06 February 2014

Pachysandra or Spurge for shade You Can Grow That!


Pachysandra is a semi-evergreen ground cover that is native to the eastern US from PA to LA and is cold hardy to zone 5. It is an ideal choice for shady areas in the garden where a slow growing ground cover would be ideal. Its common names include Allegheny-spurge and Mountain Spurge.

P. procumbens
Since Pachysandra procumbens thrives in well-drained, acidic soil, the perfect spot is under trees and shrubs where falling leaves make the soil acidic and the trees absorb most of the available moisture. This little native groundcover is a member of the same plant family as boxwood.

There are no insects or diseases that cause problems. It can be planted in masses in order to control erosion on sloping, shady banks. Another great place for Pachysandra procumbens is under shade trees where grass is difficult to grow due to lack of sunlight.

The hybrid varieties are equally easy to grow and care for. Eco Treasure has more markings on the leaves than other varieties. Forest Green looks just like the native one but is marketed as having unique qualities. Pixie looks like the native variety but grows only 4 inches tall instead of the 6 to 10 inch height of the native plant.

Each leaf is 2 to 3 inches wide with mottled coloring and the leaves become more mottled and lighter in color in the fall and winter. Pachysandra procumbens and its hybrids have pink-white, scented flowers in April. The flowers last about two weeks and then the leaves emerge.

After the initial plants become established, you can propagate them by taking leaf cuttings in the spring though root divisions become viable plants more quickly.

Each mature rhizome has several joints. Make a complete cut at the joint, leaving some roots with the parent plant. Plant each 2 to 4 inch piece in a container of moist potting soil. If you can take several cuttings, they can be potted into a flat and covered with one-half-inch of soil. Take the root or joint cuttings in the early spring when the plants are still dormant. The cuttings will set roots and can be planted within months.

To encourage the plants to become full, you can pinch back the growing tips for a few years. Since these are slow-growing plants, it can take three years to fill a bed when the young plants are spaced 18-inches apart as recommended. Water regularly, especially in the first year.

Also, if you remove any fallen leaves around the plants by hand or with a rake, the rhizomes will be able to grow better. Do not rake with any roughness or the mature and new stems will be harmed.

A light application of fertilizer in the spring will speed growth.

Sources for Allegheny spurge include:  Boyd Nursery http://pachysandra.net and North Creek Nurseries www.northcreeknurseries.com. One more link to a reliable Pachysandra procumbens information source: University of Arkansas.

Japanese Pachysandra, Pachysandra terminalis, gave Pachysandra a bad name in the past. It grows faster, can be invasive and becomes diseased when stressed.

The diseases of P. terminalis include leaf blight, stem canker and scale. The leaves will become yellow if they get too much sunlight.

P. terminalis blooms a little earlier than the native varieties, with white flowers on 1 or 2 inch spikes.

Japanese Pachysandra hybrid varieties are available in garden centers. Green Carpet has waxy, dark green leaves and is a tidy plant that does not trail as much as its relatives.
P terminalis Green Sheen
Green Sheen has shiny, dark green leaves that have the appearance of being polished. This variety looks good in sun or shade and tolerates heat better than some. Silver Edge or Variegata has glossy leaves but also has a white marginal mottling. It is the slowest growing of the P. terminalis selections.

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