Caring For Pachysandra Terminalis

Pachysandra terminalis [pak-ih-SAN-druh, term-in-AL-iss] is an enthusiastic groundcover hailing from Japan and north-central China. 

It is the most commonly grown of five different varieties, all of which require the same sort of care. 

Pachysandra Terminalis (Japanese Spurge)

You may hear this variety referred to as Japanese Spurge or Japanese Pachysandra.

This herbaceous perennial plant is a member of the Buxaceae family. 

Its genus name is derived from two Greek words, pachys (thick) and andros (stamen). 

This refers to the flower’s thick, white filaments. 

The specific epithet, terminalis, means terminal and refers to the location of the flowers at the end of spikes.

 Pachysandra Terminalis Care

Size & Growth

This green, shrubby, evergreen perennial groundcover grows to be between 8″ inches and a foot high. 

Each plant may grow to be about 1.5′ feet wide. 

The plant spreads enthusiastically via rhizomes and forms a very dense carpet of deep green foliage.

The oval leaves may be 2″ to 4″ inches long. 

They grow in whorls at the ends of the stems. The rich, dark green color is best displayed in a shaded setting. 

Excessive sun will bleach the leaves.

Flowering & Fragrance

In the springtime, usually in April, very small white flowers appear atop 1″ or 2″ inch long spikes. 

Although these flowers are not especially showy, when you examine them closely, you’re sure to see they are quite delicate and attractive.

Light & Temperature

Avoid a sunny setting because Japanese Spurge’s foliage burns easily. 

Partial shade or full shade setting will work. 

A little bit of morning sun is acceptable. 

Dappled shade under a tree is ideal.

Watering & Feeding

Once established, Pachysandra is quite drought tolerant, but the plant prefers slightly moist well-draining soil. 

Excessively wet, soggy soil will cause root rot and will predispose the plant to contracting other diseases.

For the most part, Japanese Spurge should do well with natural rainfall. 

During extended dry spells, water deeply, occasionally. 

The plant’s root ball and surrounding soil should be slightly damp.

Water less during the winter months when evaporation is slower.

Once your plants are established, they will need little or no fertilizer. 

Young plants like an annual springtime feeding using a slow-release tree and shrub fertilizer

Alternately, organic plant food could be used.

Look for fertilizer containing sulfur or iron to promote deep greening.

Learn more about Chelated Iron Fertilizer

You could also supplement with sulfur or iron applied on their own as a way of increasing soil acidity, which these plants appreciate.

Soil & Transplanting

Japanese Spurge is tolerant of all sorts of soil, even clay. 

It prefers a slightly moist, well-draining, acidic soil amended with ample amounts of organic matter.

Because Japanese Pachysandra is sensitive to excessive sunlight, choose an overcast day to do your planting.

When you initially transplant your Pachysandra, set the plants 6″ inches to one foot apart. 

Planting holes should be 4″ inches deep and 6″ inches wide.

Water the transplanted seedlings in with a solution containing root stimulator to give the roots a little boost and promote more vigorous and greener plants.

Grooming & Maintenance

Pachysandra is virtually carefree, but there’s a lot of optional grooming possible.

If you pinch your plants back regularly during the first few years, they will develop a bushier growth habit.

If the plants become leggy, cut them back to about half their height using sharp pruning shears. 

This will encourage them to a fuller growth habit.

Early in the springtime, on a dry day, mow your large Pachysandra bed down to a height of about 4″ inches. 

This will give it a more uniform appearance while promoting a bushy growth habit.

If you mow your Pachysandra, you must make sure your mower blades are very sharp, so the plants are not ripped or torn.

How To Propagate Japanese Spurge

These enthusiastic growers spread easily on their own via rhizomes. 

If left to their own devices, they form very large colonies. 

Propagate them easily by dividing the rhizomes in the springtime and relocating them as you wish.

Alternately, propagate from cuttings by either placing the cuttings in prepared potting medium or water.

Cuttings should be 3″ or 4″ inches long with several good leaves at the end. 

Cut off excessive leaves along the stem and either poke the stem into a clean, fresh container of potting soil or a vase of water.

Place the cuttings in a sheltered area with bright, indirect sunlight. 

If you are starting your cuttings in soil, keep it slightly moist as roots form. 

This should take 2 to 4 weeks.

Once your cuttings have established some good, sturdy roots, transplant them to their permanent setting, as described above.

Japanese Spurge Main Pest or Disease Problems

Japanese Spurge is virtually trouble-free. 

It resists insect infestation and is free of disease as long as it’s not overwatered or overcrowded. 

Excessive water will cause leaf blight, rot, and fungal infections.

Be careful not to water from overhead. 

Instead, use a soaker hose or a garden hose set to trickle slowly. 

Soak the soil surrounding your plants thoroughly, occasionally.

Is The Pachysandra Plant Toxic or Poisonous?

Despite being called spurge, Japanese Spurge does not contain any toxic substances and is not dangerous for kids, pets, or people.

Is Pachysandra Invasive?

This rugged, enthusiastic groundcover has tremendous weed potential and is considered invasive. 

It spreads rapidly via rhizomes and can become uncontrollable very quickly.

Luckily, in your garden setting, just mow it down in areas where you don’t want it, but you should be very careful not to allow it to escape. 

If it makes its way into wild areas, it will quickly displace native flora.

Suggested Pachysandra Terminalis Uses 

This enthusiastic rabbit and deer resistant groundcover is an excellent choice for heavily shaded areas where poor soil and erosion may prevent other plants from growing.

It makes a good living mulch around trees and bushes and does well grown in mass plantings on shady slopes.

If kept under control, it makes a nice border plant along paths and walkways

It is not a steppable plant, so foot traffic will prevent it from overgrowing your pathway.

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