Dwarf mondo grass lawn

Mondo Grass

Mondo grass, also known as monkey grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), is an evergreen, sod-forming perennial. The scientific name is derived from ophis = snake, and pogon = beard, most probably referring to the flower spike.

Description

Mondo grass on a steep bank in late winter.
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Plants are tufted, grass-like and 8 to 16 inches high. The ½-inch leaves are dark green and fine to medium in texture. They are erect to arching, smooth and grass-like. The flowers are usually white or white tinged with lilac. Flowering and fruiting occur from July through September.

Mondo grass is quite often confused with liriope (Liriope muscari). However, the leaves of mondo grass are more narrow than those of liriope, the smaller flowers are hidden by the leaves, the fruits are blue compared to the black fruits of liriope and mondo grass is less cold hardy.

Landscape Use

Mondo grass is primarily used as groundcover. It is also attractive as a border along paths, between stepping stones or flowerbed and lawn, or in rock gardens. It grows well along streams and around garden ponds. Mondo grass competes well with the roots of other plants. Under trees or shrubs it makes an excellent shade-tolerant lawn that never needs mowing.

Cultivation

Mondo grass grows well in ordinary garden soil, requiring minimum attention once established. Plants thrive in filtered sun to full shade and prefer moist soil. The foliage is usually light green when plants are grown in filtered sun. Plants growing in the shade have dark green leaves.

Propagate by dividing large clumps. Be sure to include as many roots as possible and eight to 10 leaves on each section for planting. The plants are easily established and require little effort. The plants do not need heavy feeding. Mondo grass looks attractive year-round. However, the leaves may become ragged by late winter. Shear back the shaggy old leaves in early spring before new growth starts.

Cultivars

  • The cultivars ‘Aureovariegatus,’ ‘Variegatus’ and ‘Vittatus’ have longitudinally striped leaves with white or yellow and green stripes. The variable variegated foliage usually makes it difficult to distinguish one cultivar from another.
  • The cultivar ‘Caeruleus’ has dark green leaves like the parent species and violet blue flowers.
  • ‘Kioto’ or dwarf mondo grass grows only to about 4 inches high. Flowers are small, 2 to 3 millimeters long and light lilac to white.
  • ‘Nippon’ is very small (2 to 4 inches tall) and has whitish flowers in the summer.
  • ‘Gyoko-ryu’ is even shorter and more compact than ‘Nippon.’

A dwarf mondo grass used as a dense groundcover.
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Related Species

Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus) is an interesting introduction from England. The dark purple leaves appear almost black. The plants are about 6 inches tall. In South Carolina, black mondo grass should be planted in partial shade. Cultivars ‘Nigrescens’ and ‘Ebony Knight’ do not differ very much.

O. jaburan is coarser than O. japonicus, with light purple to white flowers. Plants grow 15 to 18 inches tall but are not as good a groundcover as O. japonicus.

Problems

A fungal disease known as anthracnose is the most common problem. Remove infected leaves and/or apply a recommended fungicide.

Mondo grass

Mondo Grass

An easy-to-grow, attractive groundcover, mondo grass makes a great turf alternative. This grass-like foliage forms dense tufts that slowly spread over time and require no mowing. On top of its crisp foliage, small stalks of flowers appear in summer, reminiscent of grape hyacinths. Mondo grass can also make a minimalist statement as a container plant indoors or out.

genus name
  • Ophiopogon
light
  • Part Sun,
  • Shade,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Perennial
height
  • Under 6 inches,
  • 6 to 12 inches,
  • 1 to 3 feet
width
  • To 1 foot wide
flower color
  • White,
  • Pink
foliage color
  • Blue/Green,
  • Purple/Burgundy
season features
  • Summer Bloom
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant,
  • Groundcover,
  • Slope/Erosion Control
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers
zones
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9,
  • 10
propagation
  • Division,
  • Seed

Garden Plans For Mondo grass

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Shady Situation

In many instances, shade gardens can be tricky to plant, especially when it comes to turf grass. With something as low maintenance as mondo grass, you can have a shady lawn—with no mowing needed! Mondo grass has no problem growing in those deep shady spots under large tree canopies, even between gnarly roots and rocks. They are rugged enough to grow under black walnut trees and won’t be deterred by their pesky poison. However, if you are planting black foliage varieties of mondo, they will need some sun or the plants will be mostly green in full shade. In the densest shade, you might not see many blooms. Typically, mondo grass blooms in the summer, and short spikes of pale pink or white blooms are typically held just above (or sometimes in) the foliage of the plants. After the blooms fade, you may also see glossy dark purple to almost black berries.

Mondo Grass Care Must-Knows

Despite what the name might imply, mondo grass isn’t actually a grass. It is in the lily family, as the dainty flowers that are born in the summer suggest. The plants are very slow growing and spread indefinitely by stolons, or horizontal stems that are just below the soil surface. Mondo grass also has tuberous roots that allow them to store water and nutrients. This makes it easy to divide plants and establish new plantings. It is best to plant mondo grass in rich, fertile soil for the most vigorous growth.

When it comes to exposure, mondo grass is not too picky. The most common green varieties can take pretty much anything from full sun to full shade. Leaf coloring may vary slightly depending on the exposure, including light green to deep emerald. Full sun is essential for the deep black-leaved varieties. The more shade, the more green the black will become. Foliage of mondo grass is also evergreen in warmer climates. In cooler climates, there may be some dieback of the leaves, but this can easily be sheared back in early spring before new growth begins.

One of the main drawbacks of mondo grass is that they are not very drought tolerant. Once established, colonies can take some drying out, but ideally will have consistent moisture without being in standing water. See more great groundcover plants.

Container Companions

Typically, mondo grass is used in a landscape setting. However, because of its slow growth rate and small size, mondo grass is an ideal plant for container use. Especially with the increasing popularity of miniature and fairy gardens, as well as terrariums, mondo grass is perfectly suited for these situations and pairs well with many other plants.

More Varieties of Mondo Grass

Dwarf Mondo Grass

Ophiopogon japonicus grows to 1 foot tall with linear green leaves. Spikes of pale whitish-lilac flowers nestle among the foliage. This tough plant makes a fine edging. Zones 7-10

‘Nigrescens’ Mondo Grass

Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ has tufts of strappy dark purple leaves about 6 inches tall. Spikes of lilac-pink flowers resembling grape hyacinth rise on stiff stems in summer. Zones 6-11

Plant Mondo Grass With:

These vigorous growers are beautiful additions to the garden. They vary from tall, stately plants suitable for borders to others that can be planted as creeping groundcovers. Flowers, too, vary from tight spikes of 1/2-inch to 1-inch cups carried alone or in whorls. Humus-rich, moisture-retentive soil is recommended; some varieties enjoy wet soil and ample water. Several sorts may become invasive and need to be corralled. Note: These are not the invasive purple loosestrife, which has been banned in many parts of the United States.

One of the most elegant ferns available for your garden, Japanese painted ferns are washed with gorgeous silver and burgundy markings. Lady fern is equally elegant though not quite as showy. Either will add interest and texture to your shady spots. Closely related to each other, Japanese painted fern and lady fern are sometimes crossed with each other to create attractive hybrids. Unlike most ferns, these toughies will tolerate dry soil. And they will tolerate some sun if they have ample water.

Astilbe brings a graceful, feathery note to moist, shady landscapes. In cooler climates in the northern third or so of the country, it can tolerate full sun provided it has a constant supply of moisture. In drier sites, however, the leaves will scorch in full sun. Feathery plumes of white, pink, lavender, or red flowers rise above the finely divided foliage from early to late summer depending on the variety. It will spread slowly over time where well-situated. Most commercially available types are complex hybrids.

Complete Guide to Mondo Grass: How to Grow & Care for it

Mondo grass is ideal for your garden. This grass variety is robust, hardy, and handles all types of weather conditions. All the grass needs to survive is water, and it’s resilient to pests like deer. You don’t have to worry about planting mondo grass in a shady area, as the roots spread rapidly and do find in shady areas of the garden.

Mondo grass doesn’t require much maintenance, and you can expect it to thrive all-year-round in ideal conditions. Use mondo grass to line flowerbeds, providing your garden with an additional dimension and landscaped look.

Varieties of Mondo Grass

Three primary types of mondo grass do well in your garden. Before you head out to the nursery and start planting in your garden, read through the characteristics of the three varieties to understand which type of mondo grass will suit your application.

Black Mondo Grass

This mondo grass provides your garden with aesthetic appeal that your guests will notice. This grass has a darker hue than the traditional bright or light-green colors you see on your lawn.

This variety is slow-growing, as it branches out from stolons under the ground’s surface. Black mondo grass does well in sunny areas of the garden, but it also grows in shadier parts of the yard as well.

Black Mondo Grass, Image from PlantingTree

This variety is thirsty, and you’ll need to frequently water the grass to maintain its growth. The dark leaves of black mondo grass make it appealing as an addition to flowerbeds, and it grows to a length of 10-inches tall, and flowers in the summer months.

As the grass grows, it has a light green color that fades to black as the growing season progresses. This variety of mondo grass is resilient to the cold and will last through the winter without any issues.

This specialized mondo grass only grows to heights of two to four inches. The leaves are slender, and the plant has a petite look that makes it attractive for use as ground cover in your flowerbeds. Dwarf mondo grass is resistant to cold weather and pests as well.

Dwarf Mondo Grass, Image from Home Depot

Ophiopogon Japonicus

This variety is the most common type of mondo grass found in gardens across America. Ophiopogon Japonicus reaches an average height of six to 10-inches, but some grasses may grow as tall as 12-inches under the right conditions.

These plants grow wide, and you can expect it to have a circumference of up to 15-inches. This variety is also very resilient to weather and pests, and it does very well in shady areas of the garden.

Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)

Growing Conditions for Mondo Grass

Mondo grass is every gardener’s dream. The plants require very little maintenance, and this characteristic makes them ideal for growing in hard-to-reach areas of the yard, such as slopes. The plants also do well in the shade of trees, and they continue to grow well, even without direct sunlight.

Mondo grass grows best in USDA zones 7 – 11. The hardy nature of the grass provides it with excellent drought resistance, making it an ideal option for those gardeners that are currently working with water restrictions.

Caring for Your Mondo Grass

Mondo grass doesn’t require much attention during the growing season, making it the ideal choice for gardeners that prefer passive-growing plants.

All you need to do to keep this grass looking great is water occasionally during hot weather, and pull weeds from the flowerbeds. Every two or three years, you’ll need to pull up the grass and divide the root clumps.

Growing and Propagating Mondo Grass

Mondo grass is easy to propagate and grow. You can visit your local nursery for seeds, or grow starter plants that already have root systems. The biggest challenge facing any gardener of mondo grass is keeping weeds under control. The best way to keep weeds at bay is to mulch around surrounding plants, or lay straw over the ground to block the sunlight.

It’s best to plant mondo grass in the early springtime after the last frosts finish. It’s also possible to plant later into the growing season, provided that the grass has enough time to establish a robust root system.

Plant your mondo grass anywhere you like. We recommend using it in shady areas of the garden where the ground looks sparse. You can also use dwarf varieties to line flowerbeds, providing your flowers with natural pest protection.

New and Healthy DWARF MONDO GRASS 330 PIPS , EVERGREEN, GROUND COVER,ROCK GARDEN, BORDER.

If you plant your mondo grass in a sunny area of the yard, make sure you water the roots thoroughly to reduce transplant shock. Prepare your flowerbed by digging into the soil for at least 18-inches to loosen the ground.

This strategy improves soil draining and aeration for the plant’s roots. Add in some compost to the ground to accelerate growth. Mondo grass prefers soil that’s slightly acidic for the best growing conditions.

Take note of the depth of the roots in the cell pack before planting, and try to plant your grass at the same height. Plant your grass at least four to six inches apart, with 8 to 10-inches being ideal for spacing between your plants.

Mondo grass doesn’t need much in the way of nutrients to survive, and you can get away with one feeding in the early spring for the first few years. After the grass establishes itself, it won’t need any further fertilizer treatments.

Using Mondo Grass for Lawns

Mondo grass is a very versatile plant. You can use it to liven up your flowerbeds or bring an extra dimension to your garden arrangements. As the grass is very resilient to climate conditions, you can use it on your lawn in sparse areas to cover the gaps. If you live in a desert climate, such as Nevada, then mondo grass is ideal for use as a lawn replacement.

Diseases and Pests Affecting Your Mondo Grass

If you notice that your mondo grass starts to experience discoloration, it could be due to root rot. While mondo grass is resilient to many pests and diseases, leaving the roots in poorly draining soil will cause the onset of root rot in all varieties.

Mondo grass does not like to have its “feet wet,” and the roots will start to perish if they have constant contact with a water source.

Symptoms of root rot – Root rot provides gardeners with telltale signs of the condition. You might notice leaf-tip burn occurring in your plants, turning the blades of grass a yellow or brownish color.

Treating Mondo Grass with Root Rot – You’ll need to use a fungicide to treat root rot effectively. Biological fungicides containing Gliocladium virens strain GL-21 will help to control Pythium splendens responsible for root rot in your plants.

Dilute the fungicide at a ratio of a third of a fluid ounce to a gallon of water. This ration and volume should be enough to treat 10-square feet of plants. Make sure you wait for dry weather and then spray the fungicide solution all over the grass.

Mondo Grass 3” in. pots – 18 Count Tray

You can also help to curb the root rot by mulching fertilizer into the roots of your plants. Compost contains micro-organisms that kill the invading pathogens and restore the roots to normal levels of health.

Work the compost into the ground around the base of the grass to a depth of around 1-inch. You should notice your grass recover slowly over around a month. However, if the disease progresses, you may have to pull the grass. These pathogens also overwinter in the soil affecting any other plants in the nearby ground.

Avoid Overwatering Your Mondo Grass

Root in your mondo grass can occur for a multitude of reasons. However, the most common cause of root rot occurs due to the combination of overwatering and poor drainage in your soil. As mentioned, mondo grass will start to experience root rot if you don’t let the roots dry out properly between watering sessions.

Pest Control

Snails and slugs love feeding on your mondo grass. If they start to attack your plants, you’ll begin to notice signs of the grass dying. The pests chew up the grass, causing wilting in the leaves. However, it’s possible to mitigate the damage by using snail and slug bait available from your local nursery. Snails and slugs love coming out after it rains, so be on the watch for these pests after showers and heavy rains.

After a rainy spell, go through your mondo grass and separate the leaves looking for slugs and snails. Remove any visible slugs and snails before leaving the bait around the base of the plant. You don’t have to worry about the pesticide harming your other plants or the local wildlife. The toxin in the bait is only active with repeat feeding sessions.

The granules of snail bait contain ferric phosphate, which won’t harm your pets or the birds visiting your garden. However, as soon as the snails touch the bait, they stop feeding on your grass. Place the granules of bait around 3-inches apart, and keep checking back over the next couple of days for signs of snails and slugs.

Wrapping Up – Final Thoughts

Mondo grass makes a great alternative to the turf in your garden. This evergreen grass looks fantastic year-round, and it requires minimal effort to maintain a healthy plant. The slow-growing nature of the plant makes it ideal for training and rerouting to other areas of your garden as well.

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Versatile mondo grass

A perfect plant for medium to full shade conditions, Ophiopogon japonicus, also known as mondo grass, is a great filler for containers and beds. It’s a useful groundcover, and is ideal to use bordering paths, in the front of borders, and in rock gardens. Black mondo grass ( Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) doesn’t spread quickly, so it’s better used as a specimen where you can appreciate its unusual color up close.

Colors: Mondo grass has 8- to 12-inch-long strappy dark green leaves; short spikes of lilac flowers aren’t notable. Black mondo grass has green-maturing-to-ebony leaves that reach 14 inches long, and white flowers.

Size: Dense clumps reach 6 to 8 inches high about a foot wide. Mondo grass spreads by underground stems.

Care: Mondo grass likes part to full shade, and regular water. If plants start looking ragged, mow or shear before new growth beings in spring. Divide when clumps become overgrown, and replant divisions 6 to 8 inches apart.

Planting: Plant mondo grass from spring through fall in well-drained soil.

Companions: Plant with ferns, impatiens, liriope, and begonia; black mondo grass is especially showy next to light colored foliage like Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’, blue fescue, and lime or bronze heuchera.

Mondo grass is can an attractive clump of stemless, dark green, grass-like leaves which are sometimes described as miniature bushes. Mondo grass is the perfect groundcover or low rising border because in the summer after a care-free growing cycle, tiny spikes of lilac flowers appear to add even more beauty to the textured, evergreen grass.

Types of Mondo Grass

As this is such a beautiful plant, there are many great garden scenario’s you can utilize it in, especially since there are also many types and colors of the plant which blossom a different kind of flowers and berries. And of course, after this we’re going to talk about just how you can grow your own Mondo Grass.

Probably the most popular kind of Mondo Grass out of the 3, Dwarf Mondo Grass is only half the size of the others which makes it a great ground cover because of the dense, dark green, grass-like clumps it grows into. Excellent for an additionalplant that needs to help compliment a rocky garden display.

Most commonly used for decoration rather than as a complete alternative to your typical garden grass, due to that fact that it does not make for a great surface when a lot of walking has been made onto it as it does not hold its orignal shape well.

However if you’re someone who likes to attend to their to garden for a more decorative approach than someone who uses it on the daily basis, Dwarf Mondo grass, also known as ‘ophiopogon japonicus gyoku ryu‘ makes for the perfect alternative to typical garden grass due to the little care it requires to grow and when it does grow the process it is so slow it will take quite some time till it needs attending to – which may never happen since its full growth is pretty tame anyway so its more about preference.

Much like of the traditional Mondo grass, the Black Mondo Grass features a similar use that it fulfils, used for decorative use rather than for a replacement of the common garden grass. The purple-black grass-like foliage is thick and dense just like its greener cousin, ideally used for covering borders are bare garden scenario’s.

Nicknamed ophiopogon planiscapus black dragon, when the plant has fully blossomed in the summer, the Black Mondo Grass just likethe previous Mondo Grass produces spikey lavenders which are a lot darker than usual After the summer, once all of the flowers have died and dropped off, in fall it produces black mondo grass berries, poisonous to most typical garden wildlife, and we probably shouldn’t eat them either.

Typically, a life span for the ophiopogon planiscapus plant would go something a little like this;

The young leaves would start off with a greenish hue which with time slowly turn into the black/purple color black dragon grass has. The flowers which eventually grow can be pink, pale or white and are followed by fleshy blackberries that can remain on the plant up until winter and then, the process repeats itself in the new year constantly.

Ophiopogan Japonicus is essential Dwarf Mondo Grass except its not a dwarf plant a rather grows to a more fuller, longer length you’d expect from a grass plant. Again just like we’ve discovered from the other Mondo Grass-types, this particular one should be used for decorative purposes to help bring out the beauty in borders and garden paving.

With an average height of 6 to 10 inches, the great thing about this species is that it can grow around about 15 inches per plant which allows this area to remain weed free which drastically reduces the time and effort needed to maintain this particular area of the yard.

On top of this, Ophiopogon Japonicus can be grown in a shaded area, so you will not be constrained by the way the sun may hit your garden depending on the time of day, which makes it a great species of plant for any decorative situation.

How to Grow Mondo Grass?

Now we’ve spoken about the specific species of plant, its time to discuss how you can add this wonderful decorative grass to your garden area of choosing, regardless if you’re looking how to grow black mondo grass specifically or you’re choosing one of the other great alternatives’s, the advice below will help to steer you in the right direction when it comes to adding this beautiful plant to your front or back yard.

You’ll be happy to know, even if you’re not a veteran gardener and you’re just looking for a definitive way to decorate your outdoor space so that you can leave it to prosper for many years with little to no maintenance, then Mondo Grass is specious of plant you’ve been looking for.

All you have to do is purchase seeds from your local store, or to make things even easier grab some pre-grown plants instead to speed up the process if you’re wanting to of a decorative garden today.

Your biggest task is ensuring weeds don’t overtake this area before the Mondo Grass gets to fully grow, so general garden maintenance will help to combat this common issue; I’d refrain from using chemical based detergents on any weeds that grow since it could negatively impact the growth of your Mondo Grass so taking out the weeds by hand will be your best solution.

Here is some further advice on how and when to plant your Mondo grass seeds/plants as well as ways of allowing them to grow:

Best Time To Plant: We recommend you plant your Mondo Grass, whatever the species, in the early spring following the last winter. However, you can plant later in this season if you must but ensure you’re giving your plants enough time to establish itself in the plot before frost sets in.

The Location: Ideally, you’ll want this plant to be in partial view of the sun with most of its being guarded by the shade, however, Mondo Grass is able to tolerate full sun if you have no other choice. But just like with any plant, make sure you”re watering thoroughly so it doesn’t dry up. Mix the plant in with 2 to 3 inches of compost to ensure good growing conditions so you are able to get the best results from your plant(s)

Which Soil To Use: Simple, planting it in a slightly acidic soil is best for Mondo Grass and will also allow it to achieve the best results for your garden.

Plant Depth: Now, this only applies to those of you who have or are looking to buy pre-planted Mondo Grass, ensure that you replicate its growing depth like it was in its original planter so you do not mess with the growing process or you will affect how well or if the Mondo Grass will grow.

Plant Spacing: For multiple plants, which we recommend using in most cases if you’re not mixing in other plant species is by planting Mondo Grass 3-4 inches apart which will give you full coverage, for a more cleaner look we recommend 6-8 inches in most cases.

Feeding: Lastly, once you’ve gotten everything in place, its time to help your plants growth with some light diluted organic fertilizer which should be used every spring for the first couple of years, no need to overdo it.

Does Mondo Grass Spread?

Another thing to consider is the spreading of your plant since you’ll need to know how well you should space them apart so that they can properly spread and you can utilize their growth to its full potential. Now we’ve discussed this previously in the list above but we’d like to address these questions separately in a little more depth.

Mondo Grass, with the non-inclusion of the Dwarf specious, it usually takes around a year or two to fully mature to its mature spread of 1 foot wide. In the case of Dwarf Mondo Grass, it takes it around about 2 to 3 years of a healthy life span to reach its maximum spread potential of 3 to 4 inches.

So in short, yes it does spread with proper care and good growing conditions, which affects how wide your grass is going to spread, as a positive this can be used to your advantage if you’re looking to grow it in a specific space in your garden so using things like borders to ‘trap’ the plant in a space will help you to achieve this effect.

© aon_skynotlimit – stock.adobe.com

If you’re looking for an eye-catching species to use as a border, lawn alternative, or specimen plant, mondo grass is an excellent candidate. Also known as monkey grass or lilyturf, this plant’s lush profusion of grass-like leaves, as well as its graceful flowers and colorful berries make it popular for a variety of uses.

Easy to propagate and tolerant of a wide range of conditions, it’s a good choice for beginning gardeners. There are several types of mondo grass, so before you buy, spend some time getting to know which one will give you the results you want.

Mondo Grass Basics

© jpldesigns – stock.adobe.com

The term “mondo grass” refers to several species of evergreen perennial groundcovers native to Southeast Asia. Although they look like grasses, they’re actually members of the lily family (Liliaceae) or, in some more recent classifications, members of the asparagus family (Asparagaceae). The plant grows in clumps and spreads by sending out underground stolons (runners) and rhizomes (tuberous roots), but you can also propagate it by division.

Mondo grass (Ophiopogon genus) is often confused with Liriope (Liriope genus) because plants in the two groups are so similar in appearance and growth habits. The common names “monkey grass” and “lilyturf” are used for plants in both genera. To make sure you get the plant you want, always check the Latin botanical name. Three types of mondo grass are commonly available.

Mondo grass (Ophiopogon Japonicus) – The standard and most common mondo grass variety, this plant averages around 6 to 10 inches high and can reach 15 inches across. In summer, stalks of tiny, bell-shaped lavender flowers rise from its deep green leaves and produce a faint, sweet scent. The flowers are followed by cobalt blue berries. This plant does well in USDA zones 7 to 10 and is cold hardy down to -10 degrees. Even in near-freezing weather, its leaves stay green. While it can survive milder winters in zone 6, it won’t make it through colder ones.

Dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon Japonicus ‘Nanus’) – This small variety grows between 4 to 6 inches tall and around 8 inches wide. It puts out white or lavender flowers and blue berries. Beyond its size and flower color, it’s otherwise similar to standard mondo grass.

Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) – Although it’s a different species from standard mondo grass, this plant has similar growth habits and care requirements. It’s best known for the purplish-black color of its leaves, but the pink flowers it produces are an added benefit. It’s also larger than the other common mondo grass varieties, growing up to 12 inches high and 12 to 24 inches across.

Giving Mondo Grass a Place in Your Garden

© Imladris – stock.adobe.com

Mondo grass owes a large part of its popularity to the variety of ways it can be used. For dwarf mondo grass, groundcover is the most common use. It’s an ideal lawn alternative if you want lush green grounds without the hassle of maintaining turf grass. Once a few plants are in place, they spread to create a lawn-like cover. This variety is a notoriously slow grower, though, so your lawn will take a few years to fill in.

It’s perfect for areas of deep shade and can even grow under black walnut trees. It’s also well suited to slopes where grass doesn’t grow well. Mondo grass is a traditional groundcover in Japanese gardens, where it’s planted around stepping stones and statues, under trees, and in flowing shapes around gravel beds.

Because it stops growing at a low height, you won’t need to — and, in fact, you shouldn’t — mow it. The downside is that mondo grass is more delicate than turf grass. Dwarf mondo grass can tolerate being walked on every now and then, but regular foot traffic will destroy it. If you’ll need to walk through an area planted with mondo grass, install stepping stones or another type of path.

The plant is moderately pet-friendly. While it can stand up to dogs running and playing, it doesn’t handle their digging or urinating as easily. That said, it still tends to fare better than most turf grass.

Because it’s small and slow growing, dwarf mondo grass performs well as a houseplant. Plant it in well-draining potting soil or potting mix and place it in a shady or partially shady spot.

Standard-sized and black mondo grass are more often grown as ornamental plants. As edging plants, they create soft, informal borders between garden beds and the lawn or walkways. Their medium height helps them hold back plants in a planting bed without overwhelming them. Mondo grass is especially useful if you need an edge that’s wider and higher than the one you’d get with strip or masonry edging.

As an ornamental plant, mondo grass’ fountain of deeply colored leaves and the soothing sound they make as they rustle in the wind makes the plant a pleasant addition to seating areas. The flowers tend to get lost among the leaves, so they’re not a major reason to grow the plant.

All mondo grass varieties have good salt tolerance, allowing them to thrive in coastal gardens. Because the plant does well in the shade of trees and deer tend to avoid it, it’s a good pick for gardens in forested areas.

Mondo Grass Care Requirements

© Arnang – stock.adobe.com

Mondo grass is easy to care for once established, but getting it established takes some preparation. In most climates, it can grow in anything between full sun to full shade, but it thrives in filtered sunlight. The more sun the plant gets, the lighter the leaf color will be. In a hot climate, though, a shady location is a must. Choose a location with well-draining soil or improve the soil drainage by working in 3 or 4 inches of organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure.

It’s possible to grow the plant from seed, but most gardeners buy packs of plugs for a quicker start. Small plug plants can be planted as they are. If you’re propagating a larger plant, separate the plant into groups of two to four stolons. Plant standard and black mondo grass 6 to 12 inches apart and dwarf mondo grass 2 to 4 inches apart, depending on how fast you want the area covered. Through propagation by division, it’s possible to create an entire border from just one plant, although it will take years.

The only thing mondo grass is truly picky about is watering. Water it when the soil becomes dry down to 1 inch, which is usually once or twice a week in a moderate climate. Aim to keep the soil slightly moist during dry weather, but don’t let it become oversaturated because this plant doesn’t appreciate soggy feet. In general, mondo grass tolerates underwatering better than overwatering.

Mondo grass needs little fertilizing and often does well with none at all. It’s usually enough to apply a slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer formulated for trees and shrubs once a year in early spring.

Mondo grass isn’t especially prone to pests or disease, but watch out for slugs and snails in damp, cool periods and fungal infections in damp, warm periods. Root rot, caused by the pathogen Pythium splendens, is one of the most common problems and brown leaf tips are usually the first sign. You might also notice the top of the plant is easy to pull away from the roots. To treat the condition, apply a fungicide formulated for this pathogen and topdress the soil with organic matter.

In spring, trim off any dead or broken leaves to keep the plant looking neat.

This plant spreads slowly, but it does spread, so you’ll need to do a little work to keep it in check. To keep it in a defined area, install strip edging or other edging material around it. For single plants or small groups, control their size by dividing the clump every three or four years in early spring. To do this, dig up the plant, taking care to unearth as many of its tuberous roots as you can, and gently pull the clump apart. Replant the new clumps where you want them. To corral daughter plants that have sprung up outside the main planting area, simply dig them up and replant them elsewhere.

Mondo grass isn’t a slow-grower everywhere, though. In the warm, humid Southern U.S., it flourishes so well it can easily become invasive. If you live in the South, talk with a plant nursery worker about mondo grass’ growth habits in your area.

As a lawn alternative, dwarf mondo grass can give you a lush expanse of green with less effort than turf grass and many other groundcovers. Standard and black mondo grass work well for a garden bed border that’s striking enough to stand out, but won’t detract from your flowers. Even a single mondo grass plant in an urn planter can dress up a dull corner of the garden.

Start your mondo grass off with the right light and soil conditions, take care with watering, and the plants should do well with minimal extra attention.

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