Pachysandra is a popular ground cover that is native to Japan and China. An evergreen, pachysandra is popular because it can thrive in various climates and conditions while maintaining a beautiful green color. However, you may wonder if pachysandra will choke out other plants if they add it to your lawn.
Pachysandra is a tenacious groundcover that often will overtake and eventually choke out other plants. It is successful in doing so because it spreads underground via rhizomes. Because it is low but spreads evenly, it makes an excellent cover under trees and covers bare areas that get little light.
Because it spreads aggressively, it’s essential to understand the best places to use pachysandra. To best use the plant to your advantage, it’s also crucial to understand the way the plant propagates. I’ll cover this and much more about pachysandra in this article.
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Can Pachysandra Overtake Other Plants?
The USDA Forest Service considers pachysandra an invasive species (source) due to its robust root system that forms a dense ground cover—choking out other native species. This hardy perennial appeal as a hardy ground cover is the very reason why it may threaten your other plants.
The pachysandra has an aggressive underground root system called rhizomes, which can spread from its plating area and compete with other plants for light and soil nutrients. The plant’s ability to thrive in the most challenging conditions threatens other less hardy plants.
Pachysandra is a dominant species. It not only covers ground thoroughly and uniformly, but it is a great species to choke out weed species in an area. Be careful with pachysandra because it can also overtake and dominate desirable species if left unchecked.
Because it is such a nice ground cover, pachysandra is an excellent choice for ground cover around the base of established trees. Because it’s thick and uniform in distribution and appearance, it takes on the formation of a green, natural ground cover at the hard-to-grow shady bases of trees.
How To Prevent Pachysandra From Choking Out Other Plants
However, you must ensure that the pachysandra stays in its designated area and prevent it from taking over the space of other plants. You can achieve this in two ways:
- Manual removal. This method is the most environmentally friendly but does take some physical effort. When you pull up the plant, ensure you remove the entire rhizome—even a tiny piece left behind will grow.
- Chemical control: Herbicides such as glyphosate effectively control this hardy plant. However, this poses environmental risks as you should only opt for it as a last resort.
Can Pachysandra Help an Established Landscape?
If planted in proper areas and kept in check, pachysandra will help your established landscape. Its tendency for aggressive spread and dominance can help to minimize weeds.
Because Pachysandra spreads via lateral offshoots of a thick root system called rhizomes, it creates a dense, uniform appearance. The rhizomes help to stabilize the soil above them, and the low, shaded plant above helps to keep the soil moist.
The rhizome structure makes pachysandra an excellent choice for planting in an area with soil that couldn’t sustain a typical plant or root structure. Pachysandra is often able to establish and dominate in these areas.
The rhizome structure makes pachysandra a logical choice for large trees that require annual mulch, but you don’t want to continue to mulch and weed at their base.
Clemson Cooperative Extension tells us that the rhizomes and low evergreen plants create a living, breathing mulch system that helps keep the bottom of the tree weed-free (source).
Conditions That Allow Pachysandra To Thrive
Pachysandra is a native plant to China and Japan, according to Plants For a Future (source). Plants generally tend to thrive in conditions that mimic their native climate. Pachysandra is a species that can grow and thrive in various environmental conditions.
- Pachysandra can grow in a variety of soil types and acidity levels. The main factors determining the plant’s success are the amount of sun and regular watering.
- Endemic to wooded areas, pachysandra prefers heavily shaded to lightly shaded areas for optimal success. Pachysandra is not happy when planted in full sun, despite the amount of water the plant may receive.
- One of the best growing scenarios for pachysandra is to place it under a well-established canopy of mature hardwood or evergreen trees. According to HGTV, this combination provides the shaded conditions the plant prefers while allowing pachysandra to help keep the soil moist for the trees it lives beneath (source).
Tips for Planting Pachysandra
One of the significant challenges when adding plants to your landscape is knowing the best, most cost-effective plant form to buy. Some plants grow great from seed, while others don’t do as well.
Pachysandra is a rhizome, so it propagates via the root system. As with many other plants that spread via rhizomes, pachysandra is best as a bare root, not a fully developed plant.
- Ensure your temperature won’t dip below freezing, and keep it up high so critters won’t eat the bare-root plants. Adding this slight bit of stress to the plant immediately before planting will often encourage success the following day when you plant the rhizome in the ground.
- When cultivating pachysandra, remember that the rhizomes will shoot underground and spread in all directions. Planting several bare roots close together isn’t necessary. They will fill in and grow together naturally. The rhizomes grow away from the main plant and send up shoots through other roots and into bare soil, so even if there’s an area with weeds, pachysandra can effectively fill the entire location.
- Dig a linear row or trench for optimal planting of the bare root plants. Spread the roots out equidistantly in the area you wish to cover, thus allowing them space to expand, spread, and grow together.
- Water your new plants regularly, but don’t flood the area. Pachysandra like damp soil, but they also like soil that drains quickly, so take care to ensure the new plants aren’t getting waterlogged and if the ground is saturated with water when you step on it, give it a few additional days to dry out in between waterings.
See this excellent overview of Pachysandra:
Be patient with your new addition to your landscape. If the pachysandra looks patchy at first, don’t panic and buy additional plants. Give the plant time to establish a robust, healthy root system. In time, the plants will fill in and create a uniform, evergreen carpet under a shaded canopy.
However, ensure that you keep a close eye on your pachysandra—so it doesn’t overtake your garden. Pull up the plant with the entire rhizome to prevent the plant from muscling in on your other prized plants.