Japanese spurge is an evergreen woody sub-shrub, though quite often in nursery catalogues it is listed with the perennials. It makes excellent ground cover when growing well, since it is very tightly branching, with the leaves forming horizontal whorls. The leaves are rather thick and leathery, in shade dark green and often shiny. Japanese spurge grows best among conifers and rhododendrons where it is shaded even in spring, when the broadleaf trees are still bare. In full sun the leaves turn yellow.
The ”Pachy” of “Pachysandra” means thick, referring to the stamens of the male flowers. In spring the small white male and female flowers make up separate inflorescences. The white berries, like large pearls, are seldom formed in Finland because the whole growth is often a single plant; to improve fruiting, planting several different clones together might help.