Pachysandra and Insect Damage


Pachysandra is also known as Japanese spurge. It is an evergreen, herbaceous perennial of medium size, with a slow growth rate. A mature plant can reach a height of approximately 10 inches. Pachysandra spreads by basal shoots and top growth, forming a matlike ground cover. Concerning plant diseases and pests, according to Ohio State University, "leaf blight, stem cankers, and leaf spots (are) the principle cosmetic or serious diseases, and scales and nematodes being the primary serious pests."


This low growing ground cover has glossy green leaves. During the spring and early summer seasons it produces small white blossoms. It does extremely well when grown in the shade (can tolerate partial sun), and in moist soil. It has a spreading growth habit, and can quickly invade other areas of the landscape if allowed to do so. The denseness of pachysandra acts to keep weeds to a minimum.


Pachysandra is a versatile plant, which has several uses within landscape design. It can be planted in shady/hard-to-grow areas forming a lovely green groundcover. Pachysandra is also used underneath large shade trees, where it is often a difficult area to get grass to grow. Since it loves moist soil pachysandra grows well in shady areas around ponds and small creeks.


Scales are found on the leaves and stems of pachysandra. They appear as small, round, waxy bumps. The bump is actually a shell that houses the insect. Scales suck the sap from both the leaves and the stems of the plant. Coloring of scales varies from white to yellow, brown or black.


You will usually see a yellowing of the leaves of pachysandra. The leaves will then drop off of the plant, and you will notice reduced plant vigor/growth. Certain species of scale excrete honeydew, which is waste material. Honeydew is a sticky substance that attracts the growth of sooty mold as well as ants. You can control the scale infestation by applying horticultural oil to the infested area. The horticultural oil kills the scales by smothering them in their waxy shells.


Northern root knot nematodes are miniscule wormlike insects. They are white, translucent, and approximately 1/50 to 1/10 of an inch in length. They attack the roots of pachysandra. Affected plants will display knots or galls on their roots. When attacked by nematodes the plant will wilt, foliage will turn yellow or bronze, and eventually the plants will die. Northern root know nematodes usually attack in hot weather. To encourage the growth of fungi that attack the nematode add a lot of compost to the soil. Another means of control is the addition of liquid fish emulsion to the soil surrounding the pachysandra. Liquid fish emulsion repels nematodes.

Keywords: pachysandra ground cover, insects scale nematodes, leaves yellowing dropping

About this Author

Paula M. Ezop’s inspirational column "Following the Spiritual Soul" appeared in "Oconee Today," a Scripps Howard publication. She has published her first book, "SPIRITUALITY for Mommies," and her children's chapter book, "The Adventures of Penelope Star," will be published by Wiggles Press. Ezop has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing for 10 years.