Sunday, September 12, 2010

I can live with it or without it

Working at, and delivering for, a wholesale nursery, I see A LOT of plants on any given day. There are many plants that really don't bother me or I have no problems with. Things like Camellias, Ligustrum, Viburnum and such. Then there are the things that if I never see or deliver again, it would not hurt my feelings what so ever. This list includes, Barberry, Yuccas, Needlepoint Hollies and Crape Myrtles. I just don't like Crapes, the others are dangerous! They can and will inflict harm.
The plant I wanted to write about today, I literally can live with or without. It posses no harm, actually it is really easy to deliver. It doesn't do anything exciting. It is just kind of there. It is Liriope muscari, or just Liriope.
I have learned, there are two accepted ways to pronounce this. The first, and the one I prefer is, La-rye-ah-pee. The other perfectly acceptable way is, Leer-e-ohp. I heard the second way on a garden show here in South Carolina and thought the host was an idiot. I asked my boss about it and he told me both are used. I still think the host of that show is an idiot, for other reasons, but that is another story.
Liriope is a native of the shady forest floors of Eastern Asia including regions in China, Taiwan and Japan. In it's native region it is considered an understory plant, occurring in the shady forests at elevations of 330 to 4600 feet. It might be considered an understory plant, but it is extremely tough. Liriope is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Ideal conditions are moist, fertile soils with partial shade. However, it tolerates a wide range of light and soil conditions, such as heat, humidity, and drought. The perfect plant for the Southeast. If it does happen to turn a little yellow, a quick shot of a Nitrogen rich fertilizer will perk it right back up.
It goes by other names which include 'lilyturf' or 'border grass'. Each of these names makes sense because it is a member of the Lily family and it is used quite extensively as a border for sidewalks and such.
Many people mistakenly call Liriope "Monkey Grass", this name is actually used more for Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus). Both Mondo grass and Liriope are hardy, deer resistant plants that withstand dry conditions and can grow in both sun and shade, but that is pretty much where the similarities end. The leaves of Monkey grass are narrower, its flowers are smaller and hidden by the leaves. Liriope typically handles full sun better than Mondo grass and is more cold tolerant. Liriope plants are fuller and taller than Mondo plants, reaching an average height of 16-20 inches. Mondo grass typically reaches a height of 6 to 10 inches. The flower colors are also different. While Mondo flowers are typically white or light purple in color, Liriope produce spikes of violet or blue flowers that appear each Summer.
                                           LIRIOPE 'BIG BLUE'

                                           MONDO GRASS

Liriope is very easy to propagate. Divide clumps into whatever size you like from a few leaves to large chunks, as long as there is some roots attached. Liriope transplants easily at any time of year. The blue-black berries are not easily germinated, so divisions are easier and quicker. You may not even need to go out and buy any, check with one of your neighbors, they may have some that they can divide and give you.
Landscape uses for Liriope include borders (along sidewalks, trails, driveways, shrubbery, and trees) and mass plantings as a groundcover. Lilyturf can be established on steep slopes where erosion control is needed. The maintenance that is required is minimal. You should cut off the foliage in late Winter, though it is not a necessity, before Spring growth starts. Be sure not to injure the crown of the plant when you cut it. It will come back, full, green and lush when the new growth begins.
The only real problem Liriope has is brown spots that appear along leaf margins and leaf tips which are caused by a fungal disease known as Anthracnose. If you cut the foliage off like I mentioned above, you should not get this problem. Just make sure you remove the debris when you are finished. Root Rot has been reported, but that is in very clay like soil with no drainage, Liriope does not like wet feet.
So as you can see, it is not an overly exciting plant. There is no real wildlife uses and other than some landscaping structures, it is just kind of there, hanging out. I think some of the cultivar names were used to try and create some excitement for this lonely plant.....things like Evergreen Giant and Big Blue sound great, but sadly, they just don't deliver.
Happy Growing!


  1. Great article on an overutilized but important plant. I use it a lot in my garden for the simple reasons that my dog can't kill it, the dark green foliage is a great foil, and the spreading kind is easy to use as a quick and durable groundcover. There are more exciting plants, but when filling a large area, its important the the groundcover doesn't die en masse. By they way, mine have tolerated flooding, with the crowns right above the water line. I planted them in a seasonally flooded area of the yard, with only half the rootball buried, and mounded soil around the edges.

  2. Great post Darren. I'm not crazy about Lirope either...of course, it won't stand the Kansas sunshine I'd give it anyway. And Mondo grass just won't make it here at all.

  3. I think I have this in my yard. I am trying to identify plants planted by the previous owner of our home. I really don't know what to do because she planted so many things around the house yet there is not proper landscape, just random flowers and they are multiplying out into the grass. Any suggestions for this kind of matter (I am a new to both flower and veggie gardening) :) Thank you so much for your posts. They are helpful!

  4. 4csonswife,
    Thank You for the kind words.
    I would love to help ID some of your plants if I can and help you get rid of the ones you don't want.
    Please drop me a line at
    You can send me some pictures of what you don't know what it is.