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Controlling Monkey Grass – How to Get Rid of Liriope

Depending on your point of view, you will either consider monkey grass a lovely ground cover or an unwanted weed.  If the latter is more of your mindset, these tips for controlling monkey grass will help you get rid of your unwelcome garden visitor.

Check Craig’s list free advertisements on most weekends in the summer here in NC and you will see ads for free monkey grass plants touting the words “all you have to do it dig it up yourself.”  

There is a reason for these ads. It is the way clever gardeners keep their liriope plants under control without having to do it themselves!

Keep reading to discover ways to tame this invasive perennial.

Controlling monkey grass can be a chore bu these tips will help to keep this invasive perennial from taking over your garden.

What is Monkey Grass?

Liriope, commonly known as “monkey grass” or “creeping lilyturf” is a grass like plant from Asia which is often used as a ground cover or border plant.

Oddly enough, in spite of the common names, it is neither a grass or a lily. It is a member of the family Asparagaceae, which includes asparagus, agave, ponytail palm, dracaena, and a number of succulents.

Given the right conditions, monkey grass will grow aggressively and can take over a border in no time at all.Liriope - Monkey Grass can be used as a focal plant , border plant or ground cover.

I have monkey grass in several areas of my garden, but I have to keep an eye on it, or it will spread everywhere. The perennial plant spreads by means of runners which are easy to transplant to other areas of the garden.

Did you start out with a nice border of liriope and found that it has started to invade your lawn or garden beds?  Do you often find yourself asking “how can I get rid of this darned stuff?  

Never fear, you are not alone. Many gardeners feel the same way.

Unfortunately, if left untended, monkey grass can be quite difficult to remove since if forms dense clumps that seem to go on forever. The following tips will help you get rid of or control monkey grass in your yard.

Controlling Monkey Grass

There is no “one way fits all” method of getting rid of monkey grass. A lot depends on how early you get to the job and how entrenched it is in your yard or lawn.

Start Early and Stay on Top of the Job.

If you are only trying to keep the liriope under control but want to allow some to stay in the yard, you’ll need to be vigilant.  The plant sends out runners all during the growing season. When you see them starting to grow out into the lawn or garden bed, remove the runners.pulling monkey grass

It is much easier to keep it tidy than to have to dig up a whole garden bed that’s been taken over.Ground cover of monkey grass


If you let monkey grass grow un-managed, you will have a job getting rid of it!

I know you were looking for an easy answer but the best remedy involves some real work – digging.  If you have tried just pulling up the runners, you will know that they break off easily.  

Digging the monkey grass will get the roots and will keep the spreading nature under control.Digging Monkey Grass

Use a spade or shovel to dig down around the liriope. Till the area around the removed plants and over the ground with plastic or newspaper to help choke out further growth.

This takes patience, since you may need to repeat this process for several months if you want to get it all. 


Since the plant spreads by means of underground runners, adding barriers is a good practice for controlling monkey grass. The barriers must go down into the soil quite a way – 12-18″ is a good size.  

If you use barriers that are too shallow, the plant will simple go under them and come back up on the other side.Barrier for monkey grass

The barriers do not need to be plastic.  Other ideas are trenches, landscaping fabric, plastic sheeting, or composted leaf mulch in channels dug near the plant

Containing it

Controlling monkey grass when you want to use it as a border is easy if you think ahead when you plant it.  Did you know that you can control it in your garden and still have the lovely border that you want by simply planting it in containers in the first place?  \

Instead of planting the liriope directly into the soil, sink the plant pots side by side and mulch over them.

The look will be the same, but the plant won’t be able to send out underground runners and you won’t have it invading nearby garden spaces.  You’ll have a lovely border without the hassle of having to keep removing spreading monkey grass babies!

Note on this method.  The plants will eventually become pot bound and will need to be removed and divided. You an either use the extra plants in other areas of the garden, give them away or add them to the compost pileMonkey grass border

Know your types of Liriope!

Some types of liriope are fairly easy to keep under control.  I have Liriope muscari and a variegated liriope called Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’

Both of these are a gentle clumping type of monkey grass. They can be controlled easily by digging and manually removing the unwanted plants and roots.

If you love the plant and want to grow it, the variegated variety is much slower growing and far less invasive.  I have had some for 4 or 5 years and it comes back every year but barely spreads.
Liriope muscari is easier to contrrol

Other types of liriope, particularly liriope spicata, are much more aggressive, making digging and tilling very difficult. If you have this variety planted you will be in for a shock when you start to dig it out.

Liriope Spicata

Photo Credit Wikimedia

When you consider the effort that goes into controlling monkey grass, you can see why it’s either loved or hated by gardeners. Which category do you fall into?

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Wednesday 20th of March 2024

I am looking for ways to kill Bermuda grass that is taking over my variegated lirope.

Carol Speake

Thursday 21st of March 2024

I don't grow Bermuda grass so I don't have first hand knowledge of how to control it. It spreads by underground runners, so if you have liriope in a border, putting below ground edging in place around the border may help.


Tuesday 4th of April 2023

Can you til it up or does it have be dug up with a shovel?

Carol Speake

Friday 7th of April 2023

I wouldn't till the soil around it. Monkey grass will leave tiny bits of roots if you do this and any of them could regrow. The only fool proof way that I know of is to dig the plants up completely. Poisons might do it, too, but I don't use them.


Friday 12th of November 2021

I planted the invasive lirope by accident in my mulch bed, I have tried all summer long to try and kill it. I have put everything on it. Round up, poison ivy killer, diesel fuel, boiling water, vi e & brush killer, and nothing works. I have dug it all up, and sprayed the ground, covered it with a tarp. But it still comes back. I'm going to try again this fall and see of I can kill it over the winter when it's ot growing so aggressively. If anyone has successfully killed lirope, please advise. Much thanks.


Wednesday 16th of February 2022

@Carol Speake, I have had it with the variegated liriope. It was planted in 5 beautiful clumps about 13 years ago. At that time, Thick fiber weed barrier was laid down then several inches of river rock, and then the plants were dug in. Now it is a major task just to get under all that to get to the roots. I think that the layers on top of the soil encourages the runners underneath. So I am removing everything. Then will work the soil to pull out as much as possible. The weed barrier is going in the garbage but I will return the rock to the bed. I will never plant monkey grass again.

Carol Speake

Saturday 13th of November 2021

I managed to get mine all up with digging and then consistent pulling out of any stray pieces over about 2 years. It was in a row along border though, not filling a while bed. In the bed where it had bigger clumps, my husband dug it up. Digging really is the only way that works for me, and then redigging when some comes back. Covering the entire area with black plastic might kill it all, but it will kill everything else too.


Saturday 24th of July 2021

I had to dig it all up. It was taking over my flowerbed. Thanks for the information. I also had weed barrier down and this stupid plant grew up through the barrier. Very strong willed plant.


Friday 23rd of July 2021

I've been saving my paper coffee filters and use one at bottom of pot for drainage. It keeps the potting soil from leaking out but allows water to drain. I'm betting that if I line the hole for a monkey grass plant, it should slow down the spreading of new plants. Is that a logical assumption? My HOA neighborhood uses recycled water so I'm having to supplement the alkaline soil with acidifier and used coffee grounds. to correct the PH.

Carol Speake

Friday 23rd of July 2021

I"ve never tried this but I assume it would have some effect. Eventually, though the coffee filter would break down and the grass would still grow outside the hole.

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