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How to Maintain “Monkey Grass”

Chances are if you live in Atlanta, you’ve seen this ornamental grass and likely have some in your yard. This popular plant is as an ideal candidate for groundcover and border planting in the south. Its hardiness and versatility make it an easy choice for Atlanta homeowners. Monkey grass requires very little maintenance but yields great rewards in its ability to give your yard an aesthetic facelift.

Monkey Grass Facts: This Asian-native is an interesting plant with a few types to choose from.

  • Other names it is known as include: liriope, spider grass, lily turf, border grass, and mondo grass.
  • It’s not actually grass, it’s a perennial with leaves that resembles grass.
  • Some varieties produce white or purple blooms in the summer.
  • Leaves tend to be darker green in the shade and lighter green when exposed to more sunlight.

Types of Monkey Grass: With several selections, it’s just a matter of finding the right one for your needs.

  • Spreading: If you’re looking for a great solution for those tough to mow areas or groundcover for a slope or large area in your yard, make sure you choose a monkey grass that spreads.
  • Clumping: If you’re seeking a lovely border plant with lush green leaves to distinguish gardens and walkways, you will want a monkey grass that clumps.

Benefits of Monkey Grass: There are many attractive characteristics that make this plant popular to homeowners around the country, especially here in the Atlanta area. Monkey grass is:

  • Tolerant to drought and heat
  • Requires little to no fertilizer
  • Grows in many types of soil
  • Can flourish in a variety of conditions
  • Rarely suffers from foot traffic, disease, insect or animal damage

Monkey Grass Maintenance: With all the hardy qualities of this thick, low-maintenance groundcover, what can you do to care for your monkey grass?

  • Water: Monkey grass only needs watering two weeks after initial planting. Afterwards, you can water your liriope during periods of consistent or extreme drought.
  • Mulch: Apply 2-4 inches of mulch after trimming to help ward off weeds.
  • Weed: Hand pull weeds around your monkey grass or spot treat weeds with a post emergent- be sure to steer clear of spraying the monkey grass.
  • Trim: Although cutting back your monkey grass isn’t a necessity, it is recommended. As the leaves on the plant begin to age, they develop brown spots on the tips that won’t do much for the beauty of your yard. The good news is that monkey grass produces a new set of leaves each spring so you can easily replace that old growth with a lush, green border for spring.
    • Timing: It’s best to trim in the late winter or early spring before new shoots appear. Waiting to cut liriope down after new shoots emerge will create dull tips for the remainder of the year.
    • Methods: You can cut back your monkey grass by simply giving it a quick mow or using your weed eater. Just be sure to adjust the mower to the highest setting. If you don’t have much to trim and want to take a more delicate approach, hand trimming will also work. Use clippers to cut the leaves down to about 3 inches.

Monkey grass will survive with little to no care, but there are some steps you can take to keep it looking top notch. Know what types of monkey grass you need for your landscape, don’t forget to add mulch and weed around it, and also give it a quick trim to make room for new blades come spring.

photo credit: Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’ via photopin (license)