Department of Horticulture New York State Horticulture Study Guide for Youth 4-H Logo


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Cornell University

Japanese Spurge
Pachysandra terminalis
(pack-i-sand-rah term-i-nall-iss)

Click on thumbnails for larger image.

What about it?

The spurge is a low, broadleaf, evergreen groundcover with alternating leaves. The leaves emerge in clusters from green steins. Spurges tend to grow in a dense formation and their maximum height is 12 inches. In early May white flowers will appear. "Variegata" is a popular variety that has white leaf margins.

What is it used for?

The Japanese spurge is utilized primarily as a decorative groundcover or on sloped banks to control erosion.

Where does it grow? How do we grow it?

Spurges enjoy partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. Unless these conditions are met you will have difficulty getting a spurge established. Weeding will be necessary to fend off competitive grasses until the spurge gets big enough to fight its own battles. Sometimes people will interplant spurges with bulbs. Nonetheless, a spurge will need 6-12 inches of growing space.

What are its primary problems?

Japanese spurges are particular about their growing sites so select a good site carefully. They will not grow well in full sun or in poorly drained areas. Volutella blight can be a problem on injured plants or in plantings that are too crowded. the are also plagued by a fungal leafspot. Scale insects can also attack pachysandra.

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Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.