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An easy-to-grow, attractive groundcover, mondo grass makes a great turf alternative. This grass-like foliage forms dense tufts that slowly spread over time and require no mowing. On top of its crisp foliage, small stalks of flowers appear in summer, reminiscent of grape hyacinths. Mondo grass can also make a minimalist statement as a container plant indoors or out.
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Part Sun, Shade, Sun
Under 6 inches to 3 feet
To 1 foot wide
In many instances, shade gardens can be tricky to plant, especially when it comes to turf grass. With something as low maintenance as mondo grass, you can have a shady lawn—with no mowing needed! Mondo grass has no problem growing in those deep shady spots under large tree canopies, even between gnarly roots and rocks. They are rugged enough to grow under black walnut trees and won't be deterred by their pesky poison. However, if you are planting black foliage varieties of mondo, they will 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, and short spikes of pale pink or white blooms are typically held 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.
Mondo Grass Care Must-Knows
Despite what the name might imply, mondo grass isn't actually a grass. It is in the lily family, as the dainty flowers that are born in the summer suggest. The plants are very slow growing and spread indefinitely by stolons, or horizontal stems that are just below the soil surface. Mondo grass also has tuberous roots that allow them to store water and nutrients. This makes it easy to divide plants and establish new plantings. It is best to plant mondo grass in rich, fertile soil for the most vigorous growth.
When it comes to exposure, mondo grass is not too picky. The most common green varieties can take pretty much anything from full sun to full 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 will become. Foliage of mondo grass is also evergreen in warmer climates. In cooler climates, there may be some dieback of the leaves, but this can easily be sheared back in early spring before new growth begins.
One of the main drawbacks of mondo grass is that they are not very drought tolerant. Once established, colonies can take some drying out, but ideally will have consistent moisture without being in standing water. See more great groundcover plants.
Typically, mondo grass is used in a landscape setting. However, because of its slow growth rate and small size, mondo grass is an ideal plant for container use. Especially with the increasing popularity of miniature and fairy gardens, as well as terrariums, mondo grass is perfectly suited for these situations and pairs well with many other plants.
More Varieties of Mondo Grass
Dwarf Mondo Grass
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
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