Liriope (monkey grass) is a very common landscape plant all across the US. It is generally used as an accent plant or a border plant, but many times is used in a mass planting under trees or on hillsides that are difficult to maintain.
It’s very important to choose the right variety for each purpose because different varieties have different growth habits. The picture below shows a variety of Mondo grass that the homeowner planted in a strip along the driveway and sidewalk maybe 15 years ago. Now it has grown out from the concrete 6 to 10 feet in places. They thought it would stay in a clump.
This Liriope is commonly called Mondo grass,Ophiopogon japonicus. There is another variety closely related to this one that is Dwarf Mondo. Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nanus’
These liriopes are dark green in color, no variegation and are hardy in zones 6-11.
These are best suited in locations where their crawling growth habit is not a problem. Remember that they spread by sending out an underground shoot, or rhizome, which will surface a few inches away starting a new plant and new roots.
As you can tell by these pictures, they will take over a lawn choking out the original turfgrass. This section of mondo grass is so thick that weeds will barely grow in it. If you have an area on a hill, under trees or any area where regular turf grass won’t grow, but you don’t want to have shrubs in those areas, this may be a good choice.
The regular mondo grass will grow to a height of approximately 8″ to 10″. The dwarf variety will only reach 2″ to 3″. The two can be used in closely related areas of the landscape for a contrast in size and texture.
This type of mass planting can be an inexpensive way to cover up wide areas of a landscape to reduce maintenance and mulching expenses later as the landscape matures. Once the bed grows in full, weeds are not much of a problem. Keep the area fertilized and weed control granules applied during the grow-in period. You can find more information on weed control in the beds on our website here.
One of the most commonly used liriopes is “variegated Lilly turf” or Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’. It is a variety that will stay in it’s assigned space when planted and will not crawl. It also has a pretty purple/blue bloom that is a bonus throughout the Summer.
This variety is commonly used as a border plant, lined up along the edge of the landscape bed, often running alongside a driveway, walkway or other hardscapes. It can also be used in the middle of a landscape as an accent plant. It will not crawl but will get larger and thicker as it matures. It can be used as a mass planting however, large landscape beds look very nice when an evenly spaced planting of variegated liriope is planted over a hillside, slope or other areas that require reduced maintenance.
There are hundreds of varieties of liriope available from growers across the United States, many can be ordered online and will arrive in a box with moist paper wrapped around it. The plants will be smaller, maybe plug size up to 2 to 4 inch containers, depending on the grower. These can be purchased for anywhere from .20 cents to $1 each, again, depending on the size.
Compare that to $6 to $8 dollars a pot for a mature 1 gallon pot, you can save yourself thousands on larger landscape projects where as many as hundreds of pots, or even thousands, could be needed.
We often say that if you have more patience than money, buy small and keep them fertilized, watered, mulched and weeded, and you will have a full bed within a couple of years. If you are impatient and have the money, by all means, write the check and plant the big plant!
The Black Mondo Grass in the picture to left, is an interesting choice as it’s not used as often and can provide a striking contrast in color and texture for a change.
In addition to the look of the plant, as you choose what color, height and spread of the plant, also look at the rest of the horticulture information on the plants you are buying. Just because the plant is only 4″ tall right now doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way, or that it will stay in it’s planted spot.
Many times a year we receive calls from customers who have let their landscapes get out of control from lack of pruning, or just simply planting the wrong plant in the wrong location.
Average homeowners don’t have a lot of landscaping knowledge and often choose a plant based on simply what it looks like in the nursery or garden center, and not based on its horticultural specifications. We routinely cut out, pull out or otherwise remove overgrown plants that were poorly chosen. In the long run, this was wasted money.
Try to resist impulse buying while in the garden center, if something catches your eye and you would like to have it, think about where it will grow best in your landscape based on its size, growth habit, mature height and spread, color, foliage habits, sun requirements, and even water requirements.
If you’re not sure if it will work or not, you might want to go home and look at the location and consider all of the possibilities of having that plant, in that location. Choosing the wrong plant can come back to haunt you later.
For more information about lawn care and landscaping tips, check our website. For a free landscaping estimate or lawn care analysis and estimate, give our office a call at 731.642.2876 or at 888.664.LAWN