How To Grow Monkey Grass The Excellent Border Grass

Ophiopogon japonicus (off-ee-uh-POE-gun juh-PON-ih-kus) also known as Monkey Grass is a member of the Asparagaceae family. 

This perennial groundcover hails from eastern Asia but has naturalized on continents all over the world.

monkey grass border along a rock walkwayPin

There are several types of Monkey Grass is available in several different species and known by several common names, including:

  • Dwarf Mondo Grass
  • Monkey Grass
  • Lilyturf
  • Liriope

Monkey Grass Care

Liriope muscari is one type of Monkey Grass often used as a ground cover, in garden beds, and as a border. 

It has pretty white or purple blooms.

Size & Growth

Dwarf Mondo Grass grows in a clumping form between 6″ inches and a foot high. 

The “grass” blades are usually under half an inch wide. 

Even though the common names of the plant imply it is a grass, this is untrue.

Flowering & Fragrance

The various types of Lilyturf produce billowing flowers in shades of white, pink, lavender, and purple throughout the late summer and into the autumn months.

The flowers are abundant, fragrant, and attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. 

In autumn, they transition into dark blue or black berries.

Light & Temperature

This adaptable plant does well in full shade to full sun. 

The foliage colors will be darker with less sun. 

Dwarf Mondo Grass is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 7-11.

Watering & Feeding

Monkey Grass is drought tolerant; however, you should water mature plants deeply, occasionally for best results. 

Immediately after planting, water very regularly for a couple of weeks to give the plants the best chance at establishing themselves.

Fertilize once a year in early spring or late autumn, using a 10-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of one pound per hundred square feet. 

Water thoroughly after application to prevent foliage burn and help soak the fertilizer into the soil.

Soil & Transplanting

This highly adaptable plant does well in all sorts of soil, but it will thrive in light, well-draining soil with lots of organic material incorporated.

For best results, prepare the soil by tilling to a depth of 8″ – 10″ inches, early in the springtime or in the early autumn. 

Work in 2″ or 3″ inches of organic matter, along with a dose of balanced fertilizer.

Place individual plants in pre-dug holes about 1.5 times as wide as their root balls. 

Backfill, tamp the soil, and water the new plants in.

Grooming & Maintenance

Once established, cut or mowed it all the way down to the ground annually in the early spring. This will promote fresh, new growth.

Give the plants a fresh layer of mulch 2″ or 3″ inches deep every spring to discourage weed growth, conserve moisture, and help feed the plants.

Hand pull any weeds emerging.

Keep an eye out for discolored leaves throughout the growing season. 

If you see leaves with reddish spots, clip them off immediately as they may have the fungal disease, anthracnose.

Divide your plants annually. Regular division will help prevent overcrowding, which can lead to fungal diseases.

How To Propagate Monkey Grass Plants

Propagate Lilyturf through division by digging up whole clumps and separating them with a sharp, clean blade. 

Each division should have healthy roots and eight or ten blades.

Replant half in the original setting with nourishing soil amendments. 

Plant the other half in a new setting or share with fellow gardeners.

NOTE: Monkey Grass seeds are available but take a lot more time.

Monkey Grass Pest or Diseases

If overcrowded or overwatered, Dwarf Mondo Grass may be subject to outbreaks of anthracnose. 

This is treated with any fungicide containing azoxystrobin.

Is Monkey Grass Toxic Or Poisonous?

The berries may be mildly toxic if consumed.

Is The Plant Invasive?

All Monkey Grass spreads well. Some species have invasive potential, and some are actually considered invasive. 

No matter which type you have, keep it under control. 

Enthusiastically spreading plants can always adapt, naturalize, and eventually become invasive.

Suggested Monkey Grass Uses

Monkey Grass is a great ground cover and can actually take quite a bit of foot traffic. 

It is also a very versatile garden plant used as a border edging plant, a bedding plant, or even a container plant.

Rugged Liriope spicata, which spreads rapidly and is quite invasive, is put to good use holding poor soil in place on steep slopes.

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