Dictionary of Flowers: Ophiopogon Planiscapus (Mondo grass)

Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon Planiscapus) looks wild if allowed to grow freely and spread. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Cristian Roberti and Flickr

Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon Planiscapus) looks wild if allowed to grow freely and spread. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Cristian Roberti and Flickr

  • Ophiopogon Planiscapus (Mondo grass)
  • Common name: mondo grass, monkey grass
  • Family: Asparagaceae
  • Perennial in Zones 6-10
  • Height: 8” to 24” Width 8” to 24”
  • Sun/part shade
  • Growth habit: clumping. Used as a filler or thriller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Blooms: midsummer, grown for foliage
  • Soil: fertile, moist, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, edging, groundcover
  • Diseases: no serious disease problems
  • Pests: slugs and snails

A native of Japan, mondo grass is suitable for warm to hot growing zones, where it is perennial. If growing in colder zones, liriope can be used instead.

The most popular garden species of mondo grass are ophiopogon japonicus and o. planiscapus. Several cultivars are available.

It spreads quickly and works well as a groundcover for part shade areas of the garden.

It forms clumps of blades from which small white or purple flowers on racemes appear in summer. If allowed to go to seed, the berries are attractive, dark blue. It spreads by stolons and tuberous roots.

Mondo grass grows well in sun to part sun and even shade. The soil needs to be fertile, well drained. It is tolerant of slightly acidic soil.

Mondo grass is easy to establish in the garden. It needs to be watered well for two weeks when first planted, and after that, it is somewhat drought tolerant, though it grows better when watered regularly.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

It requires regular fertilization during spring and summer, either by top dressing with compost, or by applications of slow release granular fertilizer.

Amend the planting site with compost or other organic fertilizer when first planting mondo grass to improve drainage.

In spring, cut back clumps by shearing or mowing if growing on the ground to remove damaged foliage. Mondo grass clumps can be divided in early spring or early fall to propagate.

Dig the clump out and separate into small sections. Plant immediately in amended soil and keep well watered for two weeks to allow for good root development.

Mondo grass can also be propagated by seed, though it is not easy to germinate.

Seed needs to be fresh and it needs to be kept moist for a few days before planting, by placing seed in moist paper towels inside a plastic bag.

Mondo grass seed germinates best if kept cool, so plant outdoors in containers in early spring or fall in areas where it acts as a perennial.

Plant seed one inch deep in moist potting mix. Cover them with plastic to keep humidity high. Germination is slow and erratic, between two weeks and a month or longer, up to six months.

Once seedlings appear, remove the cover and keep seedlings moist. Transplant into their permanent position in the garden when weather warms up.




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

It is normally not affected by diseases or pests. If slugs and snails are a problem in spring, bait as needed.

Popular varieties:

  • Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' - black mondo grass. Dark colored blades and pink flowers. Grows up to a foot tall
  • Ophiopogon japonicus 'Nanus' - dwarf variety, green foliage under six inches tall. Grows best in shade
  • Ophiopogon japonicus 'Silver Mist' - white and green blades, grows up to ten inches tall
  • Ophiopogon japonicus 'Kyoto' - dwarf mondo, shortest hybrid available. One inch tall

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

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