How to Plant and Grow Mondo Grass

Contrary to the name, this plant isn't actually a grass at all. Instead, it's related to lilies.

An easy-to-grow, attractive perennial groundcover, mondo grass is a good option for a turf alternative in shade gardens. Hardy in Zones 6-10, its grass-like foliage forms dense tufts that slowly spread over time and require no mowing. On top of the crisp foliage, small stalks of flowers appear in summer. Mondo grass can also make a minimalist statement as a container plant indoors or out.

Mondo Grass Overview

Genus Name Ophiopogon
Common Name Mondo Grass
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade, Sun
Height 4 to 15 inches
Width 6 to 15 inches
Flower Color Pink, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Purple/Burgundy
Season Features Summer Bloom
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant Mondo Grass

In many instances, shade gardens can be tricky to plant, especially when it comes to turf grass. With something as low maintenance as a mondo grass lawn, you can have the look of grass in shady spots. Mondo grass has no problem growing under large tree canopies, even between gnarled roots and rocks. However, if you're planting black foliage varieties of mondo, they'll need some sun, or the plants will be mostly green in full shade.

In the densest shade, you might not see many blooms. Typically, mondo grass blooms in the summer; its short spikes of pale pink or white appear just above (or sometimes in) the foliage of the plants. After the blooms fade, you may also see glossy dark purple to almost black berries.

Invasive Plant

Mondo grass is considered invasive in southern states but not in the rest of the country. To keep it from spreading away from where it's planted as a border or in other limited space, dig a 6-12 inch trench and add a barrier.

How and When to Plant Mondo Grass

Plant mondo grass in early spring to give the roots time to take hold before the weather gets warm. Place it in an area with filtered sunlight to keep the plants from drying. Amend the soil to improve drainage and add the nutrients mondo grass needs. Weed the area and mix in compost to the top 6 inches of soil.

Divide mondo grass into small clumps with eight to 10 leaves and lots of rhizomes. Plant 4 to 12 inches apart. Water the top of the soil until it's moist to around 3 inches deep.

Mondo Grass Care Tips

Despite what the name might imply, mondo grass isn't a true grass. It's in the lily family, as the dainty flowers suggest. The plants are very slow-growing and spread by stolons, or horizontal stems that are just below the soil surface.


When it comes to light exposure, mondo grass is not picky. The most common green varieties can take anything from full sun to shade. Leaf coloring may vary slightly depending on the exposure, including light green to deep emerald. Full sun is essential for the deep black-leaved varieties. The more shade, the more green the black becomes.

Soil and Water

One of the main drawbacks of mondo grass varieties is that they aren't drought tolerant. After they are established, colonies can take some drying out, but ideally, they need consistent moisture without being in standing water. Newly planted mondo grass should be planted in well-drained soil and watered a few times a week so the plants can establish roots. Mature mondo grass plants should be watered once a week.

Temperature and Humidity

Mondo grass is winter hardy. After a freeze, it will grow back. It thrives in humid climates, so if your area is dry, mist it with water to give it moisture.

The foliage of mondo grass is evergreen in warm climates. In cooler temperatures, the leaves may die back, but they can be sheared in early spring before new growth begins.


Fertilizer isn't necessary, but if you like, apply it every three months during spring and summer. Use a balanced 10-10-10 formula, following the manufacturer's instructions. Fertilizer will help maintain the grass's color.


In early spring, cut back dead growth to make way for new grass. If needed, add mulch at that time.

Potting and Repotting Mondo Grass

Mondo grass is an excellent container plant because of its small size and slow growth rate. It is ideally suited for miniature garden projects and pairs well with many other plants.

Plant it in a small container filled with potting soil and keep it at room temperature. It is easy to pot (or repot) because it has such a shallow root system, so don't use a deep pot—a shallow one with drain holes is a better choice. Many varieties grow no wider than 6 inches, but some are more than twice that size. The small ones are better for indoor living. Learn the expected size of the mondo grass before you choose a container; it should match the plant's anticipated width.

Water the plant regularly but lightly, and apply a slow-release balanced fertilizer in spring and midsummer. Mondo grass is such a slow grower, there may never be a need to repot it. If you do repot, give it new potting soil at that time.

Pests and Problems

Pythium root rot causes mondo grass's leaves to take on a burnt look and results in yellowing leaves and rotting roots. It's caused by heavy soil with poor drainage. It can be treated with appropriate products. Pests that can damage mondo grass include snails and slugs, which eat through the top of the mounds and destroy the grass. Pick the pests off the grass and drown them in soapy water. Spray with iron phosphate to keep them away. If you live in a southern state, check that mondo grass hasn't been identified as invasive in your state, as it has in others, before you plant.

How to Propagate Mondo Grass

Mondo grass can be propagated via divisions or seed. Divisions is the simpler method for anyone who has (or can buy) a plant. Sowing seeds is a more unreliable method.

Mondo grass has tuberous rhizomes in which it stores water and nutrients. They make it easy to divide plants and establish new plantings. In early spring, dig up an established clump of mondo grass and divide it into small sections using your hands or a sharp knife. Each section should have about 10 leaves and a generous amount of roots. Then, replant the clumps where you want them to grow in the garden spacing them 6 to 15 inches apart, depending on the projected size of the grown plant—whether dwarf or standard. Water the planted divisions and continue to water them for a few weeks until they are established.

Harvesting seed from an existing plant can be disappointing because hybrid cultivars don't produce accurately by seed. It is better to order seed from a garden center. Even in the best case, mondo grass seed has a poor germination rate, and the older the seed is, the worse the rate grows. Sow the seed soon after receiving it in pots filled with sterile potting soil and put them in a cold frame or another cool area. Cool weather results in the best germination rate. Keep the seeds moist at all times and expect germination in two weeks to six months! They won't all germinate at the same time.

Types of Mondo Grass

Dwarf Mondo Grass

Dwarf Mondo Grass
Ed Gohlich

Ophiopogon japonicus grows to 1 foot tall with linear green leaves. Spikes of pale whitish-lilac flowers nestle among the foliage. This tough plant makes a fine edging. Zones 7-10

'Nigrescens' Mondo Grass

'Nigrescens' Mondo Grass
Richard Hirneisen

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' has tufts of strappy dark purple leaves about 6 inches tall. Spikes of lilac-pink flowers resembling grape hyacinth rise on stiff stems in summer. Zones 6-11

Mondo Grass Companion Plants



These vigorous growers are beautiful additions to the garden. They vary from tall, stately plants suitable for borders to others that can be planted as creeping groundcovers. Flowers range from tight spikes of 1/2-inch to 1-inch cups carried alone or in whorls. Unfortunately, several sorts may become invasive and need to be corralled. Zones 4–9


These are not the invasive purple loosestrife, which has been banned in many parts of the United States.

Japanese Painted Fern

japanese painted ferns
Lynn Karlin

Japanese painted ferns are washed with silver and burgundy markings. Lady fern is equally grand, though not quite as showy. Either will add interest and texture to your shady spots. Unlike most ferns, these will tolerate dry soil. And they'll accept some sun if they have ample water. Zones 4–9

Ferns add delicate, feathery texture and tons of green to any garden bed. Like mondo grass, they prefer shady spots. Different types of ferns can very from small, 8 inch plants to towering 6 foot tall ones.


Karlis Grants

Astilbe brings a graceful, feathery note to moist, shady landscapes. In cooler climates in the northern third or so of the country, it can tolerate full sun provided it has a constant moisture supply. In drier sites, however, the leaves will scorch in full sun. It will spread slowly over time where well-situated. Zones 4–8


Impatiens flowers constantly, adding color without much maintenance to a garden. It works well with mondo grass to add lightness to mondo grass's monochromatic coloring. Zones 10-11


These bright white flowers of Snow-in-Summer look striking when paired with black mondo grass, and since they're groundcovers, create a lively rug-like look. Zones 3-10

Garden Plan for Mondo Grass

Bold Woodland Garden Plan

Bold Woodland Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Add a bright dose of color to a spot under a canopy of tree leaves.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How tall does mondo grass get?

    Most types of mondo grass grow up to 12 inches tall. They can also grow to 15 inches wide. Dwarf mondo grass grows only 4 to 6 inches tall.

  • Does mondo grass need to be mowed?

    No, mondo grass doesn't need to be mowed. It grows in neat clumps that never grow taller than the plant's stated size. If you are using it for a lawn area, select one of the dwarf mondo grass cultivars.

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