Drought Tolerant Liriope Makes an Outstanding Ground Cover

If you are looking for a tough & drought tolerant ground cover, look no further than Liriope. It is also called Monkey grass or lilyturf and makes a great border plant.  Liriope is a member of a group of flowering grass like perennials which are named after Narcissus plants.


How to grow Liriope - Great ground cover or border plant

Lucky for beginning gardeners, there is not really much to growing liriope.  Plant it and watch it grow has been my experience.

Liriope is Easy to Grow & Makes a Great Border Plant

Some common names for it are lilyturf and monkey grass.  However, Liriope is neither a lily nor a grass.     Four types of the plant grow in North America:  gigantea, muscari, spicate and exiliflora.

It is a very easy plant to grow if you follow these steps:

  • Liriope spreads quickly.  It can grown as a border plant or as a ground cover.  Plant about 12-18″ apart in well tilled soil
  • Add organic matter to each hole.
  • The plant is very forgiving and will tolerate dry conditions quite well.
  • Cut the plants back to the ground in the late fall or winter.  You will get great new growth in the spring if you do this.
  • To propagate monkey grass, lift the plants in late autumn or early spring and pull them apart. Be sure that each portion contains at least one root stock.  This can be done every other year for best results. See tips for transplanting monkey grass here.
  • The plant does flower but it is grown mainly for the ribbon like leaves which come in both plan and variegated varieties.  The flowers range from white to lavender.

Liriope flower

  • The perennial can be grown in semi shade but does best when it gets plenty of sun.
  • The plant is hardy in zones 4 to 10.
  • Keep an eye on your plants and dig up and transplant when necessary. Lilyturf can grow so quickly that they are considered invasive plants if not watched.

Plain liriope

This lirope musicari plant grows in my front border that gets 6 or more hours os sunlight each day.

Variegated liriope

Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’ is my favorite variety. It is such a resilient plant.  I alternate it with my solid colored plant for a neat look.

Liriope in flowerAnother Liriope musicari. This one is growing in my shade garden.Still pretty but not as large as the ones in front that get more sun.



I came across this neat idea for using lirope on a walk recently.  The whole front yard has the plant instead of grass. So easy care!

Liriope as a ground cover

Close up of the ground cover showing some in flower.Liriope as a ground cover

This is the small swath of dirt next to the road planted with this grass like perennial.  Love this idea!Liriope as a ground coverAnother small area near a big tree with monkey grass at the base of it.

Liriope as a ground cover

Take note that liriope can be invasive. If you have more of it in your yard that you would like, see my tips for controlling monkey grass.

Do you have other varieties of liriope that you grow?  Please share your experiences with it.

  10 comments for “Drought Tolerant Liriope Makes an Outstanding Ground Cover

  1. Pam
    06/16/2018 at 5:49 pm

    are there any common pests for liriope? What about diseases?
    Love your site!

    • Carol
      06/16/2018 at 6:17 pm

      Hi Pam. Thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoy my site. Liriope is very bullet proof. The plants that I have grown have not been bothers by any diseases or pests. Problems that COULD occur are leaf and crown rot (overwatering), scale, and root nematodes. I have plants in many locations and none of these things happened though. Carol

  2. Lynn Pelletier
    07/04/2018 at 4:26 pm

    Hi Pam, I have a small garden just outside my front porch and until very recently it was edged with monkey grass. It was planted that way for around 8 years. In late march (03/2018) I was away and returned mid June. During that time 2 things happend, a large shade tree had to be taken down and while I was away a neighbor cared for the plants. With the tree gone a once mostly shaded garden was suddenly in full sun from morning until about 3 PM. When I returned the monkey grass was the color of straw and dead (mostly-98%). Any ideas…. sun shock, too much H2O or not enough? BTW, I’m in Texas zone 9. Thanks, Lynn

    • Carol
      07/04/2018 at 9:34 pm

      Hi Lynn…It is likely sun shock. The plants went from being in the shade to being in full sun so they have to learn all over again. I have had luck growing liriope in full sun without a problem but it was always planted there.

      It is possible that they could recover. If not this year then perhaps next they will come back. Just give them extra water and hope for the best. Liriope is almost indestructible in my experience. Carol

  3. Barbara
    07/24/2018 at 9:57 pm

    I have lirope instead of grass between the sidewalk and the road; there is sufficient rain in PA so I never need to water it. Do you have any suggestions for preventing weeds from growing in this monkey grass?

    • Carol
      07/25/2018 at 11:07 am

      Hi Barbara. In my experience, liriope is very dense when it grows, so weeds are not much of a problem. If you do have some, the only thing I can think of it to dig them out and let the liriope spread back over that area, or to paint a weed killer on the weed leaves with a brush so as not to kill the liriope.

  4. Ruby
    08/24/2018 at 5:43 pm

    i have a shade spot in my backyard that, no matter what we do, won’t grass won’t grow. Would it be possible to plant lots of liriope in that spot and cut it like grass. It will look like tough, hardy grass. What are your thoughts?

    • Carol
      08/25/2018 at 12:51 am

      Hi Ruby. Liriope grows better in sun but it will do fine in shade too. I was touring a botanical garden yesterday and there was liriope planted under trees and it was very green. It an be left in tufts if you have the dwarf variety or mow it with a high deck height on a lawn mower. Carol

      • Tracey
        09/01/2018 at 8:11 pm

        Hi Carol,

        What variety of Liriope is better for a shaded yard with dappled sunlight (but mostly shaded)?



        • Carol
          09/02/2018 at 1:09 pm

          Most of the forms of the green liriope would be fine in these conditions. It is quite an adaptable plant for most conditions/ The variegated (green and white) liriope does better with more sunlight. Carol

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