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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.

LiriopeLiriope

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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Linda

Tuesday 16th of June 2020

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

Tuesday 16th of June 2020

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.

Rudette Sands

Monday 25th of May 2020

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!

Steve

Wednesday 6th of May 2020

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

Wednesday 6th of May 2020

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.

ramona

Thursday 12th of March 2020

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

Friday 13th of March 2020

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.

Buddy

Tuesday 24th of September 2019

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

Wednesday 25th of September 2019

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.

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