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How to Care for Monkey Grass

Lockridge is an avid reader who enjoys learning about beautiful garden plants. Among other things, she has worked with a florist.

Monkey Grass makes a great border plant.

Monkey Grass makes a great border plant.

Savvy gardeners know that monkey grass is a versatile plant that can serve many purposes. From groundcover to accenting a border, monkey grass is hardy and can withstand harsh conditions such as drought, standing water and heavy foot traffic.

Beware though, while monkey grass can be a benefit to your garden, it can be difficult to get rid of, so plant it in specific locations with care.

Mondo grass, commonly known as monkey grass, is best grown in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 11. Monkey grass normally stands between 6 to 12 inches tall, with blades of the monkey grass reaching no more than ½ inch wide. Unlike the name implies, monkey grass isn’t a grass at all; it is actually a perennial with grass-shaped leaves.

Water droplets on a monkey grass blade.

Water droplets on a monkey grass blade.

How to Plant

  1. Select a planting location with filtered sunlight to full shade. Although monkey grass can tolerate direct sunlight, it tends to make the leaves a pale green color; monkey grass planted in darker locations tends to have a darker color. Plant the monkey grass in the early spring or autumn to allow the root system to take hold before hotter weather hits.
  2. Till the area about 8 to 10 inches deep, removing non-organic matter such as stones.
  3. Add about 2 to 3 inches of organic matter, and a balanced fertilizer to the area and mix it into the loosened soil. Follow fertilizer package directions for the amount of fertilizer you should apply.
  4. Dig a whole about as deep and no more than 1.5 times the width of the root ball of the monkey grass plant.
  5. Set the plant in the hole so the plant is level with the soil line. Back fill the hole and tamp the soil down.
  6. Water the plant thoroughly until the plant is moist but not soggy. Monitor water levels closely over the first two weeks, until you notice new growth and until the root system has taken hold in the soil.
how-to-care-for-monkey-grass

General Care Tips

Inspect the area around your monkey grass for weeds, hand-pulling any that you find. Like most plants, monkey grass thrives when it isn’t in competition with other plants for room to grow.

Completely remove leaves with reddish spots, as it is a symptom of anthracnose. Apply a fungicide with azoxystrobin to limit the chances of a full outbreak.

Uses in the Garden

Liriope muscari is a type of monkey grass commonly used for borders and walkways in the garden. It is beloved for its purple-spiked or white-flowering blooms.

Ophiopogon japonicas, commonly known as dwarf mondo grass, look great between stepping-stones or pavers. Dwarf monad grass is also available in the traditional green colored grass or a darker, black-life variety.

Use Liriope spicata in sloping areas or in places where you won’t mind aggressive growth. This variety tends to fill in quickly, and will grow in places left without any other plants.

How to Propagate

Monkey grass can easily be divided. Propagating monkey grass allows you to keep the plant from being overcrowded and will save you money if you intend to use it around your garden.

  1. Dig an entire clump from the soil.
  2. Divide the plant with a sterilized spade or large knife. Ensure that each segment has at least 8 to 10 blades and healthy roots. Avoid using the middle sections of the plant as it is likely older and unsightly.
  3. Plant the new segment in prepared soil so that the plant is at the same level as the soil line.
  4. Water-in the new plant thoroughly for the first two weeks.

Pruning Tips

Prune monkey grass in the spring before new growth begins. Not only will it make the plant look tidier, it will accommodate new growth.

Use sterilized clippers for small clumps or a lawn mower (on its highest setting) for large areas of monkey grass. Cut blades down to about 3 inches high. Using a lawnmower is not only quicker, but it will keep your monkey grass at a consistent height and make the area look cleaner.

Remove cut foliage to limit disease and improve air circulation.

Helpful Resources

Liriope muscari in bloom.

Liriope muscari in bloom.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can monkey grass be fertilized in winter months?

Answer: Although monkey grass doesn't typically require a lot of fertilization, it is typically recommended that you fertilize it in the spring or summer, when it is at the peak of it's growing season.

Question: Will mondo grass tolerate temperatures below zero?

Answer: Mondo grass will grow in USDA hardiness zones 6-11. If you don't know what your hardiness zone is, visit https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/Intera...

Since zone 6 tends to have annual extreme minimum temperatures of -10 to -5 degrees, it is likely that mondo grass will grow in your area.

Comments

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 08, 2018:

Monkey grass sounds very interesting. I love the flowers of the species shown in the last photo. They have a beautiful colour.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 07, 2018:

I have had monkey grass as well as liriope in our landscaping through the years. Liriope does spread rather quickly and I have given loads of it away to others who wanted some in their gardens.