The Q&A Archives: Encouraging Pachysandra to Spread

Question: I planted 3,500 Pachasandra plants under two 30 year old maples in my front yard. It had reached the point where it was impossible to grow grass under the trees. The plants have started to have new vertical growth during this current growing season. However, what I want to achieve is horizontal growth to fill in the area with a full bed of Pachasandra. A local landscaper told me that if I clipped the new growth that is occurring, I would cause the plant to spread horizontally. Is this true? Are there any negatives associated with this approach? Is Miracle-Gro a good growth food?


Pachysandra is a beautiful ground cover but it does grow very slowly. While you try to encourage it to fill in as quickly as possible, keep in mind that pachysandra prefers a moist, rich, slightly acid soil (pH 5.5 to 6.5 is ideal) supplemented with plenty of organic matter.

Generally, an annual topdressing with compost is sufficient to meet its needs, but in the beginning you may wish to supplement that with a light application of a balanced granular fertilizer in early spring and again in late spring. A water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro would also be fine - just don't overdo it with fertilizer. Remember, too, that since your planting is competing with the maples, you may need to water it occasionally during dry periods even after it is established.

Pachysandra usually grows between 6 and 12 inches high, and in early spring the plant blooms. It is possible that the vertical growth you are describing is the "bloom", a 1 to 2 inch long upward spike coming out of the center of the leaves. The plant actually spreads by underground runners, and it is true that a light shearing or pinching in early spring can encourage the plants to send up more runners and thus thicken the planting faster. This can be done by hand or in some cases with a lawn mower. (Take off no more than 25% of the height if you opt to do this.) You can try it with a few plants to see how they respond before committing to the procedure. If you do shear them, be sure they are well watered during the following months as they move into more aggressive growth.

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