Mondo grass, a plant native to Korea and Japan, is finding a niche as an excellent alternative to turf grass. Even though it’s technically a lily, it looks like lush, green grass with slender blades and is wonderfully low maintenance – it requires no mowing and virtually no watering. Like an evergreen it stays colorful all year, which makes it a superb ornamental plant. It is also disease resistant and has no major pests.
A shorter version of mondo grass is called dwarf mondo grass, also known as dwarf monkey grass. This variety is becoming increasingly popular with landscapers and homeowners who require a hardy groundcover.
Dwarf mondo only reaches a height of two to four inches. Once this variety is established it will grow and multiply by root separation to form a thick, grassy turf. It looks great in areas where grass doesn’t grow well, like in shaded areas as well as borders, around beds, or in between stepping stones. It is equally happy to grow in sun or shade, making it satisfyingly versatile. This easy going plant takes the guess work and stress out of watering. As long as it gets occasional rain you won’t have much to worry about. It requires very little water and is drought resistant.
Usually you will buy mondo as bare-root sprigs that are individually planted. You can buy the seed, but you may not get consistent results as germination is irregular. The sprigs need to be planted about three to four inches apart for full coverage. Each sprig has about six to ten blades that sprout to form an umbrella shape. In general it will double in growth each year. By using an annual top-dressing of compost you can shorten the time to reach full coverage. It is recommended for zone seven, however, it can handle zones five and six if in a protected area. It will be frost tolerant to -15 degrees C.
The downside to dwarf mondo grass is that it won’t hold up to regular foot traffic. It can handle some occasional light treading, but it won’t tolerate an area of high use. This means you’ll have to keep the children and dogs off of it. Also, it’s invasive and can spread quickly. In this way it is very similar to lily turf such as liriope spicata. Make sure you plant mondo grass in an area where it has room for expansion and where you don’t mind it taking over. Keep weeds under control because they will compete with your ground cover for nutrients.
Having trouble with lawn thatch. You may be interested in getting a dethatching blade attachment for your lawn mower.