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Meet the ‘good’ pachysandra

Allegheny version won’t crowd out plants

Are you another unfortunate gardener who has spreading pachysandra in your yard?

I realize it has some redeeming qualities and some may love it. It is not my mission to offend in any way. My war is with the nonnative pachysandra terminalis, Japanese pachysandra.

I know it’s green, grows anywhere, spreads easily and quickly, grows in shade, stays green and the dark shiny leaves are kind of nice.

Enough of the positive attributes. I hate this stuff and, of course, it is hard to get rid of. More about that later.

FYI, it was here when we bought the house. I would never plant this stuff anywhere.

I am pretty sure I have been “blessed” with the Pachysandra terminalis, aka, Japanese pachysandra. There is another version that I’ll attend to later in this article.

Why are nurseries allowed to sell this stuff? Why do landscapers insist on planting it? Because they can.

Many gardeners don’t have the time to do research on these plants and depend on their garden centers to do that part of the work. So I’m doing some of it for you to help you plan to avoid the bad — and get the good!

Here’s my dislike it list for the nonnative Japanese pachysandra. It takes over, it provides hiding places for rodents, especially chipmunks, I don’t like the flowers and I think mine is infected with a fungal disease, so it looks bad. Either Volutella stem or Votuella pachysandricola have attacked.

The leaves have tan or brown spots. Leaves are shriveling and dying. This may be caused by too much sun, infestations of scale or winter damage. A member of the boxwood family, it may also be attacked by spider mites, root-knot nematodes and voles.

Great, now I have a plant I don’t like AND it’s sick.

So, it looks like I need to try again get rid of it. I imagine if I spent enough money on it, I might eventually kill the stuff. Herbicides might take three to four applications. Digging out the rhizomes, which are 4 to 6 inches deep … right!

My method of execution will be to try again, spend too much money and repeat. One of my mentors says to mow it / weed-trim it down first, then use a herbicide on the new growth. I will try this.

There are TWO great ideas relating to this plant. First, do not buy it or plant it. Second, if you are really out to find a good ground cover, try the Pachysandra that is native to the southeastern United States. It is named Pachysandra procumbens — Allegheny Pachysandra. The leaves are more interesting. They start out green, but turn blue green and have white mottling near the leaf veins. The flowers have a great fragrance and attract native pollinators. The leaves turn light red to plum purple.

As one of our experts states, “Allegheny pachysandra differs from Japanese pachysanda in that it forms clumps rather than forming impenetrable rhizomatous mats.”

It is slow growing and stays pretty much where you put it in the garden. Thus, you can have a shade garden without this plant crowding everything else out.

To learn more about the good one, go to http://go.osu.edu/thegoodone.

McKinley is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

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