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.

This photo from the Land Run Monument in Oklahoma City, shows just how healthy and vibrant liriope plants can be when used in combination with rocks as a ground cover.

Liriope in flower used as a ground cover

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 of 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.

Pin Liriope growing tips for later

Would you like a reminder of this post for growing liriope? Just pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.Liriope makes a great ground cover

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  36 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

  5. Nancy
    01/18/2019 at 8:34 am

    My liriope is growing flat to the ground. What to do?

  6. Nancy
    01/18/2019 at 8:36 am

    Hi there
    My liriope is growing flat to the ground. I’m not sure what went wrong. But I am going to go out and cut them all back that might help.

    • Carol
      01/18/2019 at 4:10 pm

      Hi Nancy. It’s common for liriope to lie somewhat flatter in the cold months. Mine also do this. I cut the tops off the plant in early spring and new growth appears which is taller. Carol

  7. ron Munsch
    02/23/2019 at 8:04 pm

    What could cause the tips of liriope to turn brown ? Is the yellowing of liriope a normal aging process or are they defiicent if some way?

    • Carol
      02/24/2019 at 10:14 pm

      Hi Ron. Liriope is not evergreen except in the warmer zones. It’s normal for some yellowing of the tips to occur. I trim all of my plants back to the crown each spring and they grow fine through the summer with no yellowing but start to get yellow tips again in the fall.

  8. Tina Prusiewicz
    03/26/2019 at 2:03 pm

    How about black mondo grass…light, water, fertilizer?!
    Thanks-great sight

    • Carol
      03/27/2019 at 3:01 pm

      Hi Tina. I have not grown it and will have to research the topic for growing conditions. Perhaps in a future article. Glad you like the site.

  9. Betty Parrott
    04/16/2019 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Carol! I don’t know if you still monitor this, but just wanted to say how beautiful your pics are of the liripoe. I had lots of it in Florida and like you just cut it back in early February, and like you divided the plants when they got too big. I have moved to North Carolina and live almost in the forest, so deer are about. Have you had any experience with deer munching on your plants? There are just so many places I’d love to plant it, but bushels and bushels of leaves fall each year, so it would be a nearly impossible task to clean the leaves away every day. I plan to plant them closer to the house where less leaves fall, and perhaps the deer won’t come that close, but would love to hear your thoughts about deer and this plant. Thanks so very much!!

    • Carol
      04/16/2019 at 5:10 pm

      Hi Betty. I don’t have a problem with deer where I live but my understanding is that liriope is deer resistant. Carol

  10. patricia millikin
    08/27/2019 at 1:51 pm

    I just found your site. LOVE IT!!! I several questions. 1. My house was built in 1869, no telling what has been here over the years. I am transplanting liriope into the area between fence and concrete driveway I put in. it is filled with rocks and gravel and I am using a pickax to makes hole, removing as many rocks as I can, and filling holes with good soil to put the liriope in. I am chopping up areas around the plants to loosen the area as much as possible. Should liriope be strong enough to expand through this? 2: have pachysandra (Japanese splurge) that has spread very close to hostas, azaleas, and ferns in other areas with good soil, no rocks.. Will it choke them out and should I transplant either the surge or the others to a `safe’ area I am particularly concerned when the hostas go dormant that they may have difficulty growing back through it. 3: concerns ajuga and wild violets. I would like to use them as ground cover but will they also choke out the above plants?
    Thx so much

    • Carol
      08/28/2019 at 12:04 am

      Hi Patricia.. The liriope should grow fine in the area you describe. It is tough and very hardy. However it does take over an area quickly so I would not advise combining it with other plants, especially those that will go dormant.

  11. Nanette
    09/12/2019 at 1:58 pm

    Just saw a short video online suggesting liriope as a ground cover! I live in east central IL and my backyard is mostly shaded. I’ve almost completed a multi-year project to landscape and plant perennials along the interior of the fence throughout the yard. My last task is to do something about the remaining lawn area which is now mostly weeds. I am open to ground cover for the entire backyard (a moderately large space) but do have quite a lot of leaves that cover the area in the late fall. I usually mow these …. can I still mow the leaves if I use liriope as a ground cover? Will it stand up to mowing?



    • Carol
      09/15/2019 at 1:09 pm

      Hi Nanette, Yes, it will. Liriope is a very tough plant. I normally chop all of mine right back to the crown in the spring and sometimes later in the fall. It always grows back.

      • Nanette
        09/18/2019 at 1:08 pm

        Thanks, Carol! I’ve seen a few varieties of liriope that seem to have berries when in bloom? Worried that these may be messy in a large backyard. Any comments?

        Also, I was also considering sedum as a ground cover …. do you have any experience with that? Not sure it would stand up to the mowing of leaves in the late fall.


        • Carol
          09/18/2019 at 5:03 pm

          HI Nanette. The berries aren’t too messy. They just come after the flowers and sort of shrivel up in time. The frost normally takes care of them.

          Sedum makes a great ground cover, but would not be as good if mowed over, so I would used it in contained areas.

      • Ann
        03/15/2020 at 11:45 am

        Hi Carol, I just ordered liriope barefoot and will hope to plant them the next weekend (zone 6a) in mostly shaded area (dappled at best). Can I expect blooms this year or will they need this entire growing season to establish? Thanks!

        • Carol Speake
          03/16/2020 at 3:06 pm

          I think from memory that mine flowered the second year When I started with small plants.

  12. Buddy
    09/24/2019 at 5:50 pm

    I am in the process of retiring to the coastal area of Delaware, and I have a red maple that NOTHING will grow under. I have resorted to large flower pots with annual flowers but I am wondering if the monkey grass I have will be able to be transplanted and live around the base of the flower pots, but can they compete with the roots of this huge old red maple?

    • Carol
      09/25/2019 at 8:33 am

      Hi Buddy. I have not personally tried to grow liriope under maple trees but have grown it under established magnolia trees with good success. I have also seen it growing in shady areas under other types of deciduous trees so I think it would work out just fine.
      The only thing liriope doesn’t like is wet feet. As long as the soil drains well, it usually grows.

  13. ramona
    03/12/2020 at 2:45 am

    Hi Carol, The entire side length of our front yard is shaded. Since grass doesn’t grow there, we use monkey grass as ground cover under and between our 100 year old oak tree and a dogwood tree. I’m not sure why but there is an area in the center of the 2 trees that the monkey grass never seems to grow well. Is there a natural fertilizer that you can suggest to perk up its growth? Should I give up on the monkey grass in the center area and introduce another shade plant to grow there? I did plant a hosta there last year and it died:( This spring I was considering trying again to plant more hostas, maybe with a bird feeder in the center, so they don’t look too odd surrounded by the monkey grass. If you have any other suggestions, I’d appreciate it. Thanks, Ona

    • Carol Speake
      03/13/2020 at 12:49 pm

      Monkey grass is usually prolific and takes over often. To have it not grow at all, makes me wonder what would grow in there. It may be the the tree roots are so established that they choke out plants, particularly if hostas died as well. Not sure what to suggest, in this case.

  14. Steve
    05/06/2020 at 3:00 pm

    Hello Carol,
    Great website! I’m sorry if this has already been asked, but I just planted some liriope here in NJ a couple of weeks ago, and the temps this weekend are supposed to get down to 35 overnite. Are the plants OK or should I cover them? Thanks

    • Carol Speake
      05/06/2020 at 3:11 pm

      Liriope is almost indestructible! It can take freezing temperatures once it is established. New plants may suffer a bit from the cold if they are tender and don’t have much of a root system but should recover. If the temps go below freezing, you could throw a sheet over them to play it safe, but they really are very tough and hardy.

  15. Rudette Sands
    05/25/2020 at 12:11 am

    Thanks for the information about Liriope (monkey grass). My neighbor has this plant and I admired it. It looks great all the time and now I have ideas for my flower beds using Liriope as a center piece. Great information!

  16. Linda
    06/16/2020 at 2:07 pm

    My landscaper planted bare root liriope on my bank about a month ago. When there’s no rain I water it each day to encourage the roots to take hold. Is that a mistake? Also, considering they were bare root, when should I start seeing some new growth, please? Thanks so much!

    • Carol Speake
      06/16/2020 at 3:25 pm

      It is hard to say exactly how long it will be before you see new growth, since it depends on weather and growing conditions in your area. In my experience, I saw growth in a couple of weeks. Watering every other day should be fine.

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