Ophiopogon Japonicus: Growing Dwarf Lilyturf


If you’re searching for a grass-like, care-free floor cowl that may add texture to your panorama, then look no additional than this standard evergreen grass, Ophiopogon japonicus, generally generally known as mondo grass. Mondo grass originated in Japan and China and is called the normal groundcover of many Japanese gardens. This decorative grass is similar to black mondo grass, and actually, it’s a direct relative. While black mondo grass is darkish and spooky-looking, the dwarf lilyturf (or simply “mondo grass”) is a stunning mild inexperienced hue and appears nice as an accent plant!

Technically not a grass in any respect (it’s extra intently associated to the lily than to most grass species), it’s a stunning species of vegetation that’s in a position to deal with issues that almost all vegetation can’t stand – it could possibly tolerate rising below black walnut bushes because it’s juglone-resistant, can deal with deeply shaded areas, is immune to salt, and is deer and rabbit resistant. A preferred evergreen species, it could possibly additionally take full solar situations and can produce white to lilac flowers if it’s glad sufficient. These flowers are tiny, however they type in clusters alongside the aspect of the leaves and their bloom stands out from the narrow-bladed leaves. These flowers might even bear fruit which can type as a tiny, vibrant blue berry on the base of the foliage. 

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Quick Care Guide

Ophiopogon japonicus can be known as dwarf lilyturf or mondo grass. Source: kaiyanwong223
Common Name Mondo grass, blue grass, dwarf lilyturf, dwarf mondo grass
Scientific Name Ophiopogon japonicus
Family Asparagaceae
Height & Spread 12-15 inches tall and broad, dwarf varieties have an expansion of 3-4 inches tall and broad
Light Full solar to half shade
Soil Well-drained soils
Water Moderate, drought-tolerant 
Pests & Diseases Slugs, snails, fungal points, root rot

All About Ophiopogon Japonicus

Mondo grass leaves
Mondo grass in its non-dwarf type is 12-15 inches tall. Source: Starr

There are two varieties of Ophiopogon japonicus: a typical sort and a dwarf sort. The customary sort very simply spreads by way of stolons, which is an above-ground runner. This makes it a superb alternative for a big space that you simply want to cowl like a shady space the place conventional turf grasses don’t develop as effectively. The dwarf sort doesn’t unfold this manner and grows in dense tufts. This makes it simpler to manage and higher fitted to borders or filling in areas between pavers within the backyard. As talked about above this grass-like evergreen originated in Japan and China and is understood by many widespread names similar to mondo grass, dwarf lilyturf, dwarf mondo grass, Japanese lilyturf, snake’s beard, and monkey grass. 

This plant grows as a perennial in USDA zone 7-11. Mondo grass will be recognized by its enticing evergreen foliage which seems as darkish green-blue strap-shaped leaves. The flowers are small with 6 petals and the flower coloration ranges from white to pale lilac flowers. It will usually bloom in early summer time. This floor cowl is an evergreen that may stay inexperienced and develop year-round although its progress might gradual within the winter. This makes a superb low-maintenance border plant as it could possibly survive wherever from full solar to shady areas. This plant does produce small cobalt blue berries that aren’t poisonous. However, there are not any identified culinary makes use of for them. The berries seem like blue variations of asparagus berries, which is sensible as a result of this plant is within the Asparagaceae household, which is identical household of vegetation as widespread asparagus! 


Ophiopogon japonicus berries
Ophiopogon japonicus berries are vibrantly blue in coloration. Source: safran83

Mondo grass is low to medium upkeep and with the next necessities met, you’ll take pleasure in its evergreen grass-like leaves including texture to your panorama by way of summer time and winter. Most of the time, you’ll even discover it to be care-free!

Sun and Temperature

Mondo grass can tolerate full solar to full shade, though the perfect website for this grass could also be partial shade. In full solar areas, the foliage will fade to a lighter inexperienced, whereas shifting this plant to shady areas will convey out the darkish inexperienced leaves. Ophiopogon japonicus is delicate to frost. A light-weight frost might trigger injury that it could possibly recuperate from, however a tough frost will severely set your vegetation again. For this purpose, rising this plant in USDA hardiness zone 7-11 will guarantee its survival. 

Water and Humidity

As with most vegetation grown in hotter climates the best time of day to water is within the morning in order that the moisture has an opportunity to soak into the soil earlier than the warmth of the day can evaporate it. However, if you happen to’ve missed this window of alternative then the second-best possibility is to water it within the night. Take care to keep away from wetting the foliage as this may occasionally trigger fungal points. Because of their small dimension and low progress profile, it’s best to water this plant with a drip irrigation system. Once established, these vegetation are drought tolerant and can survive the warmth with out a lot consideration. It’s higher to underwater reasonably than overwater these vegetation as they’re additionally vulnerable to root rot. In the winter, as their progress slows, the quantity of moisture that they want will lower as effectively. 


This conventional groundcover plant can survive in a large number of soil sorts and may even be grown hydroponically. This makes it an awesome possibility for a border round a pond as effectively. It has additionally been noticed at large field pet shops being bought as an underwater aquatic plant, however that’s not advisable for this plant. It will survive utterly submerged for a couple of weeks after which finally die because the leaves weren’t meant to be underwater. This plant prefers barely acidic to impartial soil with a ph of 5.5-7. It will be grown in containers as effectively so long as they’re crammed with a mixture of well-drained soils. It does significantly effectively on slopes as they permit to maintain the soil well-watered, but additionally supplies drainage away from the roots. Keep this plant moist, in well-drained soils, and keep away from muddy situations. 


Ophiopogon japonicus with white flowers
Some ophiopogon japonicus vegetation produce white flowers, others lilac-colored. Source: wallygrom

Another facet that makes mondo grass low upkeep is the truth that it doesn’t require any fertilizing in any respect. If you want to give it a lift then a prime dressing of compost in early spring will likely be enough. Otherwise, it survives simply advantageous in lots of soil sorts and conditions so long as the soil is well-draining. 


Pruning isn’t essential for this plant. It will develop till it reaches its mature top after which give attention to roots, flower manufacturing, and unfold. Unlike conventional turf grasses, it doesn’t must be mowed and may tolerate mild foot visitors. You’ll solely ever must take away lifeless or broken foliage. 


It is best to propagate Ophiopogon japonicus by division. In early spring dig up a clump of mondo grass and tease aside the roots till you may have a number of sections. Replant every part with no less than 4-inch spacing and they’ll finally unfold to fill within the gaps. Mondo grass may also be grown from seed, however this plant could be very gradual rising so it can take some time to get a viable transplant when rising from seed. 


Dwarf lilyturf seedlings
Dwarf lilyturf seedlings able to be planted. Source: Starr

As talked about above, mondo grass could be very low upkeep, shade-loving, evergreen, deer resistant, and an ideal border plant. There aren’t many pest and illness points with this plant, however there are some things for which to maintain a watch out. 

Growing Problems

Heat will be a problem for these vegetation, significantly mirrored warmth from partitions, walkways, and the like. Urban gardening will be crammed with pitfalls of this kind in and round backyard beds or containers. As a end result, it’s advisable in the course of the summer time months to supply a partial shade location away from hardscapes that may take in and radiate warmth from the solar. Keeping the soil moist throughout scorching climate may assist your vegetation deal with a bit extra warmth. Shade fabric arching over beds can also assist scale back heat in gardens the place these are planted.


Mondo grass is rabbit and deer-resistant. However, slugs and snails have been identified to munch on the leaves once in a while. If you see holes within the leaves and so they seem to wilt, then this can be an indicator that slugs and/or snails are current. Visually examine the leaves for the presence of slugs or snails. If you may have chickens, this is a chance to set them unfastened in your mondo grass for some tasty treats. For these of us with no yard flock, the perfect plan of action is a slug and snail bait. There are natural baits created from iron phosphate which can be protected to make use of round wildlife, individuals, and pets. 


Fungal ailments like Anthracnose can have an effect on these shade-loving vegetation. This is a fungal illness that normally seems in the course of the chilly and moist early spring in areas with excessive humidity. It causes leaf spots, cupping, or curling of the leaves and leaf drop. The finest preventative measure can be to make sure there’s good air circulation round your vegetation. After a plant is severely contaminated it’s finest to take away and destroy it to maintain the fungal an infection from spreading to different vegetation. Mild infections will be handled with a copper fungicide.

Mondo grass is vulnerable to root rot brought on by Pythium fungal strains that develop in overly-moist situations. Since this plant is reasonably drought-tolerant, it’s higher to underwater it than overwater it and threat root rot points. Root rot is tough to reverse if it has already progressed too far. If the plant seems brown and mushy on the base then this can be an indication of root rot creating. Back off on watering and let no less than the highest inch of soil across the roots dry out utterly earlier than watering once more. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Dwarf lily-turf fruiting
Dwarf lilyturf with a berry peeking out from throughout the blades. Source: harum.koh

Q: What is Ophiopogon japonicus used for?

A: It is a superb evergreen decorative grass, good for including a border to your gardens and including texture to backyard areas.

Q: Is Ophiopogon japonicus invasive?

A: The customary sort will be thought of invasive because it spreads by way of above-ground stolons, however it grows slowly and will be simply managed. 

Q: Does dwarf lilyturf unfold?

A: Dwarf sorts have a mature unfold of 3-4 inches and won’t unfold past that.

Q: Is mondo grass the identical as liriope?

A: No, though they’re each perennials evergreens within the lily household and have a really related look. Liriope will develop taller (12-24 inches) and has broader leaves. The flowers of liriope additionally develop upward on a tall stalk.

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