How to plant monkey grass

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Also known as Mondo grass, monkey grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), is a durable, densely growing evergreen groundcover that tolerates a variety of tough growing conditions, including poor soil, drought and deer. Monkey grass, which reaches heights of about 6 inches at maturity, is often a good choice for under trees and other areas where regular lawn grass won’t grow. Monkey grass is suitable for planting in U.S. Department of Agriculture growing zones 7 through 11.

Prepare the spot in early spring. Although autumn is an acceptable planting time, planting in spring allows time for the roots to establish before hot weather. Find an area with full shade or filtered sunlight as too much sunlight causes the foliage to turn pale green.

Dig weeds from the planting area as weeds compete with the monkey grass for available soil nutrients and moisture. Alternatively, remove weeds by applying a systemic herbicide one to two weeks before planting. Glyphosate is an example of an effective, non-residual herbicide.

Spade or till the soil to a depth of at least 8 to 10 inches. Rake out large dirt clods and stones.

Spread 2 to 3 inches of organic material such as decomposed manure, peat moss or compost over the surface of the soil. Dig the material evenly into the soil.

Dig in a balanced garden fertilizer with a ratio such as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. Apply the fertilizer at a rate of 1 1/2 to 2 pounds for each 100 square feet of planting space.

Dig a hole wide enough to accommodate the width of the plant’s root ball. Remove the plant from its nursery container and place it in the hole. Situate the plant so the soil is level with the top of the root ball.

Fill the hole with soil, and then pat the soil gently around the roots.

Water monkey grass immediately after planting, providing sufficient water to saturate the roots. Continue to keep the soil moist, but not soggy, until new growth appears, which indicates the plant has taken root. Thereafter, soak the soil thoroughly every two to three weeks, or whenever the soil is dry. When the weather is hot and dry or unusually windy, the plant may need water as often as once every week. Don’t water the plant if the soil is still moist from the previous irrigation.

Shear monkey grass in early spring to remove shaggy, unsightly growth and clear space for new growth.

Three Types, Three Different Uses

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How to plant monkey grass

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

“Monkey grass” is a common name heard most often in the South. It can refer to any of three different plants: one type of Ophiopogon (black mondo grass) and two types of Liriope. While they’re used in similar ways, there are important differences among these three perennials that you should be aware of before making a selection. All are good substitutes for shade-tolerant, semi-evergreen ornamental grasses. All have few pest and disease problems, but you may need to protect them against slugs.

Black Mondo Grass

Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) isn’t a true grass; true grasses belong to the Poaceae family. Black mondo grass is, instead, a tuberous-rooted perennial in the lily family. It’s a stemless plant on which the leaves sprout from the ground in clumps. In summer, a single flower stalk sprouts, carrying small, bell-shaped, pinkish flowers. This grass-like plant is often used as a ground cover for semi-shady areas, or in the front of a border or as an edging plant. It’s common in rock gardens and valued for its unusual, black foliage. It makes for a great contrast with a plant like Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’.

Black mondo grass is slow-growing and even slower to germinate, taking up to three months or to more to sprout from seed. It’s best to plant it in spring to ensure solid establishment before the first winter.

An evergreen perennial, liriope — also known as lilyturf and monkey grass — makes a great ground cover and border plant in the landscape.

How to plant monkey grass

Liriope muscari

Liriope muscari is a species of low, herbaceous flowering plants from East Asia.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Ancha Chiangmai

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Liriope (Liriope spp.) is a tough, evergreen, grass-like perennial. Also called lilyturf and monkey grass, it has beautified landscapes with deep green or variegated foliage and lavender flowers for generations. Liriope is sometimes confused with its smaller relative, mondo grass, and is often outshined by showier ornamental grasses. However, when you need a combination of beauty, versatility and rugged functionality, look no further than low-maintenance liriope.

How to Use Liriope

L.muscari grows in rather tight clumps. Use ‘Big Blue’ or ‘Variegata’ as edging plants to neatly outline walkways, or as border grass to define the margins of landscape islands. The clumps stay put without sending runners into adjacent plantings. The name lilyturf comes from its ability to serve as a flowering lawn substitute under certain conditions, however it is not suitable for foot traffic.

How to plant monkey grass

Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’

Liriope muscari, commonly called lilyturf or blue lily turf, is a tufted, tuberous-rooted, grass-like perennial which typically grows 12-18″ tall.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Big High Mountian

Shutterstock/Big High Mountian

L. spicata spreads to form open colonies. It helps with erosion control on mild slopes and thrives in the shade beneath shallow-rooted trees. Plant ‘Silver Dragon’ as a silvery highlight mixed with other spreading ground covers like mondo grass.

How to Grow Liriope

Grow all types of liriope in full sun to partial shade, and in moist, well-drained soil. Established plants can grow in high heat, excessive humidity and drought-prone areas.

How to plant monkey grass

18 Tough Groundcovers 18 Photos

Tired of mowing that lawn? Why not replace expensive, high-maintenance sod with an easy-care, environmentally-friendly groundcover?

In deep shade, the leaves grow long and thin, and plant growth slows significantly. The evergreen foliage declines in severe cold. Cut liriope plants back to the ground in later winter to make way for fresh new foliage in spring.

Propagating Liriope

Propagate by division and transplanting. Divide L. muscari by lifting plants in spring and using a spade or garden knife to cut sections with at least 3 to 5 shoots each. Transplant L. spicata plants individually from areas of high density to new or low-density areas.

How to Care for Liriope

Liriope are low-maintenance plants with few problems. Slugs and snails may chew on the foliage but rarely do these mollusks cause significant damage. Pick them off as you see them, and employ slug traps if damage becomes excessive.

Too much rain or overhead irrigation may lead to anthracnose infection — a fungal disease that causes brown leaf tips followed by yellowing and dieback of foliage. Other diseases caused by excessive moisture include leaf rot, root rot and crown rot. Plant only in well-drained locations and avoid overhead irrigation to virtually eliminate these problems.

Types of Liriope

Liriope comes in clumping or spreading forms, and deep green or variegated foliage. In late summer tiered whorls of flowers are followed by black berries in the fall. Though they differ in appearance, they have similar growing needs and are treated similarly.

How to plant monkey grass

Liriope ‘Big Blue’

Clumping ‘Big Blue’ liriope is a perennial with grassy “straps” that grow up and spill over, like a fountain. Hardy in Zones 5 to 10, it opens lilac-purple blooms in summer.

Photo by: Walter’s Gardens, Inc.

Walter’s Gardens, Inc.

Clumping ‘Big Blue’ liriope is a perennial with grassy “straps” that grow up and spill over, like a fountain. Hardy in Zones 5 to 10, it opens lilac-purple blooms in summer.

Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’

  • Zone: 5-10
  • Height: 12″ to 18″
  • Spread: 12″ to 24″
  • Bloom Time: late summer
  • Bloom Description: lavender flower spikes
  • Sun: full sun to part shade
  • Water: medium

How to plant monkey grass

Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’

Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Lily Turf) is an evergreen tuberous perennial forming a loose clump of narrow, arching, green leaves striped with creamy white.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Elana Rodina

Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’

  • Zone: 5-10
  • Height: 12″ to 24″
  • Spread: 12 ” to 24″
  • Bloom Time: late summer
  • Bloom Description: purple flower spikes
  • Sun: full sun to part shade
  • Water: medium

How to plant monkey grass

Liriope spicata ‘Silver Dragon’

Liriope spicata ‘Silver Dragon’ is an evergreen grass-like perennial that spreads by underground runners to form wide colonies of narrow upright green white-striped foliage to 1 foot tall and easily spreading 3 feet wide or more.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Phoebe P

Liriope spicata ‘Gin-ryu’ (Silver Dragon)

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Liriope (Liriope muscari or Liriope spicata), also commonly known as lilyturf or monkey grass, is a type of popular landscaping plant that is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 5 to 10. Liriope is characterized by a cluster of low-lying, slender, draped leaves with blue, pink or purple flower spikes emanating from the center. It provides visual interest year-round except in the colder zones, where the leaves may die back in winter. The deer- and rabbit-resistant nature of liriope also makes it popular for suburban and rural gardens.

Despite all of these desirable features, liriope wouldn’t be ubiquitous in gardens if it weren’t relatively easy to care for. The main factor to keep in mind about liriope is its need for well-draining soil. Most of the problems that affect liriope can be traced back to wet conditions.

Liriope muscari vs. Liriope spicata

Before you purchase liriope, verify which species works best for your situation. Although they are both colloquially known as liriope, the two species Liriope muscari (big blue lilyturf) and Liriope spicata (creeping lilyturf) grow in different ways.

If you want to use liriope as a low-maintenance ground cover, choose Liriope spicata. As its common name “creeping lilyturf” implies, Liriope spicata spreads by sending up new shoots from nodes on its roots called rhizomes. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, you can expect a single Liriope spicata plant to spread out 12 to 24 inches and grow 8 to 18 inches tall.

If your landscaping plans call for a less-aggressive plant, try Liriope muscari. It will typically only spread 8 to 18 inches and will grow 12 to 18 inches tall for more distinctive plant clusters that won’t overtake your garden.

Tips for Planting Liriope

Liriope will grow just fine in both full sun and partial shade, but flowers are most likely to be abundant in full sun. According to Clemson Cooperative Extension, liriopes are also not picky about the type of soil in which they grow (clay vs. sand-based, for example) or the nutrient content of the soil. They thrive despite hot summer temperatures, droughts or coastal saltwater exposure. The only essential tip to keep in mind when choosing a planting location for liriope is to ensure the soil drains well, as they do not last long in swampy environments.

Plant both Liriope muscari and Liriope spicata approximately 1 foot away from other plants in an area that receives sun at least half of the day. Although the soil doesn’t need to be amended with compost, break up clay soil to help the transplanted roots make firm contact with the soil for proper water and nutrient uptake. Plant a hole just deep enough for the crown to remain above the soil line. Backfill the hole with soil and press it down firmly around the plant before watering well.

Unless you live in an area with mild winters where the liriope will stay evergreen, prune back foliage to the crown in the fall.

Troubleshooting Liriope Problems

Once planted, liriope is relatively maintenance-free. However, if you notice that the liriope leaves lose their bright, glossy coloring and start to turn yellow or brown, something is amiss. A fungal problem called athracnose is evident when the leaf tips turn brown or red, but if the entire leaves are turning brown along the bottom of the plant and the inner leaves are turning yellow, it’s another fungal issue called crown rot. Fungi also cause root rot, which causes brown discoloration from the bottom of the plant upward.

The immediate culprit is usually a fungus, but the true cause is wet conditions. If you often need to water plants near liriope, switch to a more precise method such as drip irrigation versus a sprinkler system. If the problem occurs after a typical bout of rain, you may need to temporarily dig up the liriope, amend the soil in its bed to break up the water-loving clay soils and then replant the liriope. Garden beds in low-lying areas may need to be populated with different plants altogether.

How to plant monkey grass

Is monkey grass invading areas of your lawn and garden? Do you find yourself asking, “How do I kill monkey grass?” You’re not alone. Many people share these concerns, but don’t worry. There are things you can try to rid this intruder from your landscape. Keep reading to find out how to get rid of monkey grass.

Ridding the Garden of Monkey Grass

Monkey grass is normally a favorite addition among gardeners, as it is extremely easy to grow and care for. But it’s also the plant’s hardiness and carefree nature that can result in its invasiveness, as the eagerly growing monkey grass begins to turn up in unwanted areas of the landscape. That’s when monkey grass control becomes necessary.

How to Get Rid of Monkey Grass

Removing monkey grass can be difficult but not impossible. There’s really no single best way to remove monkey grass. Rather, you need to find the method of monkey grass control that works best for you and your particular circumstance. That said, here are some ideas for ridding the garden of monkey grass:

Dig it up – Digging up unwanted plants is the easiest way of removing monkey grass, but it may also be the most time consuming depending on how much you have. You should dig up clumps and surrounding soil to ensure that you get out as much of the root system as possible. Once it’s dug up, carefully check for any stragglers. You can treat the area (along with freshly cut roots) with an herbicide as well to prevent further growth. Keep in mind, though, that this could take more than one application depending on how much root growth was missed.

Contain it – You can install some type of barrier or edging to keep monkey grass roots under control, minimizing its spread. These should be at least 12 to 18 inches (30-46 cm.) down for best results. This can be done at the time of planting or during summer growth. When combined with digging, you’ll have a better chance of ridding the garden of monkey grass. For example, after removing monkey grass clumps, you can cover the area with plastic or landscape fabric. This should help suffocate any remaining roots or rhizomes in the ground.

Call for backup – When all else fails, it’s time to call in a professional to help you get rid of monkey grass. Professional landscapers or gardeners can usually do all the dirty work for you, putting their knowledge to work as well. They can normally provide any additional tips you may need once the grass has been removed should any “jumpers” crop up.

Knowing how to get rid of monkey grass is a matter of having patience and choosing the method of removal that works best for you. With vigilance and time, your monkey grass control efforts will eventually pay off.

Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are more environmentally friendly.

21 September, 2017

Interestingly enough, monkey grass isn’t really grass. Monkey grass, also known as mondo grass, is actually a flowering perennial with leaves that look like grass blades. Originating in China and Japan, monkey grass is gaining popularity in many parts of the Western world because it is low-maintenance, can withstand heat, drought and nearly any soil composition, and requires little fertilizer and mowing. Monkey grass is usually planted as an evergreen ground cover to prevent erosion, but it can also make a beautiful lawn, especially in yard areas that are shaded. The only drawback to planting a monkey grass lawn is that the plant can spread aggressively and invade surrounding gardens and lawns.

Till the topsoil using a rototiller or a stiff rake. Till compost or a starter fertilizer into the soil, turning the dirt at least 1 to 2 inches deep.

  • Interestingly enough, monkey grass isn’t really grass.
  • Monkey grass is usually planted as an evergreen ground cover to prevent erosion, but it can also make a beautiful lawn, especially in yard areas that are shaded.

Plant your monkey grass seeds in early spring or early fall. Don’t plant your monkey grass seed during times when your area receives heavy rain, because this will wash your seeds away. Most species of monkey grass thrive in shaded areas and slightly acidic and well-drained soils, including mondo grass.

Insert dividers into the soil around the perimeter of where you’re planning to grow the monkey grass. Use a straight-edged shovel, and make sure your dividers are at least eight to 12 inches deep to prevent the aggressive monkey grass from spreading outside of the lawn area.

Spread the seeds by applying half walking in one direction and then the other half walking in a perpendicular direction. You can sow the seeds by hand, or you can use a seed spreader or slit seeder.

  • Plant your monkey grass seeds in early spring or early fall.
  • Use a straight-edged shovel, and make sure your dividers are at least eight to 12 inches deep to prevent the aggressive monkey grass from spreading outside of the lawn area.

Rake the seeds gently into the soil, and then cover the seeded area lightly with a mixture of topsoil and compost. Spread more monkey grass seed on top.

Water well after first planting the monkey grass seeds. Water your monkey grass thereafter just enough to keep it slightly moist, perhaps twice a week during drier conditions. Monkey grass can withstand both drought and heavy rainfall, but it most likes to stay moist. Don’t water during the winter unless extremely dry conditions occur.

Mow or prune the monkey grass once in the early spring to remove the brown leaves before the new growth begins. This is the only time you need to mow the monkey grass.

  • Rake the seeds gently into the soil, and then cover the seeded area lightly with a mixture of topsoil and compost.
  • Water your monkey grass thereafter just enough to keep it slightly moist, perhaps twice a week during drier conditions.

You can use a roller over the seeded lawn, which will encourage seed germination from good seed-to-soil contact. Consider planting a species of monkey grass called dwarf mondo grass. This species stays short naturally. All other species of monkey grass grow between 10 to 15 inches in height, depending on the variety.

Don’t plant monkey grass in your lawn without using dividers to keep it contained and prevent it from spreading. Your neighbors may not like monkey grass spreading into their yard, and you’ll not like the monkey grass taking over your other plants.

Add some color and ground cover to your yard with this unique plant.

Have you heard of Liriope muscari before? The grass, which our experts say is more accurately described as a perennial ground cover than a grass, makes an excellent border plant in most beds and gardens. Often called simply Liriope, lily turf, or, most commonly, monkey grass, this unique plant is actually part of the asparagus family. Its showy purple or violet flowers make this ornamental grass a versatile plant that will thrive in most gardens.

Where to Plant Monkey Grass

Monkey grass is a fairly adaptable plant, according to Justin Hancock, a Monrovia horticultural craftsman, because you can grow it in sun or shade. “In most areas, it prefers part shade and moist, well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter,” he says. “Once established, it’s fairly drought tolerant.” That’s something that makes it valuable in shade gardens, which often don’t have a lot of options for color. “In warm-winter areas, it tends to be evergreen; in colder climates, the foliage may die back in winter.” Hancock offers a professional tip: If you want to give it an instant refresh in the spring, set your lawnmower blade on the highest setting and mow over your monkey grass. According to Hancock, this will make it send up new foliage afterwards. The plant can grow as tall as a foot high, with each blade reaching no more than a half inch in width.

How to Use Monkey Grass in Your Garden

Vicky Popat, CFO and tropical plant expert at PlantOGram, explains that Liriope can make a great addition to any garden. “One of the most gorgeous plants that adds depth to any yard and really frames it out is the monkey grass,” she says. “Usually mistaken as turf grass, this ground cover adds an amazing frame to any garden.” It’s a great option if you get a lot of foot traffic of the four-legged variety as well. “It offers some deer resistance, too, so gardeners can enjoy it even in areas frequented by deer,” Hancock says, adding that deer resistant doesn’t mean deer proof. If there aren’t other food sources around, deer will have no problem snacking on your monkey grass plants.

Fertilizing Your Monkey Grass

Monkey grass is pretty low-maintenance when it comes to fertilization. “In average to rich soils, additional fertilizer isn’t necessary,” Hancock explains. If your soil is on the poorer side, you may want to add a boost in the spring. A balanced, general-purpose garden fertilizer should be plenty to up its growing potential. Even a good layer of compost will help spruce up your plant according to Popat. “This grass is very low maintenance and looks gorgeous full of life all the time.”

Where to Buy Monkey Grass

While it’s possible to grow Liriope from seed, it’s not that common. “I have not seen seed for sale before,” Hancock explains. “It’s much more common to purchase this ground cover as a plant from your local garden center, especially if you want to grow a particular variety (some varieties have attractively variegated foliage; some have white flowers instead of purple; etc.),” Monkey grass is an especially versatile plant, and according to Chad Husby, PhD., and chief explorer at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, one of the few types of plants that can be grown in cold temperate areas. It can be grown in USDA hardiness zone six through zone 10. “However, monkey grass looks best in warmer climates of zone eight or above,” he says. “In colder areas, it does not look as good during the winter and some types will not tolerate cold.”

Depending on your point of view, you will either consider monkey grass a lovely ground cover or an unwanted weed. If the latter is more of your mindset, these tips for controlling monkey grass will help you get rid of your unwelcome garden visitor.How to plant monkey grass

Check Craig’s list free advertisements on most weekends in the summer here in NC and you will see ads for free monkey grass plants touting the words “all you have to do it dig it up yourself.”

There is a reason for these ads. It is the way clever gardeners keep their liriope plants under control without having to do it themselves!

What is Monkey Grass?

Liriope, commonly known as “monkey grass” or “creeping lilyturf” is a grass like plant from Asia which is often used as a ground cover or border plant.

Oddly enough, in spite of the common names, it is neither a grass or a lily. It is a member of the family Asparagaceae. Given the right conditions, monkey grass will grow aggressively and can take over a border in no time at all.How to plant monkey grass

I have monkey grass in several areas of my garden, but I have to keep an eye on it, or it will spread everywhere. The perennial plant spreads by means of runners which are easy to transplant to other areas of the garden.

Did you start out with a nice border of liriope and found that it has started to invade your lawn or garden beds? Do you often find yourself asking “how can I get rid of this darned stuff?

Never fear, you are not alone. Many gardeners feel the same way.

Unfortunately, if left untended, monkey grass can be quite difficult to remove since if forms dense clumps that seem to go on forever. The following tips will help you get rid of or control monkey grass in your yard.

Controlling Monkey Grass

There is no “one way fits all” method of getting rid of monkey grass. A lot depends on how early you get to the job and how entrenched it is in your yard or lawn.

Start Early and Stay on Top of the Job.

If you are only trying to keep the liriope under control but want to allow some to stay in the yard, you’ll need to be vigilant. The plant sends out runners all during the growing season. When you see them starting to grow out into the lawn or garden bed, remove the runners.How to plant monkey grass

It is much easier to keep it tidy than to have to dig up a whole garden bed that’s been taken over.How to plant monkey grass


If you let monkey grass grow un-managed, you will have a job getting rid of it!

I know you were looking for an easy answer but the best remedy involves some real work – digging. If you have tried just pulling up the runners, you will know that they break off easily.

Digging the monkey grass will get the roots and will keep the spreading nature under control.How to plant monkey grass

Use a spade or shovel to dig down around the liriope. Till the area around the removed plants and over the ground with plastic or newspaper to help choke out further growth.

This takes patience, since you may need to repeat this process for several months if you want to get it all.


Since the plant spreads by means of underground runners, adding barriers is a good practice for controlling monkey grass. The barriers must go down into the soil quite a way – 12-18″ is a good size.

If you use barriers that are too shallow, the plant will simple go under them and come back up on the other side.How to plant monkey grass

The barriers do not need to be plastic. Other ideas are trenches, landscaping fabric, plastic sheeting, or channels dug near the plant

Containing it

Controlling monkey grass when you want to use it as a border is easy if you think ahead when you plant it. Did you know that you can control it in your garden and still have the lovely border that you want by simply planting it in containers in the first place?

Instead of planting the liriope directly into the soil, sink the plant pots side by side and mulch over them.

The look will be the same, but the plant won’t be able to send out underground runners and you won’t have it invading nearby garden spaces. You’ll have a lovely border without the hassle of having to keep removing spreading monkey grass babies!

Note on this method. The plants will eventually become pot bound and will need to be removed and divided. You an either use the extra plants in other areas of the garden, give them away or add them to the compost pile. How to plant monkey grass

Know your types of Liriope!

Some types of liriope are fairly easy to keep under control. I have Liriope muscari and a variegated liriope called Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’.

Both of these are a gentle clumping type of monkey grass. They can be controlled easily by digging and manually removing the unwanted plants and roots.

If you love the plant and want to grow it, the variegated variety is much slower growing and far less invasive. I have had some for 4 or 5 years and it comes back every year but barely spreads.
How to plant monkey grass

Other types of liriope, particularly liriope spicata, are much more aggressive, making digging and tilling very difficult. If you have this variety planted you will be in for a shock when you start to dig it out.

How to plant monkey grass

When you consider the effort that goes into controlling monkey grass, you can see why it’s either loved or hated by gardeners. Which category do you fall into?