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Why Is Your Pachysandra Not Spreading?

Why Is Your Pachysandra Not Spreading?

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

The pachysandra is an evergreen ground cover with a slow growth rate, so it’s no surprise that it takes a while to show significant signs of spreading. However, if your pachysandra isn’t spreading at all, there are a few possible reasons.

Pachysandra plants are particular about the soil they grow in, requiring good drainage, highly fertile soil and partial to full shade. If the conditions aren’t right, the plant won’t grow. Additionally, illnesses like Volutella can stunt pachysandra’s growth. 

Your pachysandra should provide lush foliage and thick ground cover for the shady areas of your garden where other plants may struggle to grow. So, you might ask yourself why the foliage seems so sparse. Read on to find out why your pachysandra is not spreading and what you can do to fix the issue. 

1. The Pachysandra Is Getting Too Much Sun

Pachysandra flourishes in partial to full shade and does exceptionally well next to other shade-loving plants. The result is a stunning, uniform ground cover with a bright green color. 

When removed from their ideal exposure to the sun, these plants are temperamental and not nearly as aesthetically pleasing. It also dries them out, sucking the moisture necessary to thrive. 

  • Their leaves begin to pale and yellow. 
  • The plant’s growth slows significantly. 
  • Sunscald occurs, which is incurable. 

How To Fix

If your pachysandra is suffering from too much sun exposure, it is best to relocate your plant to a shadier area. It isn’t always possible to relocate them entirely, but including some sunshade to dim the sun’s intensity is a good option. 

As we know, pachysandras thrive in the shade and can even tolerate deep shade. Deep shade refers to an area that gets no direct sunlight at all. Note that deep shade isn’t preferable. You can transplant your pachysandra by following these steps:

  1. Remove the plant from the soil. Pay special attention to keeping as many roots intact as possible. 
  2. Divide the plant into different sections. This method allows you to plant bits and pieces of the plant wherever is most convenient, particularly if you don’t have access to extensive shaded areas. 
  3. Dig a hole of the appropriate depth. The depth of the hole hinges on how long the roots are, as they need to be covered entirely. 
  4. Water the plant. Moisten the plant sufficiently, but don’t overwater it, as this can cause root rot or drowning, which also slows growth. 

If the pachysandra is in a small or enclosed space and you can relocate it, consider investing in an awning or gazebo to provide more shade to outdoor plants. 

The versatile Sun Shade Sail Canopy (link to Amazon) is a great, accessible option for a shade that’s super simple to put together. The breathable fabric tarp comes in 12 colors and will elevate your outdoor area’s style. 

2. The Pachysandra’s Soil’s pH Is Too High or Low

Pachysandras love fertile soil rich in organic matter and is slightly acidic with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. It’s essential to test the soil regularly to ensure it’s at optimal acidity for your plant growth (source). 

The pachysandra will become sluggish and show stunted growth if the soil is overly alkaline or nutrient deficient. It can also cause chlorosis, which yellows and withers its leaves and can eventually lead to death.

See How To Identify And Manage Alkaline Soil for tips on improving soil acidity to make it better suited for Pachysandra.

How To Fix

Correcting your soil pHis a reasonably easy fix, but it is best to maintain it regularly. Heighten the soil’s acidity by including acidic vitamins feed for plants, and heighten its nutrient intake by composting the soil or containing more nutritious ingredients

The Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food (link to Amazon) is a fantastic all-purpose solution with the ideal acidity level to promote the pachysandra’s growth. 

Use one teaspoon per gallon of water and spray over the plant bed, ensuring it gets into the soil and doesn’t settle on the leaves. 

  • Add nutrients: There are numerous ways to add nutrients to the soil. Coffee grounds, eggshells, banana peels, Epsom salts, and ash pack a punch and nourish a Pachysandra.
  • Increase the soil’s acidity: Nitrogen-based fertilizers and calcium are great ways to increase soil acidity. Other vitamins to add to the soil include potassium and phosphorus (source). 

3. The Pachysandra Has Volutella Stem

This typically healthy and resilient plant has some issues aside from being picky eaters and needing lots of shade. They’re also vulnerable to Volutella stem and leaf blight, also known as canker which is often a side effect of overexposure to the sun (source).

Volutella and canker occur due to particular fungi exacerbated by humid climates and hot weather so pachysandra could be affected even in deep shade. 

You’ll notice Volutella and blight if your plant exhibits the following symptoms: 

  • Volutella: This fungus thrives in humid climates and causes leaves to become yellow or tan. The affected leaves will die and fall off, and the plant will struggle to regrow its leaves (source). 
  • Canker: Caused by Cercosporin fungus, canker causes leaves to wilt and develop brown speckles and holes (source). 

Pachysandra is vastly weakened by:

  • Prolonged exposure to full sunlight. 
  • Winter damage. 
  • Infestation of pests, scale, and mites. 

Keeping an eye out and routinely monitoring these risks can do wonders as a prevention technique. However, if you spot them once they’ve taken hold, there’s a lot you can do to fix it. 

How To Fix

  • Dispose of diseased plants: Identify damaged or diseased stems, branches, or plants, and remove them from the bed, so the disease doesn’t spread. Don’t use diseased plant matter for compost. 
  • Don’t overwater the plant: Overwatering can accelerate fungal growth and root rot, opening the plant to even more diseases. Additionally, ensure your plant bed has sufficient drainage. 
  • Keep the plant bed clean: Pick up dead and fallen leaves and stems to maintain a breathable, aerated space for the living pachysandra plants (source). 
  • Use insecticides: Treat your pachysandra for pests regularly using organic or systemic insecticides. 
  • Use Volutella treatment: Fungicide should solve the problem, but lime sulfur and copper sprays should do the trick if it doesn’t. Continue treatment as instructed or until the crisis resolves. 

Pachysandra is sturdy and doesn’t require much water, so it can be easy to overwater them by accident. Maintaining a good watering and fertilizing schedule will aid pachysandra’s growth and prevent disease and death. 

  • Water your pachysandra once every three to four weeks
  • Fertilize using an organic, nutrient-rich fertilizer once a month

Garden Disease Control Concentrate (link to Amazon) will help pest control immensely. Dilute the solution and apply it to the plant until you have resolved the pest issue. 

Seasonal Designs by Dawn has a great YouTube video on caring for pachysandra:

Using Plants as Ground Covers & How I Keep my Pachysandra Looking This Good 🌸🌿


Using the correct soil—regarding the nutritional value and acidity—is the key to speeding up and strengthening new pachysandra growth. 

Proper exposure to the sun, fertilizing, watering habits, and suitable pest control will ensure that your pachysandra flourishes in your garden, providing a fresh and vivid element to the space.

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