem insignificant, but in combination with the foliage, the plant is stunning.

genus name
  • Pachysandra
light
  • Part Sun
  • Shade
  • Sun
plant type
height
  • 6 to 12 inches
width
  • Several feet wide
flower color
foliage color
season features
problem solvers
special features
zones
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
propagation

Uses for Pachysandra

If you struggle with bare patches under trees and shrubs, pachysandra may be your solution. This plant grows low and spreads nicely, almost mimicking a lawn in the way its green foliage can carpet a garden bed. There are also some spectacular variegated kinds, which will brighten shady spots. The flowers' intense fragrance (similar to a jasmine or gardenia-like scent) appeals to many people, although others describe the smell as a flowery mothball. If you have a sensitive nose, be sure to smell the plants before purchasing them.

Pachysandra Care Must-Knows

Pachysandra is a good grower in evenly moist, rich soils. But good drainage is key: If soils are too wet, the plant will develop root rot and die. It spreads with rhizomes and will cover bare ground when left to do its thing. Although vigorous, the plant rarely ventures past garden boundaries and into lawns. They can also be dug out and divided to control spreading and to introduce it to new areas in the garden. This shade-loving plant will thrive and happily bloom in the darkest parts of your garden.

Pests and Diseases

One of the most common problems for pachysandra is leaf blight. This fungus appears first as spotting on leaves and spreads spread via splashing water, so it's best to avoid overhead watering when this fungus is present. In severe cases, application of fungicides may be needed or, ultimately, removal of contaminated plants. While this will generally not kill your pachysandra, it can weaken them.

Another pest you may find on your pachysandra is euonymus scale. This narrow, white or gray insect covers the leaves. The scale harms pachysandra by latching on and creating a waxy covering over itself as it feeds off the plant's juices. Because of the hard waxy covering, scale pests are extremely hard to control. In cases of large infestations, manual removal may be necessary as well as an insecticidal drench.

More Varieties of Pachysandra

Credit: Derek Fell

Pachysandra terminalis carries whorls of glossy evergreen leaves and short spikes of fragrant white flowers in spring. Zones 4-8

Credit: Peter Krumhardt

Pachysandra terminalis 'Variegata' has slightly more grayish-green leaves than the species; they are frosted with an irregular white rim. The familiar spikes of white flowers bloom in spring. The variegated forms are less aggressive than the species. Zones 4-8

Pachysandra Companion Plants

Credit: W. Garrett Scholes

Take a walk down the primrose path and you'll never look back! Collectors covet the hundreds of different primroses available, especially some of the tiny rare alpine types. Many are staples of cottage gardens and rock garden; others provide spring color to damp places, rain gardens, and bog gardens. Their basal rosettes of oval leaves are often puckered or smooth. The colorful flowers emerge singly, in tiered clusters, or even spikes. Provide humus-high soil that retains moisture and some shade for best results.

Credit: Celia Pearson

Tall and elegant, these ferns look great during the spring and summer months thanks to their green fronds, but also in fall and winter when their upright reproductive fronds stand in the snow. They are excellent in damp soils and look especially at home beside ponds and streams. They may colonize large areas.

Credit: Peter Krumhardt

The elegant, sweeping lines of this grass are so lovely that it's a favorite among gardeners. And Japanese forestgrass is one of only a few ornamental grasses that thrive in shade. Its mounding clumps of arching leaves gradually increase in size, never becoming invasive. Variegated cultivars are particularly attractive. All thrive in moisture-retaining, humus-rich soil and even tolerate dry conditions.

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