The Q&A Archives: Ground Cover Care

Question: I have a large bed of pachysandra that is very old. Over the years leaves and debris have worked under the bed. Raking is very difficult as it pulls out too much of the plant. Also, the plants are getting scraggly, tree trimmers stepped on some and it just looks bad. Can I cut it back, with a weed whip or mower, clean it out and let it regrow or will that do permanent damage?

Answer: Just about any "clump" of plant (perennials, grasses, groundcovers) will eventually need rejuvenating. This can be accomplished by removing some of the old pachysandra so new can grow in. Did you plant the pachysandra? If so, and you can remember where you first planted, that would be the clump to remove first. If you didn't plant it, generally the newer growth is around the edges, so remove a little from the middle. Or, simply take out the scraggly or damaged clumps. I don't know how big your area is but I probably would shoot for removing 20-30%. This will of course, leave bald patches. Take this opportunity to work in some organic material such as compost into the bald spots (kind of like chicken soup for plants). By the way, unless you are bothered by it cosmetically, those fallen leaves that get under the pachysandra are a great way of feeding the plant. The whole area will benefit from some fertilizer in the form of organic material at a time such as this. Since it is hard to top dress a ground covered area, consider treating the area with a bit of fish emulsion, kelp liquid or manure tea. Those bald patches will fill in, just be patient and eventually the area will look better than ever!

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