Groundcover - Pachysandra/Japanese Spurge - (with video)

ProPlugger Co - Monday, December 03, 2012

planting pachysandra Japanese spurgeYou might say that pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis), aka Japanese spurge, is the tough guy in the neighborhood. Once established, pachysandra can take a beating: from the kid’s dropped bikes, drought, you name it. Pachysandra is one of the most common ground covers used in zones 4 and above.

Native to Japan, this evergreen shrubby looking plant has been in this country for several decades. It is used extensively by landscapers, especially where erosion is a potential problem. Two of the most common varieties include Green Carpet and Green Sheen. Both varieties have waxy, glossy leaves. Another popular variety, ‘Variegata,’ aka Silver Edge, bears clean, white marginal mottling on the leaves. It is much slower growing than the other varieties. Most varieties grow to a height of 10-12.”

How to Plant Pachysandra (video)

Like any groundcover, the biggest investment of time and energy is in the planting and establishment phase, particularly keeping weeds from cropping up between the newly planted sprigs. Weeds can be controlled by using a pre-emergent herbicide or by applying a thick layer of straw or wood mulch between the plants. Some folks say it is easier to mulch the area first then push the mulch aside where you need to plant. Pluck any weeds that may poke through the mulch. Once the groundcover is established it will spread into these areas, effectively choking out any future weeds.

when to plant pachysandraWhen to Plant

Plant pachysandra in the early spring or early enough in the fall so it has a chance to establish itself before winter sets in (much like planting a tree or perennial flower in the fall).

Where to Plant

Plant in sun or shade in slightly acidic soil with good drainage. Work up the area to be planted first with a rototiller, then mix in about three inches of compost. If planted in full sun, water well until it establishes itself. Pachysandra is hardy in zones 4-7.

Planting Depth

Remove each plant or sprig from the cell packs and plant to the depth it was growing in the cell pack (usually 3"-4").


Space pachysandra plugs 6-8 inches apart.

ProPlugger Pointer

The versatile ProPlugger 5-IN-1 will make planting pachysandra plugs much easier, while sparing a lot of uncomfortable bending over or kneeling...and it's so easy to use:

  • Slide one of the 2" or 4" depth rings provided onto the end of the ProPlugger to set the depth of the planting hole.
  • Next, step down on the sturdy foot-peg, letting your body weight and gravity do most of the work.
  • Give the handlebar a slight twist to break the soil plug loose and pull straight up to remove a plug of soil. You've just dug your planting hole in less than 5 seconds! The soil gets stored in the tool as you work and when it's full, simply turn the tool upside down and it empties right out.

Take me to the 5-IN-1 product page


Mix in a 5-10-15 or organic fertilizer before you plant. A light feeding in the spring (of a general purpose 12-12-12 or organic fertilizer) each year thereafter should be sufficient to keep the plants healthy and spreading like it should.

Disease and Pest Problems

This plant is susceptible to a few different fungal diseases. Prevention is the key to controlling any type of fungus disease. Plant pachysandra in well-drained soil in a location with good air circulation. A small patch could be treated with a fungicide early in the season. Scale, an insect pest, can also be a problem. Minor outbreaks can be ignored. Major outbreaks may require removing the plants and discarding in the dumpster.

Be sure to check out the helpful information on our website, including other uses for the ProPlugger including:

  1. Bulb planter
  2. Bedding (& annual flower) planter
  3. Weeding tool
  4. Ground cover planter
Neil Moran is a horticulturist and author of three books on gardening. He is also the creator and author of the garden blog North Country Gardening.