How To Grow A Lush Green Carpet Of Japanese Spurge

Last Updated September 6, 2021 By Bella Zinti

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Japanese Spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) are native plants of the southeast, and it is a beautiful perennial with evergreen dark green foliage. It has a slightly shrubby growth habit, being in the boxwood family. It puts on tiny white flowers in spring, but the green sheen of the evergreen leaves is the showstopper on this plant. It forms a dense carpet, 4 inches thick and 8 inches wide by each individual plant. It spreads by underground stems called rhizomes and will quickly form large colonies, making it an excellent ground cover choice.

Basic Growing Requirements for Japanese Spurge

Pachysandra terminalis is hardy, the low-maintenance plant is tolerant of clay soil, sandy soil, droughts, and urban pollution. It is deer resistant, rabbit resistant, and virtually free of pest or disease concerns! It is at the top of the "plant it and forget it" list! Still, to get the dense carpet of dark green leaves, there are few planting and care considerations. Let's get into those below.


Japanese Spurge is tolerant of just about any soil you plant it in, including sand and clay, but it thrives in moist but well-drained soils. Soil that tends to stay soggy or sit wet is problematic. Japanese Spurge is an acid-loving plant with it comes to soil pH. Most garden soil's pH falls between 6.0 and 7.0. Japanese Spurge and all Pachysandra prefer to grow in soils ranging between 4.5 and 5.5 on the pH scale. To increase the acidity of your soil, you can add soil sulfur, aluminum sulfate, or chelated iron. Mixing organic compost into your soil can also help increase acidity.


All varieties of Pachysandra require partial shade to full shade. Morning sun is fine, and dappled shade during the afternoon will be tolerated without issue. Any hot afternoon sun, however, will discolor and burn the leaves. Many gardeners use Japanese Spurge to under-plant roses and other shrubs, using the taller shrubs to filter sunlight throughout the day.


Japanese Pachysandra can handle bouts of drought as long as it's planted in full shade, but the deepest green sheen and best growth will occur with average moisture. Soil should be well-draining but kept moist if possible. Immediately after planting, deep soak the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches. After that, only water your Pachysandra terminalis if there's been a lack of rainfall. Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently is better than little drinks of water daily. Once your Pachysandra is established, it's rather drought-tolerant and will really only need watering if you notice the leaves wilting.

Preparing The Soil For Planting

Prior to planting your Japanese Pachysandra, eliminate any existing weeds or grasses in the area. You can either do this by hand or spray them with a solution of broad-spectrum weed killer. If you use a glyphosate-based herbicide, wait a minimum of two hours before planting.

You can till the soil in the planting area if you'd prefer, but it's not recommended for multiple reasons. Typically, Pachysandra is planted as either erosion control on a bank or as ground cover under existing trees or shrubs. Tilling the soil on the bank will loosen it and increase the chance of erosion, putting you at a disadvantage immediately. As a ground cover, tilling under trees or shrubs can do serious damage to existing roots.

How To Plant Japanese Spurge

We suggest spacing Japanese Pachysandra plants 12 to 18 inches apart if used for ground cover. Space out all of your plants in your planting area or use marking paint if planting on steep slopes where containers won't stay put. If planting multiple rows, be sure to stagger the plants' row by row.

If there's existing mulch, rake back a small area and dig the planting hole. The hole needs to be 2 to 3 times as wide as the root ball of your plant and not much deeper than the root ball. If you need to amend your soil acidity, mix some of your fertilizer in with the removed dirt that you'll be using to backfill after planting. Remove your Japanese Pachysandra from the container by squeezing the sides to loosen the root ball. After removing it, loosen some of the feeder roots around the surface of the root ball using your fingers.

Next, place your plant in the hole so that the top edge of the root ball is at or slightly above ground level. This allows for settling. While holding the plant in position with one hand, use the other hand to begin backfilling the soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go. When the hole is halfway filled, give it a good soaking of water and then continue adding soil until the hole is filled. Make sure not to put any soil on top of the root ball!

Water the entire area, and then apply a 1 inch layer of aged, shredded wood mulch to help retain moisture while the roots get established.

Early Spring Pruning

The Pachysandra varieties typically don't require any sort of annual pruning, but it is beneficial. Small beds can be pruned by hand using shears after the last frost date has passed. Cut them back to half their height. Larger beds can be mowed to a height of 4 inches on a dry day in March or April.

Common Problems

Japanese Pachysandra is more prone to infection by Volutella stem and leaf blight. The fungal disease often happens due to stresses caused by planting in full sun, infestations of insects, or water issues. To avoid such problems from occurring, be sure to plant Japanese Pachysandra in the right location.

Other common insect problems includes euonymus scale insects, spider mites, root-knot nematodes, and voles.

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About the author

Bella has a Bachelors degree in interior design, is a master gardener. She designs nourishing outdoor & indoor spaces guided by the practice of Feng Shui.