Pachysandra terminalis, also called Japanese spurge, is a desirable ground cover adaptable to partly or even deeply shaded exposures. Though it is usually grown for its evergreen leaves which reach 9 to 12 inches high, pachysandra also produces tiny white flowers in the spring. It is especially useful for planting under evergreen trees. Marjan Kluepfel and Bob Polomski, plant specialists with Clemson University, call it “one of the most functional plants used in today’s landscape.”
Find a location in partial shade to deep shade. If planted in too much sun, pachysandra becomes chlorotic (abnormally yellow). Be sure the location is protected from the sun in the winter as well as in the summer. Too much sun exposure during the cold months can cause pachysandra leaves to suffer from winter “burn” and turn brown.
Provide well-drained, rich soil amended with organic matter. Pachysandra should ideally be planted where it can be kept moist, but it will tolerate soil that is occasionally dry. It also prefers an acidic soil, but will grow in a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.
Plant nursery plants 6 to 12 inches apart. Plant closer together if the plants are small, or if you desire them to fill in quickly as a ground cover. Remove pots if the plants are in peat plugs; this will help the roots to establish quickly.
Provide a light mulch to maintain soil moisture and keep down weeds. Newly planted pachysandra should receive about 2 inches of water a week; established beds require about 1 inch of water per week during the growing season.
Clip the tips of vigorous plants in the spring to encourage more dense growth, but don’t cut plants to the ground. Take care with the semiwoody stems, particularly of mature plants. When cleaning leaves from a pachysandra bed in the autumn, rake gently or use a blower to avoid snapping off the plants at ground level.
Watch for pests which can bother pachysandra, including scale, mites, root-knot nematode and leaf blight. The most common problem is Volutella leaf blight, which is caused by a fungus and creates black/brown lesions on the leaves, which eventually die.
Remove any diseased leaves from plants affected by blight; prune back or remove plants with infected stems. Only prune plants when they are dry to avoid spreading disease.
Ward off fungus by keeping pachysandra healthy: be sure it is not in too much sun and is able to rapidly dry after rain. See that it receives enough water in the summer and is not exposed to injury from salt in the winter.