Liriope is commonly known as monkey grass or spider grass. It is a versatile and easy to grow ground cover that tolerates heat well and can be divided easily. Transplanting monkey grass is a simple process if you keep just a few things in mind. As far as growing perennials is concerned, it is one of my favorite easy care plants.
- Tips for Transplanting Monkey Grass
- Growing Liriope muscari (monkey grass)
- Controlling and Dividing Liriope (Monkey Grass)
- How To Transplant Monkey Grass
- When to Plant Monkey Grass
- Liriope Muscari (Monkey Grass)
- Liriope spicata (Lilyturf)
- Ophiopogon (Mondo grass or Monkey grass)
- How to transplant grass
- Transplanting Grass
Tips for Transplanting Monkey Grass
If you have monkey grass (liriope) in your garden now, you have the opportunity to have more of this perennial plant for free. It multiplies readily, and runners can be dug up, and placed in another area of the garden in no time at all. The plant sends out underground runners which form into smaller new plants easily.
When to plant monkey grass
The best time for transplanting monkey grass is the same as for most perennials – when the plant is dormant. Typically this would be in the beginning of the spring before new growth starts. It is easily moved, though, and can be transplanted right through mid summer. It does need to establish rooting well before cold weather so it should not be moved too late in the fall.
The plant will fill in quickly so be sure to plant the babies about a foot apart or so. This will give it room to grow without being over crowded. This border was planted last year at this spacing and is filled in well.
Types of Monkey grass
The most common type of liriope has plain green leaves – liriope sipcata, but there are also variegated – liriope muscari variegata, and pure white varieties – Liriope muscari ‘Monroe’s White’.
. The green plant is easier to grow and multiplies faster than the variegated versions. All types do multiply and can be planted as divisions in other garden areas.
These two plants are the same age but the plain green one on the left is much larger and has babies growing already.
Monkey grass likes well draining soil, so it’s a good idea to dig around the area when you want to place it to loosen the nearby soil. Adding organic material such as compost or manure will also be beneficial to the plant.
Liriope is grown more for the leaves than the flowers but it does flower in summer. If you transplant then, cut off the flowers to encourage the plant to use its energy for developing the root system. Flowers look almost like small grape hyacinths.
Size of Transplant
Liriope multiplies like mad so if you have one plant, you will likely have plenty in no time at all. Because of this, don’t take a clump that is too large. Liriope can be invasive, so starting with a smaller sized piece of it will mean that it can be more easily maintained. If you have a large clump, gently pull apart the roots to give you several plants. Be sure each piece has a crown section and plenty of roots. Don’t you just love plants for free?
I cut back all my monkey grass early in the spring and this goes for transplants, too. I generally do this just before the new growth starts. The plant can get a bit ragged looking in the winter months and cutting back old growth gives it a haircut and encourages lush new growth.
If you are looking for an easy care evergreen perennial plant that will give you more plants for years to come, you can’t go wrong by transplanting Monkey Grass!
Invasive Nature of Monkey Grass
Some varieties of monkey grass, particularly liriope spicata are quite invasive and can take over a yard. If you have more of it that you would like in your garden, see my tips for controlling monkey grass.
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Growing Liriope muscari (monkey grass)
Liriope muscari (pronounced luh-RYE-oh-pee mus-KAR-ree) is a tough, evergreen herbaceous flowering perennial from East Asia that grows in clumps 6 to 12 inches tall and spreads 12 to 18 inches across. Common names for the plant include lilyturf, big blue lilyturf, variegated lilyturf, variegated liriope, variegated border grass, and monkey grass.
This plant has long, grass-like leaves with a yellow variegated border on the outer edges. The leaves grow from a central crown and in the summer the plant produces flower spikes that resemble grape hyacinth (Muscari), which is the origin of the species name. The flowers are lavender or purple and bluish-black berries develop after the flowers fade in late summer. Liriope muscari is useful in landscaping as ground cover, under and around shrub and trees, as accent plants, on slopes and banks, and even as low edging plants along paved areas and in front of foundation plantings. This plant spreads slowly by rhizomes and forms thick tubers that look like small potatoes.
Liriope spicata is a slightly different cultivar that grows more aggressively as an invasive ground cover and spreads by underground stems. It is known to grow and spread as a creeper and it is usually a shorter, more dense plant.
Liriope muscari can be grown in complete shade beneath trees or in any part of the garden with low levels of sunlight; however, it will flower best in full sun. This hardy, drought-resistant perennial needs little care, although it prefers well-drained soil. During the first summer the plants will require regular watering, or they may wilt and droop, but once they have had a chance to get established through the first summer, they will become tolerant of drought conditions. Because the plant is easy to grow, it is one of the most popular groundcovers in the southeastern United States.
Liriope muscari can occasionally be affected by a fungus disease called anthracnose, which will turn the leaves black or cause reddish streaks in the leaves. Cutting back the infected areas at any time of year should allow the plant to make a full recovery. Root rot has been reported, insects have been reported to cause reddish spots on leaves during late summer, and slugs and snails might be occasional pests.
Liriope muscari can be easily propagated by dividing the root mass. The optimum time to do this is during the dormant season before new growth begins. They can be divided at any time of the year, but it is less stress on the plants if done in the spring after the last frost or in the fall before the first frost. If Liriope muscari is divided in the summer heat, it will require additional watering to establish the plant. Plants should have grown sufficiently to be divided when they are 3 to 4 years old. Larger plants, or any plants that are too close together, can be divided or transplanted. A plant that is approximately 4 inches across at the base is large enough to be divided into 2 plants. Larger plants can be divided into many smaller plants, as long as each has a portion of root and a portion of top growth.
When digging up older plants, go around the plant and position the shovel several inches away from the base of the existing Liriope muscari and dig it up, being careful to get the entire root. Once you have it dug up, cut through the plant, using an old ax or large butcher knife. If the plant is really fibrous, you can use a small hand saw. Use your hands to finish dividing the plant.
Dig new holes and remove all weeds and stones. When transplanting, the new hole should be deep enough to cover the root to the same depth as the original plant. Plant the new Liriope muscari and press soil around the root so the plant stands up by itself. Space transplants approximately 12 to 18 inches apart. Water the Liriope muscari thoroughly, both the ones that were divided and the new plantings. Continue to water the plants every day until they are established; generally about one week or so, depending upon the rainfall. Put mulch between the plants to prevent weeds.
The evergreen foliage turns brown in late winter, the plant goes limp, and needs to be trimmed down to about 4 inches. This should be done once a year in late January or mid-February. If the plants are older and established, you might be able to cut over them with your lawnmower adjusted to the highest cutting height. Otherwise, you can hand trim using clippers or a weed whacker, being careful not to injure the plant crowns and before new growth begins. Clean up all of the cut trimmings from around the plants. When spring comes, you will see new growth popping up from your old and transplanted Liriope muscari.
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Controlling and Dividing Liriope (Monkey Grass)
I planted liriope in front of the blocks. The liriope hides the blocks and helps to give the lawn a more complete look. For now, it also helps take the eye away from some sparse grass in the area where newly sown grass will soon emerge.
A lot of people like liriope very much, but are reluctant to grow it for fear they cannot keep it under control. I know from personal experience liriope will spread aggressively. Once it has spread past it’s desired site, it can be very difficult to remove. It’s underground runners spread quickly and when digging them up, it’s almost impossible to get them all. I have solved that problem, at least for the way in which I use liriope. I simply plant the liriope in pots and sink the pots into the ground, level with the surrounding soil. Using an empty pot for measurement, I dig a hole just the size to accommodate the pot. Then, another pot with the
same measurements and holding a liriope plant is placed in the hole.
It is possible for the liriope to escape the pot, but in all the years I’ve grown it in pots sunken into the ground, I’ve never had this happen. Liriope grows quickly. A small plant will soon fill these pots and become root bound.
For me this is a blessing rather than a nuisance. I always need more plants. Division of liriope grown in pots couldn’t be easier.
Lifting the liriope for division can be done while leaving its pot in the ground. Just grasp all the foliage together and give it a tug. It should release from the pot with all soil intact. To divide the clump, lay it on a steady surface. Place a long serrated knife into the top center of the ball of soil. Saw from top to bottom all the way through the clump. You should end up with two neat divisions.
One division can be centered in a new pot and filled with soil. The other division can be placed back into the inground pot from which it was taken and the pot filled with soil.
I have many pots of liriope. They all came from one pot which has been divided many times over the years.
If you want to grow liriope but fear it’s invasive nature, I think you can grow it in inground containers without any worry. I do.
How To Transplant Monkey Grass
A lot of times when you move into a new home, you look around the yard and think about everything you need to do to make the yard yours. Transplanting things is sometimes the most economical way to do that. Let’s look at how to transplant monkey grass.
If you look around and find that you have monkey grass growing here and there, you have a great starting point. All you need to do is dig some up, roots and all, and move it somewhere else.
For instance, if you find that monkey grass grows well around the front walkway of your new home, you could pull a few sprigs of it up, including the roots, and transplant monkey grass under the bushes in front of the house. You will find that Liriope grass transplanting is easy this way, as it will flourish and create a nice grass skirt under the bushes.
When transplanting monkey grass, make sure you let it take strong root. Then you might want to spend some extra time raking it for the first few weeks so that any carpet grass runners that grow over top of it can be removed. They try to share the space with the monkey grass, but monkey grass grows so thick that the carpet grass can’t get its roots if the monkey grass is established.
You might decide to make a new island garden. If so, you can transplant monkey grass into the island to create a frame for the bed or even to make it a nice ground cover throughout the bed.
When to Plant Monkey Grass
Knowing when to plant monkey grass or transplant it will help ensure it survives better after being transplanted. Wait until there is no chance of frost and it should be safe to transplant through midsummer. After transplanting monkey grass, it will need time to establish itself to survive the cold weather and after midsummer, it may no be able to do this.
Anytime you make a new flower bed, go ahead and pluck a few pieces of monkey grass to put in it. Liriope grass transplanting works well so long as you include roots with the grass you picked, so it will grow pretty much wherever you plant it.
The only thing to watch out for when transplanting monkey grass is that it can be quite invasive if put in the wrong place. Just keep it contained to the areas you want it in, and be sure to pluck it from areas you don’t. This is how hardy monkey grass is, and you don’t want it to take over your whole garden.
One of the most popular landscape plants in many home landscape beds is Monkey Grass, but there are several species that all share similar features. They all grow in clumps, generally low-growing and are normally free of most insect and disease pests. Once established, the grass can grow for years without much care, but as it is said, one person’s desired plant is another person’s weed. You can cultivate it, but you can also eradicate it. Here are the basic differences between these ornamental grasses.
Liriope Muscari (Monkey Grass)
This low-growing flowering plant was imported from Asia and is known for its low growth and low maintenance requirements. It will grow just about anywhere and will tolerate drought, heat and high humidity and it will grow in both sunny and shady areas. It grows well in zones 5 through 10, so it will not grow in areas with extreme heat or cold. It is better suited for southern landscapes, but will grow in northern climates as well. Most plants of this cultivar grow in a clump, forming mounds that are 12 to 24 inches high. They have flowers that range in color from white to pink to lavender to purple. They are evergreen in southern areas and the leaves range in color from green to variegated to yellow.
Liriope spicata (Lilyturf)
This cultivart is also from Asia, and like Monkey Grass, it is almost indestrucatible. It has very similar characteristics as Liriope muscari with the big difference of having a creeping growth habit and it will fill in a large area within a short period of time. It does grow shrter than Monkey grass, only reachong heights of 10 to 15 inches. It has white to lavendar flowers that rise on flower stalks that reach about 10 inches in length in late summer. It also has varigated varieties. It grows best in zones 4 to 11.
Ophiopogon (Mondo grass or Monkey grass)
This plant originates form Japan and is an excellent ground cover for shady areas. It will produce a dense mat that is perfect for areas where erosion may be a problem. It also has dwarf varieties that grow only 2 to 3 inches that make an excellent ground cover that can be a substitute for normal turfgrasses. It can grow in shady areas as well as in sunny locations. This grass only grows well in zones 7 through 11, so it is not as versatile as the other ornamental grasses listed above.
Monkey grass, lilyturf or Liriope all have a place in a home landscape. Just be sure you choose the species that will grow best in your landscape. Have questions about what plants are right for your landscape, contact your neighborhood Spring-Green. Thanks.
We have been working so hard to grow grass in our yard and it’s finally starting to work. Sadly, one of the spots where it is working REALLY well is an area we don’t want grass… We’re working on a fairly big project in our yard to finish off the area around where we constructed a DIY hammock pergola stand earlier this year. When we constructed it, there was zero grass near there.
In roughly four months, grass has spread a good five feet in from the side of the area. Sad face. Since the grass is so good, we wanted to attempt to transplant that grass into an area of the yard that doesn’t have grass yet by basically creating our own sod.
How to transplant grass isn’t that hard and can definitely be done instead of throwing it away. Here’s how to dig up grass and replant it!
How to transplant grass
The first step is to till up the ground where you want to transplant your grass. This will break the soil up and make it easier for the sod to connect in the new area, allowing for the grass roots to take.
In the area where you want to remove the grass, start by using a shovel or spade or go around the entire area you want to remove. Drive the shovel a couple of inches into the ground, then angle it level with the ground and push in again.
The best way to get the grass up is to work in strips about the width of the shovel. Once you have created a line on one side, go to the other side and do the same thing, making sure that your whole strip is now detached from the ground.
Now, try to roll or fold your strip and carry it over to the new area. Here, unfold it and try to move it back and forth to work it into the tilled up soil.
Sorry for the blurry hands…
Continue these steps for however many strips you have.
Once everything is moved to the new area, water the crap out of it. You want to have the water soak through the sod and into the original dirt. This will help combine the soils and help make them one.
This area took about 95% of the grass we transplanted and is looking great. Avoid mowing this area for a couple of weeks so that it doesn’t get too short while trying to establish its new root system. It might not all take, but hopefully your bare patch looks a lot less barren now! And, hey, free grass!
If you need to fill just a small section of grass, be sure to read our guide on how to patch grass in your yard!
- None needed
- Till the land where you want the transplanted grass to go to break up the soil.
- In the area where you want to remove the grass, start by using a shovel or spade or go around the entire area you want to remove.
- Gently lift the grass from underneath with the shovel. Work in strips about the width of your shovel.
- Once the whole strip has been separated from the ground, roll it up into itself lengthwise, so it looks like a cinnamon roll or a roll of sod.
- Place it on the new transplant location.
- Work the new grass into the tilled ground. This encourages the roots to take.
- Repeat strip by strip.
- Water heavily to combine the new soil with the existing tilled soil.
- Keep well watered until it takes.
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On Saturday (whether permitting) I’m wanting to transplant some lush green grass from one area of the garden to the other.
The area its going too has been heavily compacted on account of it was under a ton of sand for several months while the ManShed was constructed and looks very sorry for itself. Its also quite sandy as the bag may have leaked (or I may have been not terribly coordinated with my shovel).
We don’t need to worry about a perfectly flat lawn – it would look out of place with the rest of the lawn!!
What prep work do I need to do on this area before I dig up the replacement patch?
About the replacement – its actually on a mound of top soil that was moved years ago when the previous occupants had the patio laid so is very well established but now in the way. It was strimmed last week – should I cut it again just before I dig it up or would that not be a good idea?
I know once its lifted to keep it watered until its established – fortunately the weather while not too cold (10’C last night) will ensure it doesn’t dry out (ever at this rate). What else should I be doing? Should I avoid mowing it for a few weeks (can I lightly strim it if needed not putting any weight on it to compact the roots).
Is there any feed or such like that you’d recommend I give it to help it along or would I be best to just stick to water until it gets going?
All advice welcome!!
The transplant and transportation of the Giant Boab from the Kimberley region into the Western Australian Botanic Garden was one of the Authority’s great success stories. The Garden Advisory Service often gets enquiries about transplanting Australian native plants, particularly the Common Grass-tree.
The Common Grass-tree (Xanthorrhoea preissii) grows in a wide range of soils, varying from deep free-draining sands to fairly heavy gravelly soils, and in full sun or in broken sunlight such as in Jarrah forest. The growth rate of grass trees is estimated to be between 1.7 cm and 2 cm per year, but this may increase in cultivation.
The time recommended for transplanting is from April to June, although success has been recorded at almost any time of the year.
The best method of transplanting is as follows:
Trim off the leaves of the grass-tree with shears, or tie them up with string, to avoid damage to your eyes.
Dig around the base of the plant severing the old roots. You only need to dig a few centimetres away from the trunk to avoid damaging it. Do not push on the top of the plant as you may snap it off.
Wrap the root system in damp hessian or canvas to stop it from drying out while transporting the plant.
Plant the grass-tree as soon as possible at the same depth at which it was growing. Fill in the soil around the root system, keeping a hose running to moisten the soil and eliminate any air pockets.
As soon as transplanting is finished make a depression or ‘saucer’ around the plant for future hand watering, or install trickle irrigation.
Trim off the leaves if you have not already done so, to reduce water loss. Within a few weeks new leaves will appear from the centre of the plant.
Water the plants regularly until the onset of heavy winter rains and then water once a week, starting in early Spring and continuing through Summer and Autumn until the onset of further winter rain. From then on the plants should be drought tolerant.
Grass-trees, like all native flora in Western Australia, are protected by law, and can only be removed from private property if complying with clearing laws and with the landowner’s permission. Commercial operators are licensed to salvage grass-trees, and these plants are readily available for landscape and home garden use.
For further information regarding the approvals for removing grass-trees from your property, or for information on the licensing requirements for the sale of grass-trees, please contact the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.