Forming tufts of grasslike leaves, these popular, tough-as-nails ground covers from Asia are known by a number of namesbut to most Southerners, they're plain old monkey grass. One species grows in clumps; the other spreads aggressively. Summer flowers, often quite showy, appear atop the foliage in spikes or branching clusters and come in lavender, blue, pink, purple, or white.
In addition to their use as a ground cover, these plants make excellent edgings for walks and planting beds. They're good beneath large trees, as they tolerate the shallow soil between surface roots. They also make nice additions to containers and mixed plantings. They generally prefer filtered sun to full shade, although some selections do well in full sun. Good drainage is important; regular fertilizing isn't necessary. To get more plants, divide in early spring, using a sharp spade to cut through the clumps. Deer don't usually eat the foliage.
Liriope's close cousin, Ophiopogon japonicus, is also called monkey grass. It has many of the same uses but is less cold hardy. See page 460.
big blue liriope, big blue lily turf
- Forms large clumps 12 feet tall and eventually a bit widerbut does not spread by underground stems.
- Loose growth habit, with arching, typically dark green leaves to 2 feet or longer, inches wide.
- Dense, spikelike, 6- to 8 inches blossom clusters reminiscent of grape hyacinth (Muscari) appear on 5- to 12 inches stems.
- Blooms are held above the foliage on young plants, partly hidden by leaves on older ones.
- Round, shiny black fruit follows flowers.
- Stiffly arching plant to 1215 inches high.
- Narrow leaves, dark violet flowers.
- Does well even in dry shade.
- To 15 inches tall, with slightly twisted leaves.
- Very showy dark purple flowers.
- Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11.
- To 2 feet tall, with straplike leaves and lavender flowers.
- Evergreen plant, best used as edging or border.
- To 1215 inches high.
- Broad, yellow-green leaves with wide green edging.
- Heavy flower spikes like lavender cockscombs stand well above the foliage.
- Performs best in full sun.
- Grows 1215 inches tall.
- Pale violet flowers.
- To 1518 inches high.
- Somewhat open clumps.
- Blooms heavily, bearing large (up to 10 inches-long) clusters of dark violet blossoms resembling cockscombs; flowers are held above the leaves.
- Royal Purple and 'Webster Wideleaf' are similar.
- To 16 inches high.
- New growth variegated golden yellow and green, turning white and as it matures.
- Pinkish lavender blooms.
- To 1215 inches high, with broad leaves and large white flower spikes that stand well above the foliage.
- Fruit is purple.
- Prefers more shade than most types.
Pee Dee Ingot
- Grows 1012 inches tall.
- Yellow young growth matures to gold or chartreuse.
- Lavender blooms.
- Grows 1215 inches tall.
- Narrow leaves; pink blooms.
- Open, strong growth to 1215 inches high.
- Medium green foliage has gold stripes that age to white; whole leaf is whiter in sun, yellower or greener in shade.
- Lilac flowers are held well above foliage.
- One of the best for full sun and for flowers.
- To 1015 inches high.
- Forms loose, soft clumps.
- Leaves are green with yellow edges when new, then turn solid dark green in second season.
- Violet flowers are held well above the leaves.
- May be sold as Ophiopogon jaburan 'Variegatus'.
creeping liriope, creeping lily turf
- Dense ground cover that spreads widely by underground stems; can be invasive.
- Grows 89 inches high.
- Deep green, grasslike leaves are only inches wide.
- Foliage is not as upright as that of Liriope muscari.
- Pale lilac to white flowers appear in spikelike clusters barely taller than the leaves.
- Set plants 1 feet apart for quick cover.
- For best effect, mow yearly in early spring, before new growth emerges.
- Silver Dragon has a somewhat sparser habit, leaves striped in silvery white, and pale purple flowers held on short spikes.
- Fine ground cover for shade; slower growing than species.