Garden Photo of the Day

Go native!

Click here to enlarge this photo.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

As promised, here’s the native alternative to the ubiquitous Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis, USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8). It’s Alleghany spurge (Pachysandra procumbens, Zones 5-9)! It has a much more matte appearance than the Japanese sort, and while this sounds like it’d be boring, it’s actually quite nice, I think… Allegheny spurge is native to the southeastern United States and grows to 12 inches tall, spreading indefinitely. It might not be quite as evergreen as the more common variety, but it’s worth it, don’t you think? Do you grow this alternative? Chime in below and let us know if it measures up in performance.

This has the potential to turn into a groundcover-themed week here at the GPOD. Got any groundcover photos you’d like to share? Email me!

Welcome to the Fine Gardening GARDEN PHOTO OF THE DAY blog! Every weekday we post a new photo of a great garden, a spectacular plant, a stunning plant combination, or any number of other subjects. Think of it as your morning jolt of green.

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  1. stanhorst 11/09/2010

    This is a beautiful plant. You mentioned southeastern United States. Do you know what hardiness zones this will flourish in?

    Stan Horst

  2. stormy853stormy 11/09/2010

    i have a space between the sidewalk and the street. there are two wooden boxes i have created with railroad ties surroinding two red maple trees. it gets sun all day and it is in zip code 53233. would these plants grown around the trees under these conditions.

  3. forestdiety 11/09/2010

    This plant is an invasive species. It may be a nice ground cover but it escapes into our forests and takes over shading the ground so that the native species cannot grow. This is something that you need to consider before you place a foreign plant in your garden.

  4. user-7006895 11/09/2010

    I do like the way this looks, the matt aspect is appealing. But beside wondering about the hardiness (I'm zone 5/6) I'm also concerned about the invasive aspect.

  5. MichelleGervais 11/09/2010

    stanhorst & SunnyDispo - It's hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9.

    stormy853stormy - I'm guessing it might be a bit sunny for this plant in those spots.

    forestdiety - While Japanese pachysandra (P. terminalis and cvs.) is considered invasive in Virginia, and aggressive elsewhere, the plant featured today (P. procumbens) is the native alternative, which is not considered invasive.

  6. riverain 11/09/2010

    Thanks, this is the perfect solution for a deep shade spot I have in my yard where nothing else grows. Does it grow fast? I'm also looking for a fast growing evergreen groundcover to stop erosion in a partly shaded slope behind my fence (currently just grass). I'm trying to use native plants, or ones originally derived from native plants, when they are available.

  7. forestdiety 11/09/2010

    OOPs My error. Sorry I missed that you had listed the two different pachysandra's. The one you featured is not the invasive one.

  8. arboretum 11/09/2010

    a few comments. We have had this plant in our z.5 arboretum for 18 years. It is SLOOOOOW growing in our DRY shade area. The ONE reason we grow it is for it's beautiful silver green and moss green variegation in the spring (somewhat similar colors to the lamium with butter yellow flowers).

    please, remember that a plant that is invasive in Mississipi is not necessarily invasive in MA. Each state has its own official invasive plants list. As I result, I can't buy berberis in MA but I can buy it in adjacent CT.

    mjw, i don't know what your zone is or what height you are looking for, and i don't think these are native plants but in our z. 5 gardens, we have great luck w/ the following for our steep sided sunken paths and our chasm:
    veronica repens georgia blue, persicaria lance corporal, eupatorium chocolate, pennisetum moudry, lysimachia numularia aurea.

    a teaching website

  9. mksbrown 11/11/2010

    I have had Allegheny pachysandra (native) in a dry shade area for several years. The clump has been very slow to increase. I recently moved a few pieces into my part shade rain garden. It is very happy there. The clump has already started to expand. The rain garden is close enough to the house for me to enjoy its early spring flowers. I read that the native pachysandra establishes much faster if it is planted with leaf litter. I mulch my rain garden with chopped leaves. The leaf litter and moist soil may be why it is happier in the new location.

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