Liriope, also known as lilyturf or monkey grass, is an herbaceous flowering perennial native to East and Southeast Asia.
It grows long, pointy green leaves and purple flower spikes, making it a popular ground cover choice, which most gardeners utilize to help prevent soil erosion, control weeds and as an edging plant. Liriope is low on maintenance, drought, and deer-resistant and thrives in almost all soil types.
Though several cultivars exist in the liriope genus, Liriope spicata and Liriope muscari are the two widely cultivated, especially in the US.
- L. spicata—It’s also referred to as creeping lilyturf or monkey grass, often grown as low-border grass.
- L. muscari—It’s large and clumpy; used for edging in gardens.
Frequently Asked Questions Gardeners Want to Know About Liriope
Here are the questions many gardeners ask about monkey grass.
Is liriope a perennial or an annual?
Liriope is a perennial. Once established, the turf spreads slowly, forming a carpet of green arched blades 6-12 inches tall, which you’ll only need to cut back once a year.
What is the difference between liriope and mondo grass?
While both are grass-like evergreen perennials; utilized pretty much for the same landscaping functions, a few things set them apart. Liriope is taller, upright, and has straight blades, while mondo grass is droopy and has narrower blades.
When liriope blooms, you’ll see its showy flowers above the grass blades, but for mondo grass, the flowers are hidden within the edges.
Does liriope like sun or shade?
Liriope thrives in a part-shade location but can tolerate full sun and almost complete shade areas.
Where should liriope be planted?
Plant liriope in well-draining soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0.
How far apart should liriope be planted?
Your planting distance will depend on how fast you want the plants to spread and cover the area and, of course, your budget.
But generally, the spacing should be between 8-12 inches.
How much liriope do I need?
If you plant at an 8-inch spacing, you’ll require two plants per square foot.
How long does it take liriope to grow?
It takes both L. spicata and L. muscari one growing season to strike their maturity size; 24 inches wide and 18 inches tall. Adding fertilizer boosts foliage growth rate.
How do you get liriope to bloom?
Mowing down your liriope plants in late winter—before the onset of new spring growth—is the easiest and surest way to get abundant and healthy blooms in the growing season.
Just ensure you keep off the plant’s crown by not setting the mower too low (close to the ground).
Pruning aside, there are a few factors that can hinder your liriope’s blooming process—that is, intense shade, extreme temperatures (very chilly winters or burning summers), inadequate watering, poor soil drainage (leading to soggy soils), too much nitrogen, and nutrient deficiency.
Try amending the soil, changing the type of fertilizer you use, or revising your watering routine as per the plant’s needs.
Does liriope come back every year?
In climates with cooler winter, liriope goes dormant in fall. However, it grows as an evergreen in warm climates with milder winters.
Should liriope be cut back?
Cutting liriope (using a weed whacker) at least once a year –preferably in the fall—helps keep it neat and spur new growth.
How do you care for liriope (monkey grass)?
Since it’s a hardy grower, liriope won’t need much care once established.
A few quick care tips include:
- Watering adequately—As the plant grows, water only a few times a week rather than daily, so the soil doesn’t become boggy.
Once established, cut back the watering to once a week.
- Pruning—These grass-like perennials can be pretty invasive. So, consider mowing it back or shearing the foliage to the ground in early spring or late winter before new growth begins—to keep the plant neat and manageable.
Also, remove the withered foliage flower stems once blooming is over.
- Fertilize once in early spring with organic plant food or a 10-10-10 (N-P-K) slow-release shrub-and-tree fertilizer—to promote growth and spread.
- Monitor for diseases—Reddish-brown spots on the plant’s leaves signify anthracnose. Kick the fungi off simply by pruning.
Leaf and crown rot may also show up by yellowing the inner foliage. Remove any affected plants to prevent disease spread.
- Winterize—Liriope loves moderately warm daytime temperatures (68-750F)—the reason they thrive in warmer climates as evergreens.
However, for colder USDA zones, consider offering some protection. Mulch the plants’ root structure to help shield it against the low temperatures.
What grows well with liriope?
Geranium, blue fescue, Lamium, hostas, anemones, and sedge are just a few of the excellent liriope companion plants to consider when looking to enhance the aesthetics of your garden.
Lamium, specifically, is ideal for when you need a touch of silver in your liriope bed. Add it to the border.
How do you plant liriope as ground cover?
You can decide to either grow liriope from seeds or via plant division.
Division is more manageable and is best done after the third growing season.
Having decided on the new spot for the transplantation, use a sharp sterilized knife to cut through a healthy clump’s root ball, dividing it into as many sections as you need. Ensure each part has some root.
Transplant to your desired location. Be careful not to bury the root’s crown with soil as it may rot upon watering, thereby killing the plant.
Growing Liriope From Seed
Plant seeds about eight weeks before your area’s projected last frost date.
- Begin by soaking the berries for 24 hours. Remove any clinging pulp from the seed.
- Prepare seeds with a mild bleach solution to avoid mold or mildew formation during germination. Louisiana State University Agricultural Extension Center suggests a 1:5 ratio of bleach to the water. Agitate the seeds in the solution for one minute; Prince in cold water for five minutes to remove the treatment. Let them air dry on clean paper towels if you don’t plant immediately.
- Plant the seeds quarter an inch deep in the ground or in a sterilized seed starter pot, keeping the soil evenly moist until germination.
You will see germination in about one to two weeks.
- Transplant to a larger pot or outdoors once the seedling is an inch tall.
How to Plant Monkey Grass
Though very low on maintenance needs, the preparation of your monkey grass bed is essential.
Adding adequate amounts of organic materials like compost helps start the turf out strongly, plus it saves you the need for any future fertilization.
All you’ll be doing is simply cutting the winter-damage growth in early May, then the grass self-fills back in for another season.
The Takeaway: By Any Name, Monkey Grass Is A Beautiful Addition As Ground Cover or a Border Plant.
Care for it or neglect it. It will still survive! Monkey grass is a carefree plant that will fill in gaps in your garden or serve as a ground cover. It’s so easygoing that even beginner gardeners report great success with growing liriope.