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

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!

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. 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

Digging

If you let monkey grass grow unmanaged, 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. 

Barriers

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 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

Grass Specific Herbicides for 

If you don’t mind using chemicals in your yard, a grass specific herbicide can used for controlling monkey grass.  Doing this early in the growing season is best, so that you don’t let monkey grass get a strong foot hold in the garden. Some that will work are the following:  (affiliate links)

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?


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  11 comments for “Controlling Monkey Grass – How to Get Rid of Liriope

  1. diae
    03/25/2019 at 7:44 pm

    a “neighbor” with an unkempt yard planted (threw) some that rooted and is now invading our lovely (kept) lawn. what can we do to stop it from ruining our landscaped lawn?

    • Carol
      03/25/2019 at 9:49 pm

      Hi Diae. The very best way to control liriope is to dig it out. The plant spreads from underground runners and even with digging you are likely to get some that still root. Carol

    • Annoyed
      04/30/2019 at 2:56 pm

      We have the same problem. I’ve been fighting it for five years. I’m losing the battle and am just about ready to move.

  2. Amanda
    05/02/2019 at 10:09 am

    We bought a house that has it everywhere. And the worse part…it was planted in a bed of 2-3″ rocks!! I don’t know what to do. Leave it and fill in the spaces it hasn’t invaded yet so it looks like it was supposed to be there or just remove all of it.

    • Carol
      05/02/2019 at 9:43 pm

      Hi Amanda. If you leave any of it, it will spread to fill the entire bed. Liriope grows from underground runners. It’s often used as a ground cover for that reason, but it is not always desirable.

  3. Sharon Neuner
    05/06/2019 at 3:53 pm

    My lirope growing along walkway to driveway is constantly being invaded with grasses that are ugly and a real pain to dig out. I am ready to kill off the lirope and replace it with a prettier sedum. How do I kill the lirope. I have to admit I sprayed it with Roundup, which killed most of grasses but not the lirope!

    • Carol
      05/06/2019 at 5:03 pm

      Round up won’t do anything to liriope. The plant is tough and sends out underground runners. The only real solution is digging it up and even then, you’ll get some of it come back the next year and will need to dig again.

  4. Bonnie
    06/03/2019 at 2:07 pm

    I have my work cut out for me on this plant. I had noticed some of my lilley’s in the flower garden were ,at one time at the edge of the garden, now quit a ways back in the garden. I went to inspect the situation and found that the monkey grass had grown 2 feet out. I then wondered what this plant was capable of. I was shocked when I read your page. It is going to take weeks to get the monkey grass cleared out as it is planted more then 200ft down the flower bed plus 2 other areas that are 20ft. I plan to dig it up and replace it with the variegated variety. I think your idea of planting it in container’s and sinking them side by side will be a better way for me to keep an eye on it. so I have a lot of work to do to get to a happier garden and a happier me. thank you.

    • Carol
      06/03/2019 at 7:01 pm

      I had pretty much the same situation and had to dig mine up too. I now use the variegated version without a problem. The plain stuff is tough!

  5. tina boggan
    06/12/2019 at 6:13 pm

    hi! I am one that uses monkey grass alot….my problem is the “other grass” that grows up into the monkey grass…I was told by an elderly woman that the only way to keep monkey grass “clean” was to pull the “other ” grass by hand, hasn’t mankind made a spray that will kill the “other” grass and not kill the monkey grass?

    • Carol
      06/12/2019 at 8:01 pm

      Hi Tina. I rarely use sprays in my garden, so I am afraid I don’t know of one.

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