Growing Pachysandra from Cuttings

I am growing pachysandra from cuttings.  That doesn’t sound too hard, does it?

Pachysandra Cutting

Pachysandra is an easy to grow, lush, shade-tolerant ground cover that many people use to reduce lawn or to fill in places where grass won’t grow.  My weed-filled lawn is driving me crazy—I’d work harder at it but there simply is too much of it. And since I refuse to use pesticides,  some of the grass has got to go.

This project actually started two years ago (see pictures here).  I mail-ordered some pachysandra and when the bare-rooted plants arrived, we planted, mulched, then waited for them to overtake the north side of the house.  They didn’t die but two years later, we are still waiting for that lush profusion part.

Clearly this isn’t working.

So I went back to the internet for advice and learned that if I rooted cuttings, I could create more plants—for free!   I read everywhere that you needed to dip the cuttings in rooting hormone so I went out and bought some rooting hormone.  And then I read the label…

Label (paraphrased):  Keep away from pets and children.  Use gloves when handling.  Dispose of as hazardous waste?!

Now I don’t know if they were just being alarmist but these warnings made me think twice.  But I’d already spent the money and I was not going to throw it out.  So (under the circumstances) I decided to do a (loosely) controlled experiment.  I would root some cuttings using the rooting hormone and some in plain water.  I didn’t get science training for nothing!

Rooting Instructions (Methodology)

I took cuttings that were about 5-6 inches in length, then removed the lower 2-3 inches of leaves.   Divided them into two groups to be tested with either rooting hormone or plain water.

  • Rooting Hormone: Wearing gloves, dipped the cut end in rooting hormone, then inserted in seed starting mix.  Watered and encased in plastic tent, then waited for 6?? weeks (oops, incomplete notes, but pachysandra are notoriously slow to root).  Planted outdoors (wearing gloves).  Plants all survived.

  • Plain water:  Slipped cuttings into empty 1 quart yogurt container with water covering bottom couple inches.  Checked water regularly and refilled as needed, while waiting 6?? weeks (oops again) for root development.  Planted outdoors.  Plants all survived.

With my experiment completed, it was time to summarize the results:

  • Rooting Hormone:  Worked well, more expensive (though less than buying new plants), per the warning, one would conclude it is potentially harmful for the environment–and me
  • Plain Water:  Worked well, free, safe.

Now clearly, I think we have a winner!  Isn’t science fun!

Ooooo, I feel just like the gardening version of America’s Test Kitchen!

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26 thoughts on “Growing Pachysandra from Cuttings

    1. Inger Wilkerson

      My guess is that this contains a plant hormone to spur root development and also a fungicide to deter fungal growth. Since I have no plans to buy this again, I didn’t bother to check if there is a different product that might be preferable. Seems like some plants might truly need that “extra push” so I may have to look deeper in the future if I ever propagate more challenging plants. But the Pachysandra is a cinch–don’t know why the websites don’t tell people this.

  1. Freeda Baker Nichols

    Very interesting article. Wonderful experiment. My yard could use some pachysandra plants, but doubt if they would take root at all in this rain-starved desert-looking soil. Rain is so desperately needed here in the Foothills. Trees are going dormant. Farmers may not grow enough hay for their farm animals.

    1. Inger Wilkerson

      Perhaps there is something else that might work in your climate? We’re approaching drought ourselves now (nothing new is going in the soil for me). My heart really goes out to those impacted by the brush fires. I’ve never seen so many people hoping for rain…

  2. Louise

    GREAT job Inger!!! I’ve never used root hormone in my life and I’ve been pretty successful with “making babies” from plants. I think it sometimes depends on the plant too. For instance, where you cut it. I know in order to root a Butterfly Bush, you need to cut below the Y and make sure you keep it immersed in water until leaves form. It won’t get roots but when the leaves form, it can be planted. It even works with the hybrids!

    I’m not a huge fan of Pachysandra but as you expect, once on it’s way to growing, it does cover quickly. Quite frankly, I’m not a big fan of lawns either. But, that’s a complaint for another day, lol…Thanks for sharing and Good Luck!!!

    1. Inger Wilkerson

      We used to root cuttings all the time as poor college students. I don’t know why I didn’t try that first. Probably so used to researching everything on the internet that I ignored the obvious!

  3. Promenade Claire

    I have some rooting hormone, that so rarely get’s used that I’m sure its fabulously old, but now I want to know what the contents are as well. Certainly something to think about for future gardening projects – thank you !

    1. Inger

      I believe that you should cut off the leaves below the water so they don’t rot, but that the others should stay on so they can produce food for the cutting.

  4. Randy Miller

    Rooting powder is 99% or more talcum powder, 1% or less rooting hormone. I’ve been using it for 30 years and I can assure you it is harmless.

    1. Inger

      Well that’s reassuring Randy. You do never know if the warnings are real or more CYA… In any case it’s nice to know I don’t need to lay out the cash for it since plain water works so well!

  5. Joseph Donnelly

    Greetings Inger,

    I heard that honey could be used in place of rooting hormone. I have not tried it yet but wouldn’t that be sweet?

    Good Day,

    1. Inger

      That’s an interesting idea Joseph–and I always have raw honey around. If I try rooting some things that are particularly difficult in the future, I may have to try that. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Walter Peterson

    If you have lots of pachysandra to begin with like I do, after trimming it back to widen several hundred feet of paths each spring, then not much fussiness is need to fill in new areas with it….I’m talking rough cuttings, big and little, pachysandra leaves and twigs, etc. trimmed using a hedge shears gathered into a large garbage bag…..Then planting….Push a shovel into the ground, force the shovel up and outward forming a large divot, toss a handful of mix from the bag into the “hasty” hole, remove the shovel carefully, lightly tamp down the planting, and go to the next dig……It works… …….I now have over a thousand square feet of pachysandra ground cover having purchased only one tray to start………….Of course it does take a few years to get to that point, so if you are not going to stay put for a while, don’t bother.

    1. Inger

      Wow–I am envious! I still need to do careful cuttings, but I may try planing a couple cuttings without rooting first and see how that goes. Thanks Walter!

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