Green PachysandraPachysandra terminalis
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Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
Japanese Pachysandra is without doubt the best and easiest way to spread a lush carpet of green over all those bare, drab spots in your garden. It is the perfect way to decorate shady places with attractive glossy foliage that literally take care of itself. Once established it grows without attention for decades, and looks good all year round. Grow it beneath tall trees, along the edges of shady paths, and beneath large shrubs in your beds. It gives a lovely mature look to your garden, and a real sense of ‘finish’ to your planting.
Japanese Pachysandra grows best in partial or full shade, thriving in all but the very darkest parts of a garden. It is very winter-hardy, and grows best in areas with good rainfall, in acid or neutral soils with added organic material. Once established it forms an impenetrable carpet, free of pests or diseases and ignored by deer. Established plants have moderate drought resistance, but some watering during dry periods is valuable. No other care is needed.
Almost every garden has shade, and if yours has large trees you certainly know the problems of shade. Getting plants to grow under established trees can be frustrating, but there is one guaranteed way to create a lush green carpet in the shady parts of your garden, and that’s with Japanese Pachysandra. This groundcover is the answer to our prayers when we have to deal with tree shade, or anywhere where direct sun is in short supply. As well, this isn’t just a plant you grow because nothing else will – this is a plant you will want to have in your garden, it’s so attractive. It gives your garden that mature, classic look we all want, especially around older homes. Nothing looks quite so rich and full, yet stays quietly in the background, and nothing is so easy to grow. Yes, you do need a little patience, because Japanese Pachysandra takes a year or two to settle in and get working, but the upside is that it thrives for decades with no further attention – a pretty good trade, when you think about it. So don’t cringe when you see those shady spots – just plant Pachysandra.
Japanese Pachysandra is a low-growing, sprawling evergreen plant that develops many stems up to 2 feet long, that trail across the ground. Each stem ends in a cluster of leathery to fleshy leaves that are 2 or 3 inches long, with several teeth around their margin, mostly at the tip end of the leaf. The leaves are smooth, glossy and mid-green to dark-green. The branches and leaves form a dense mound, hiding the soil completely. These stems stand about 6 inches above the ground, and over time can form a covering up to a foot thick. It is an unusual plant, because the stems do not become thick and woody, yet they don’t die back in fall either. It is hard to say where one plant ends and the next begins, because each plant sends out stems above and below the ground, which root and develop separately in time. Spread is relatively slow, so this plant is not invasive.
We wouldn’t say the flowers that come in early spring are strikingly beautiful, but they do have a certain charm on closer inspection. They are cylindrical and held in short spikes, a few inches long, at the ends of each stem. Each flower is white, with prominent reddish-brown stamens protruding from the end of the tube.
Japanese Pachysandra can be used to fill large areas, or narrow strips beside a pathway. It can be used to fill spaces in beds, but it is more usually grown alone, or beneath larger shrubs and trees, in places where other plants won’t grow. Grow it in all the shady areas of your garden, to give a finished look, and eliminate that bare earth. It is perfect beneath trees, where grass won’t grow, and to turn bare areas into lush green carpets. Often treated as a ‘last resort’ where nothing else will grow, it is actually attractive enough to be a feature, giving a lush, rich look to your landscaping, and it can be used freely wherever you have bare, shady spots to fill.
Japanese Pachysandra is incredibly hardy, growing even in zone 4, and yet seen just as happy all the way into northern Florida. It does best in areas with good rainfall, and not so well in very dry parts of the country, but otherwise grows everywhere.
Morning sun is fine, but too much sun will yellow the leaves, and reduce growth. The best locations are in the broken shade beneath large deciduous trees – exactly where it can be hard to find much to plant. Japanese Pachysandra prefers richer, moist soil, but after a little care in the early years it is drought resistant, and will grow in all but the very worst conditions. It prefers acid to neutral soils, but most garden soils are acceptable.
It is worth putting some effort into preparing the area for planting, especially since this is often underneath older, established trees with dense roots. Try to work some organic material – compost, peat moss, rotted leaves, etc. – into the ground before planting. Space plants up to 12 inches apart to develop a continuous carpet of green. Japanese Pachysandra can take a couple of seasons to establish and begin to spread, so water regularly during that time. Spraying with liquid fertilizer is an excellent way to help it get established quickly – and the wait is worthwhile. Once it has formed a dense carpet there is nothing you need to do – this plant always looks neat and lush, and needs no attention even after years and years of growth. It is relatively drought resistant, but some watering in summer will be appreciated. Pests and diseases are very rare, and deer don’t touch it.
Japanese Pachysandra, Pachysandra terminalis, is a wild plant that grows in the forest of Japan, and also in parts of China. Many Japanese plants came to America in the 18th and 19th century, mostly from gardens and nurseries there, but Pachysandra didn’t arrive until the 1880s, and it isn’t normally grown in either Japanese or Chinese gardens. We don’t know exactly how it got to America, but it probably took some years before gardeners realized how useful it was as a shade plant – after that it became very popular, very quickly. All our plants probably come from a few pieces that were brought over, and then shared among nurseries as it grew, because it almost never produces any seed.
Japanese Pachysandra is without doubt the most useful and reliable groundcover for shady areas in every garden. It is always very popular, and our stock never lasts for very long. Order now – and say goodbye to those drab, dry spots – but do it right away.