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Gardening 101: Lilyturf

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Gardening 101: Lilyturf

August 20, 2019

Lilyturf, Liriope: “Grass Pretender”

Just like the many different common names this perennial possesses—one being monkey grass and another being spider grass—lilyturf also has numerous garden talents that will serve you and your garden well.

Please keep reading to learn more about this talented perennial.

In the foreground, variegated Liriope ‘Silvery Sunproof’ mingles with Carex ‘Frosted Curls’, Torenia ‘Summer Wave’, and Sedum dasyphyllum suendermanii. Photograph by KM via Flickr.
Above: In the foreground, variegated Liriope ‘Silvery Sunproof’ mingles with Carex ‘Frosted Curls’, Torenia ‘Summer Wave’, and Sedum dasyphyllum suendermanii. Photograph by KM via Flickr.

Native to China, Japan, and Taiwan, liriope probably believes that it’s a fancy ornamental grass due to its strappy blades, but really it’s a perennial. And whatever you choose to call liriope, it is one of those versatile perennials that I find myself incorporating into many garden designs because of its low-maintenance nature, its ability to act as a unique ground cover, and the fact that it happily travels throughout sunny and shady areas.

Photograph by KM via Flickr.
Above: Photograph by KM via Flickr.

Cheat Sheet

  • When used in Asian-themed gardens, liriope looks the most at home, but it also looks lovely mingling in the foreground of woodland or cottage gardens where its grass-like blades contrast nicely with broader leafed, shade-loving perennials such as bergenia and alchemilla.
  • Most varieties display lavender to purple spears that bloom in late summer, are great for small arrangements, and provide bees with essential late season nectar.
  • Try planting liriope in a container where its blades arch playfully through and over other flowers and stems.
Liriope ‘Pamela Harder’. Photograph by Megan Hansen via Flickr.
Above: Liriope ‘Pamela Harder’. Photograph by Megan Hansen via Flickr.

Keep It Alive

  • One tough contender, liriope tolerates the occasional crushing from dog paws or grazing deer, as well as poor soil and tricky tree roots. Also, as a ground cover, it suppressing weeds and provides erosion control.
  • Looks the most content in part or dappled sun areas, where it clumps freely and without fuss and is luckily not so thirsty for water.
  • To keep it looking fresh, trim back the leaves to the ground before new growth appears. Tip: Trim too late and the plant will have a slightly ragged appearance all year.
Liriope Silvery Sunproof is $69.97 for a flat of 18 pots from Wilson Bros Gardens.
Above: Liriope Silvery Sunproof is $69.97 for a flat of 18 pots from Wilson Bros Gardens.

Two main types exist which is spicata and muscari; spicata spreads and muscari clumps.  A favorite of mine is Liriope muscari ‘Silvery Sunproof’ with its yellow striped leaves, which I find pleasing paired  with other yellow toned plants such as Heuchera ‘Lime Ricky’ or Sedum ‘Ogon’.

N.B.: For more tough ground covers, see our guide to Ground Covers 101: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.  Interested in other options? Read Fields of Green: 5 Favorite Lawn Substitutes.

Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for lilyturf with our Lilyturf: A Field Guide.

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various perennial plants with our Perennials: A Field Guide.

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various ground cover plants with our Ground Covers: A Field Guide.

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