Why Use Pachysandra as a Ground Cover?

The evergreen sub-shrubs or herbs of the boxwood family called pachysandra—particularly Japanese spurge and Allegheny pachysandra—are popular choices for landscaping and gardening around the United States. Using pachysandra as a ground cover is a particularly common approach, for a variety of reasons.

1. Pachysandra likes the shade.

Pachysandra thrives in deep and partial shade; in native habitats from the southeastern US to eastern Asia, these are commonly forest and woodland ground-cover plants, and thus well-adapted for life under a screen of higher foliage. Therefore the dark, cool recesses beneath a dense hedgerow of conifers or other trees, too sun-starved for many ground-cover species, are perfect habitat for pachysandra, and allow the homeowner to fill in gaps in their vegetation community. So shade-reliant are pachysandra that when these plants are exposed to excessive sun—as in wintertime, if the overhanging canopy is deciduous and thus leafless during this season—their leaves often turn brown, as if scorched.

2. Pachysandra controls erosion.

Another reason for using pachysandra as a ground cover is to control erosion. The densely packed nature of a pachysandra bed helps fix soil in place, and their rapid growth ensures bare ground is swiftly covered; the plants are able to spread prolifically courtesy of rhizomes. Judicious pruning of new-growth shoot tips will thicken the leaf cover. Exposed earth can quickly become gullied and leached by rainfall and sheetwash, reducing its nutrient profile and increasing runoff. Pachysandra and other thick-nesting, rhizomes ground-cover plants (such as certain grasses) can ward against this with their anchoring roots and runners

Keep in mind, however, that these traits also make pachysandra—especially Japanese spurge—an aggressive disperser. If you’re landscaping in the Southeast, consider using the native variety, Allegheny pachysandra, rather than Japanese spurge. Outside that range, think about using another ground-cover option altogether—some plant indigenous to the region that exhibits similar properties—rather than propagating the spread of an invasive and highly competitive exotic species. Your local horticultural extension department can undoubtedly provide counsel in this regard.

Do you want additional information on how to use pachysandra as a ground cover? Then contact JW-Pachysandra. We can help you with all your Pachysandra needs!

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