Plant More Pachysandra

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Pachysandra. We should be planting more of it. Many of you reading this are repulsed by the thought of someone wanting to plant Pachysandra. And you should be. Before you close your browser I want you to know I’m talking about the good kind, Pachysandra procumbens, Allegheny Pachysandra, not the non-native species that you’re most familiar with, pachysandra terminalis, Japanese Pachysandra. Jim Chatfield mentioned Allegheny Pachysandra in a BGYL article a couple weeks ago and inspired this article.


Pachysandra procumbens mass
Pachysandra procumbens


Pachysandra procumbens is an excellent low-growing groundcover only six to ten inches tall. The plant is native to the southeastern United States (not native to Ohio), thought it's hardy to zone 5. Allegheny Pachysandra differs from Japanese Pachysanda in that it forms clumps rather than forming impenetrable rhizomatous mats. 


One of many plantings at Secrest Arboretum
One of many plantings at Secrest Arboretum


Pachysandra terminalis
Pachysandra terminalis, Japanese Pachysandra. Note the terminal flowers.


The leaves of the Allegheny Pachysandra emerge green in the spring and soon turn blue-green. By late summer the leaves develop white mottling, which adds to the beauty of this plant. In fall Pachysandra procumbens can turn light red or plum purple.


Close up of leaves


Pachysandra procumbens flowers
Pachysandra procumbens male flowers


In early spring fragrant white flowers emerge from the center of the plant. The showy male flowers are loved by many native bees. Male flowers are borne above the female flowers, which remain close to the ground and lack showy petals. The plants are self-incompatible meaning that they require pollen from another plant in order to produce seed. For this reason Pachysandra procumbens rarely produces seed.


Female Flowers
Female Flowers


Pachysandra procumbens grows best in part shade to shade in soils that slightly acidic, moist but well drained, and high in organic matter.

Several cultivars have been selected but their availability in the nursery industry is limited. Cultivars include ‘Silver Streak’, ‘Eco Treasure’, ‘Forest Green’, and ‘Pixie’.


Further Reading

Dirr, Michael. The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants

The Morton Arboretum

Mt. Cuba Center

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center