Barbara J. Bromley, Mercer Co. Horticulturist ‘97

Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) is an evergreen ground cover for partial to full shade. It flowers in spring with fragrant small white flowers, grows to about a foot tall, and is popular around the bases of trees, in shrub beds, and on slopes in shade. It spreads rapidly by underground stems called rhizomes. Pachysandra prefers well drained, moist, fertile, slightly acidic to neutral (pH 6.0-7.0) soil.

MAINTENANCE: Pachysandra are planted 9-12 inches apart in spring in prepared soil with organic matter added. Topdress planted beds yearly with compost and/or fertilizers. Prune back or mow in spring whenever plantings need to be renovated. During dry periods water by giving a 1 inch soaking, rather than light sprinklings.

PROPAGATION: Propagate by division in spring or cuttings in summer.

TROUBLESHOOTING: Pachysandra is a commonly used ground cover because it is relatively trouble-free and is usually not eaten by deer. Possible problems include:

    • The leaves may yellow if plants get too much sun or if soil nutrients are lacking. Solution: Move plants to a shadier location or provide shade. Have soil test run to determine nutrient and lime needs. Fertilize and lime as needed.

    • With strong winter winds, especially out of the northeast, and frozen ground, the plants may suffer from desiccation or drying out. Part of the leaf tissue turns tan. Solution:Mow or prune off damaged areas in spring.
    • Plants may become infested with euonymus scale, an insect pest that looks like small flecks of white (males) and brown (females) on stems and leaves. This pest sucks juices out of the plant causing yellow spotted leaves and poor growth. There are two generations a year. Solution: If infestation is light, prune out affected areas. For heavier infestations, spray with dormant oil in April to smother the adults. If the dormant oil spray is missed, spray in early June and mid-August to control the crawlers (“babies”). Use horticultural oil, acephate (Orthene), diazinon, malathion, or dimethoate (Cygon).

    • When plants have been injured by desiccation, euonymus scale, or physical damage such as over-zealous raking or foot traffic, volutella canker, a fungus infection, may occur. Stems that are usually green may shrivel and look like black shoelaces. Lesions that are target shaped with concentric rings of blackened tissue will form on leaves.Solution: Remove and discard all shriveled stems and leaves with lesions. Large areas may be mowed. To avoid spreading the disease use a mower with a bag attachment to pick up infected plant tissue. Follow with applications of approved fungicides such as mancozeb or chlorothalonil. Repeat 3 times at 10-14 day intervals. Add a spreader sticker to enhance coverage. The area may be replanted with healthy pachysandra. To avoid future problems, do not cause physical damage to the plant and control scale.
  • Activity by voles or moles may damage plant stems or kill roots because of soil tunneling or feeding. Solution: Trap varmints or use labelled repellants. Reset plants or settle firmly into the soil.