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Japanese spurge

By | October 26, 2018

A nearly-foolproof groundcover

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Nancy Norris
Common name: Japanese spurge, Pachysandra
Latin name: Pachysandra terminalis
Plant type: Groundcover
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
Cultural needs: Moist, well-drained soil; full shade to full sun
Plant size: 6-8″ high, spreading aggressively
Close up of leaves
Nancy Norris
Sometimes we need a groundcover to simply cover the ground in hardy greenness to prevent weeds from coming in. Japanese spurge aggressively pushes out all other plants, so be sure you want it before planting. In the photo, sidewalks and the woods keep it contained. Pachysandra is in the boxwood family, sometimes called carpet box. Each satiny leaflet measures 2-4″. Two other varieties are P.t. ‘Green Sheen’ and P.t. ‘Silver Edge’. P.t. ‘Green Carpet’ is more compact than the species. Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens, Zones 4-9) is the American native species. Like other spurges, the leaves, when cut, exude a milky sap that is irritating to skin but not toxic to pets. Pest and disease free, this plant has it all. Deer resistant, rabbit resistant, drought resistant, almost foolproof, one could dry it out completely or water it to death, as it likes good drainage, like most plants. It tolerates sun or shade, city pollution, acid or alkaline, even clay soil and steep slopes and erosion control. Tiny whitish flowers go away after blooming. The only “problem” some people have is that it’s a boring plant and too aggressive but, in the pictured scenario, it unifies as one massive groundcover to show off the trestle. Propagate by softwood (green stem) cuttings or divisions (digging a clump).
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