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Pachysandra procumbens

Pachysandra procumbens:photo by Robert Pavlis

Pachysandra procumbens, photo by Robert Pavlis

It is difficult to find plants for dry shade but Pachysandra procumbens will be quite happy in such conditions, at least in cooler climates. In warm areas you might need to provide more moisture.

Pachysandra procumbens, by Robert Pavlis

Pachysandra procumbens, photo by Robert Pavlis

If you are thinking to yourself that you know Pachysandra and that this is an invasive Asian species that should not be planted, you would be wrong. You are thinking of Pachysandra terminalis which is very popular as a ground cover because it covers everything. Pachysandra procumbens is quite different. It is a North American native, which will slowly cover the ground. Besides being better behaved, it also flowers nicely in early spring. This is a great woodland plant and should be grown much more.

It goes by the common names Alleghany spurge and mountain spurge referencing its native habitats. It can grow in full sun in cooler climates, but does much better in part shade or even heavy shade. It spreads slowly, forming a tight cover that easily keeps out the weeds.

Alleghany spurge is an evergreen in zone 5 and warmer, but in cold climates the leaves do look ratty in spring. You can remove them before it flowers, but I never bother. New spring leaves will quickly cover the old ones. In my garden this is a no maintenance plant.

Pachysandra procumbens, by Robert Pavlis

Pachysandra procumbens, photo by Robert Pavlis

The color of the leaves depend very much on the amount of light it gets and the season. Too much produces light green leaves. In heavy shade the leaves are a much darker blue-green. In spring the leaves still show some silver mottling from the previous year. As summer progresses the leaves lose the silver color and become solid green. In fall the leaves turn a reddish color and the silver returns.

Pachysandra procumbens

 (pak-ih-SAN-druh  pro-KUM-benz)

Life Cycle: perennial

Height: 20cm (8 in)

Bloom Time: spring

Natural Range: Southeastern United States and Texas

Habitat: rich soil with a limestone substrate

Synonyms:  none

Cultivation of Pachysandra procumbens

Light: part to full shade

Soil: adaptable

Water: drought tolerant in colder regions

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 – 9

Propagation: seed, cuttings, division (seed is not used much)

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Robert Pavlis
Editor of GardenFundamentals.com
I live in southern Ontario, Canada, zone 5 and have been gardening a long time. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

I hope you find Garden Fundamentals an educational site that helps you understand your garden better.

2 Responses to 'Pachysandra procumbens'

  1. Kathleen Roebber says:

    I love pachysandra. I have pachysandra procumbens under our magnolia tree in the yard in Milwaukee, WI. The maintenance part that drives me crazy is clearing out the fall leaves from the tree and then in spring, the petals. I rake out what I can. This does remove the weaker plants. However, it loosens the healthier ones too. Do you have any advise on what to do in this situation?
    I just found your site and find it very helpful.
    Thank you,

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