Monday, August 12, 2013

Groundcover Review: Pachysandra procumbens, Allegheny Spurge

It ain't pretty. Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny Spurge) has not covered ground, but rather revealed ground as the original stems have died off. 

Pachysandra procumbens, Allegheny Spurge


- Native to Tennessee and other parts of the Southeast. Hooray!

- Not particularly aggressive or fast-growing [especially when dead -- see photo above], ergo should be easy to control.

- Evergreen to semi-evergreen in zone 7 [when alive]. Hardy to zone 5.

- Supposed to have fragrant spring flowers, but I didn't see any this year.

- Reportedly can be propagated through division in spring or autumn.

- Has enough density and height (6-12 inches high) that it should be able to do a good job of controlling weeds [if not for the fact that it keeled over and mostly died].

- Attractive foliage [before it died].

- Supposed to have good drought tolerance ... although this did not seem to be the case in my garden. Maybe it has good drought tolerance in cooler and shadier climates such as the Smoky Mountains?

- Low maintenance. No need to remove last year's foliage - as with Sweet Woodruff it will simply collapse and be replaced with fresh new green foliage [unless it dies, in which case the foliage will not be replaced].


- Not tough enough to survive a Tennessee summer -- at least not in partial sun. Maybe it would do OK in full shade, but with morning sun and temperatures in the 90s, P. procumbens keeled over and (apparently) croaked. Well, I won't declare it down for the count just yet -- it may still rise like Lazarus next year -- but things are not looking promising at this point.

- Hard to find (unlike the widely-distributed and occasionally invasive Japanese Pachysandra - P. terminalis). You'll probably have to find a nursery or plant society sale that specializes in native plants or resort to mail order.

- Spreads rather slowly [when it survives...otherwise it does not spread at all].

- Reportedly needs partial to full shade, so not an option if you're looking for a groundcover for a sunny spot. Based on my experience, I'm thinking it needs at least a mostly shady setting in hot Southern climates.

Foliage is reportedly toxic to mammals. So please do not eat. On the bright side, this is probably why P. procumbens would be resistant to predation by deer or rabbits. (I think the same also applies to P. terminalis.)


Didn't cover ground. Didn't even cover the original patch of ground where I planted it. Disappointing. Cannot recommend based on my personal experience, but P. procumbens might work for gardeners with cooler and shadier environments than I could offer.