How To Plant, Prune, Fertilize, Water, Grow And Care For Pachysandra Japanese Spurge

Pachysandra, commonly called Japanese Spurge, is very easy to grow when planted right and in the right spot. All Pachysandra varieties prefer growing in a well-drained moist soil and shade to part shade. 

Pachysandra is ideal for use as a large space groundcover. It works perfectly as a mulch substitute under the canopies of large shade trees, where not much else will grow. It also serves well to fill in around shrubs and trees in home foundation plantings, as a border along walkways and paths, or massed on shady slopes for erosion control. It will not sprawl or trail over walkways or other surfaces. 

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know regarding planting and caring for Ivy plants...

Cultural Preferences


Though tolerant of many soil types, including clay, all pachysandra varieties will appreciate a moist but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy or wet soils are problematic. 

Soil pH

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil, which is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline.

Pachysandra are acid-loving plants that prefer growing in soils ranging from 4.5 to 5.5 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 

If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, or whether or not it's suitable for growing Pachysandra, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.


All Pachysandra varieties prefer growing in part shade to shade. Some morning sun is okay. Hot afternoon sun will discolor or burn leaves. Dappled shade in the afternoon is okay.

Site Preparation For Mass Planting Pachysandra

Weed Elimination

Before planting, eliminate existing weeds or grasses in the planting area. You can pull weeds by hand or spray them with a solution of a broad-spectrum weed killer for use in landscape beds. Wait at least two hours after spraying a glyphosate-based product before you begin planting. Before using any chemical read and carefully follow the mixing and application instructions on the label. 

Soil Preparation

Tilling the soil in the planting area is optional. There are several reason we usually don't recommend it. Tilling on sloped ground loosens soil making it more susceptible to erosion in the event there comes heavy rainfall. Tilling can also bring buried dormant weeds seeds to the surface. Freshly tilled ground is a perfect environment for weed seeds to sprout in. If you do decide to till, we recommend the application of a landscape weed preventer to the soil surface. 

Also, if you are planting groundcover plants under established trees, be aware that tilling can cause serious damage to tree roots, which can effect the health of a tree. The feeder roots of trees can often extend well beyond the perimeter of the canopy.

If you are mass planting over a large area, to determine how many plants you will need, it is often necessary to determine total square feet of the planting area. Once you have the square footage, then you can determine how far apart you will space plants in the planting area. (Under the description tab on every plant page in Wilson Bros Gardens you will find spacing recommendations.) 


Planting Pachysandra In The Ground

(Scroll down for advice on planting Ivy in containers and pots)

Spacing Suggestion:  12-18" apart for groundcover

Step 1

Set and space all plants out in the planting area before starting to plant. Alternatively, you can use marking paint to mark the spot where each plant will go, which is often necessary when planting on steep slopes, where plants in containers will not stay put. 

If there will be more than one row of plants, begin by setting out or marking one straight row of plants. It's best to start along the edge of the planting bed making sure to space plants at a distance far enough from the edge of the planting bed to allow for future spreading. For example, plants with a recommended spacing of 24" apart should be spaced at least 12" from the edge of the bed (or surfaced area) to the center of the plant. After setting out the first row, stagger the plants on the second row and so on until the space is filled.

Step 2

If you applied mulch on top of the ground before planting, which is often a good idea before planting groundcover plants, rake a small area of the mulch back in order to dig the planting hole. Start planting by using a shovel or trowel to dig your planting hole two to three times as wide and as deep or not much deeper than the root ball of your plant. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.

Step 3

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area, it may be beneficial to amend the native soil. When planting in heavy clay or poor soils mix in organic matter such as composted manure, bagged top soil, and or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the soil. When planting in a sandy, quick-draining soil amending with top soil, organic compost, or peat moss will help to retain moisture and supply vital plant nutrients. When planting in a fertile, loamy, well-drained moist soil there is no need to amend soil.

Step 4

To remove your plant from the container it was growing in gently squeeze the sides of the container to loosen the rootball. If the root ball is stuck in the container cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, use your fingers to loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. 

Tip: It is optional, but if your Pachysandra plants are leggy you can cut them back by half their height with pruning shears when you plant them. This encourages plants to develop fuller and fill in bare space more quickly.

Step 5

Set your plant in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or slightly above ground level to allow for settling. It may be necessary to place some of your backfill soil mixture in the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.

Step 6

After setting your plant in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight while using your other hand to begin backfilling the soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue backfilling to the top edge of the root ball. To avoid suffocating your plant, do not put any soil on top of the root ball.

Step 7

After planting some or all of your plants, deeply water the entire planting area. For an extra boost, you can also water with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development, promoting greener, more vigorous plants.

Step 8

Apply a 1" layer of aged, shredded wood mulch or bark or a 1-2" layer of pine straw around your newly planted groundcovers. Avoid using freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. 

How To Care For Pachysandra Plants

Feeding - Watering - Pruning

How To Fertilize Pachysandra

When established, Pachysandra aren't heavy feeders but young plants will appreciate an annual feeding in early spring with a slow-release shrub & tree type fertilizer or an organic plant food. Because Pachysandra likes an acid soil, choose a fertilizer that contains iron and/or sulfur for deep greening. Iron and sulfur can be applied separately at any time of year to increase soil acidity. When applying fertilizer or nutrients always follow instructions on the product label.

How To Water Pachysandra Plants

Pachysandra prefers a moist but well-drained soil however will tolerate dry periods when established. They do not like constantly soggy or wet soil, which can lead to root rot and other plant diseases. So be careful not to overwater plants.

After Planting

Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area to a depth of at least 6 inches. For an extra boost, you can also water with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development, promoting greener, more vigorous plants.

During First Growing Season

In average garden soil you should not have to water your newly planted Pachysandra plants every day. More often than not, this causes soggy soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other plant diseases. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water only as needed to keep the rootball and surrounding soil damp to moist. Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day. Plants planted during the winter dormant season, when not actively growing and evaporation is much slower, will require much less water. So, be extra careful not to overwater during winter!


When established,Pachysandra is quite drought tolerant. Supplemental irrigation is only necessary during extended dry periods. If during a drought you see leaves wilting this could be an indicator that your plants could use a good deep soaking.

How To Prune Pachysandra Plants

Pachysandra does not require however benefits from an annual pruning in early spring.

At Planting Time

Tip: It's optional, but if your Pachysandra plants are leggy you can cut them back by half their height with pruning shears when you plant them. This encourages plants to develop fuller and fill in bare spaces more quickly.

Pruning Established Beds Of Pachysandra

Small beds of Pachysandra can be pruned by using bypass hand pruners to cut plants back by half their height in early spring. 

Large beds of Pachysandra can be mowed to a height of 4 inches in early spring, when plants are dry. 

To avoid tearing the stems of your plants, or ripping them from the ground, make sure your mower blade is sharp! 

Also scan the area for sticks and rocks before mowing.


Happy Growing!

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