My Pachysandra is Dying, What Can I Plant in Its Place?

landscape in partial shadeResident seeks groundcover options to replace Pachysandra. Photo: University of Maryland Extension / Ask an Expert

Q: My Pachysandra is Dying, What Can I Plant in Its Place?

A patch of Japanese Pachysandra in my yard was formerly healthy but in the past three years, it has died back. I would like to plant deer-resistant plants or groundcover in its place. Can you recommend some perennials I can try? This area gets filtered sun most of the day.

Answer: Volutella is a common fungal disease of Japanese Pachysandra that attacks both the leaves and stems and causes dieback symptoms. It is most severe in overgrown plantings and is often associated with scale (insect) infestations. This may have contributed to the decline of your plants.

It is a good idea to consider different options for this space. In addition to its susceptibility to Volutella dieback, Japanese Pachysandra has escaped garden cultivation and is now invasive in some natural areas of Maryland. We no longer recommend planting it. In the forest understory, it outcompetes native plants such as our spring ephemeral wildflowers and the wildlife (insects, birds) they support.

japanese pachysandra in a forested area
Invasive Pachysandra terminalis covers a large area of forested ground in Howard, County, Maryland. Photo: C. Carignan

There are other groundcover choices that are unique, beautiful, non-invasive, and adapted to Maryland’s growing conditions. For a partially shaded, moist area, try a combination of ferns – Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) and marginal woodfern (Dryopteris marginalis), sedges – blue wood sedges (Carex glaucodea or Carex laxiculmus) and Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), Canadian ginger (Asarum canadense), golden groundsel (Packera aurea), foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia), and creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera). Some of these plants also support pollinators.

native plants garden
Groundcover plants were in bloom in April in the native plants garden at Camden Yards, Baltimore. From front to back: Phlox, Foamflower, Golden Groundsel. Photo: C. Carignan

Additional Resources

Planting Groundcovers | Home & Garden Information Center

Twelve Easy Native Plants for Shade | Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection

Groundcovers | Plant NOVA Natives

By Christa K. Carignan, Maryland Certified Professional Horticulturist, Coordinator, University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center

Have a plant or insect question? University of Maryland Extension’s experts have answers! Send your questions and photos to Ask an Expert.

9 thoughts on “My Pachysandra is Dying, What Can I Plant in Its Place?

  1. GEORGE LAMBERT May 6, 2019 / 10:42 pm

    Wish you would have provided additional suggestions for the other 60% of us without moist soil.

    • Mel Ross April 3, 2021 / 11:57 pm

      Many of my pachysandra plants have volutella.
      I am pulling them . I would like to plant vinca in place of the diseased pachysandra. The soil has many stones in it and tree roots, so I need a plant that has small roots like vinca.

      • George LAMBERT April 6, 2021 / 2:55 pm

        Mel, I consider vinca minor an inferior plant that you will probably regret. Its habit extends many vines along the surface that makes raking leaves impossible. Perhaps use if not an area you maintain, but it could overrun other plants.

  2. Maryland Grows May 8, 2019 / 10:37 am

    Check the links under “Additional Resources” for groundcover options that can handle dry soil. You also are welcome to send photos and a description of your site to our Ask an Expert team using this link: Our horticulturists are happy to make plant recommendations for different types of site conditions and locations throughout Maryland.


  3. tonytomeo May 12, 2019 / 6:40 pm

    Sorry I can’t add to the list. I think that carpet bugle or ajuga and come forms of campanula are comparable, but I really don’t know. We use none of them.

    • Maryland Grows May 15, 2019 / 3:15 pm

      Carpet bugle (Ajuga sp.) is sold as a groundcover here. Unfortunately, it is becoming established in some of our natural areas of the state, so we don’t recommend it for properties that are close to parks, woodlands, etc.

      • tonytomeo May 16, 2019 / 12:27 am

        Oh, of course. I tend to forget that because it would never do that here. I have heard of it doing that in the Pacific Northwest too.

  4. Ryan Field May 24, 2020 / 7:33 pm

    Invasive? That’s a myth. It takes years to become that invasive. Years. I have almost an acre of it in New Hope, Bucks County, PA, and I should know. In face the hardest thing is having work done anywhere near the pachysandra. I’ve had trees taken down and the workers crushed the pachysandra and it’s taken YEARS to come back to its original fullness. And, mine thrives in shade, sun, moist soil, or any conditions.

    • george lambert August 3, 2020 / 9:30 pm

      Is is possible you have p. procumbens not jap? Regardless, if have an acre of it, that seems to mitigate against your protestation.

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