Allegheny Spurge: A Native Ground Cover Plant for All Seasons


| 2/26/2015 8:38:00 AM


Tags: horticulture, West Virginia, Barry Glick,

Allegheny Spurge 

In many cases, I've discovered the Asian counterpart of our native plants to be much showier, more robust and in many instances more floriferous than our native species. Take Claytonia, for example. Our native Claytonia virginica and Claytonia caroliniana are very early, beautiful little plants. But, although their flowers are lovely, they're very small and the entire plant is extremely ephemeral. On the other hand, Claytonia Sibirica has thicker, more deeply veined foliage and flowers for months.

One major exception to this rule is Pachysandra procumbens. P.p. is an East Coast member of the Buxaceae (Boxwood) family and is commonly referred to as "Allegheny Spurge". It's superior to the more commonly used (Asian) Pachysandra terminalis in virtually every respect.

The Asian Pachysandra terminalis is a very aggressive, stoloniferous thug in the garden. And although this can be a benefit if you want to fill in a very large area super fast, its well behaved American cousin, P. procumbens, is a clump forming groundcover that fills in an area slowly, but much more elegantly.

P. procumbens is hardy in most areas of the US, probably into zone 4, maybe even 3. In  zones 7-10 or during mild Winters elsewhere,  it stays evergreen. In colder areas it will be a herbaceous perennial.

In the early spring, P.p. shoots up really cool spikes of pink and white fragrant flowers that last for a week or two. Soon after the flowers have set seed, the first vegetative shoots poke their heads through the soil and their dark green leaves begin to unfold. In deep shade, the foliage remains a dark, luxurious green all summer. The more sun that the plants get, the lighter their leaves are. I planted a row in full sun as an experiment to test the plants extremes. The plants in the sun were healthy and productive, but the leaves were paler in color, some with an almost chloritic appearance. This is definitely a dappled to deep shade plant.




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