Mondo grass, also known as monkey grass, is an evergreen perennial, making it an excellent standalone plant or a groundcover.
Mondo grass performs well in almost any lighting or soil condition.
This grass is a slow-growing plant that requires minimal care once established and can be easily propagated by division. These grasses are adored by plant lovers, homeowners, and gardeners alike.
A truly outstanding and attractive landscape plant with multiple uses, mondo grass is well worth the time it takes to learn how to grow and care for it.
This helpful guide will teach you everything you need to know about mondo grass and its care.
What is Mondo Grass?
Scientifically known as Ophiopogon japonicus, mondo grass is a verdant groundcover plant that can grow in full shade or partial shade.
If provided with enough moisture, this plant can thrive in full sun. Mondo grass has a tuberous root system and stolons that allow it to expand beneath the soil, which results in clumping above the surface.
Mondo grass’s scientific name (Ophiopogon japonicus) refers to the plant’s native region of Asia. The name comes from the Latin words beard and snake, a reference to the flower spikes.
As a turf alternative in shady to partially sunny locations, mondo grass is an excellent sod alternative that does not require mowing.
Mondo grass spreads by underground stolons, runners, or stems and can slowly form dense colonies.
Thanks to the mondo grass’s ability to spread, they are excellent options as sod-forming stabilizers for slopes, banks, creek sides, and general erosion control.
Mondo grass is a year-round evergreen in warm climates, and it is considered a relative of the lily rather than an actual grass.
In cool areas, mondo grass’s new growth begins in early spring.
Being a slow-growing plant, mondo grass is a low-maintenance groundcover that requires little to no mowing. This plant blooms lilac and white flowers in the summer, followed by deep blue berries.
While mondo grass can fail without adequate moisture, it can tolerate almost anything, even deer.
Large specimens can be divided every three years. Container plants should be allowed to become slightly root bound before dividing and repotting.
Types of Mondo Grasses
Mondo grass presents itself in several varieties, such as:
- Variegated mondo grass Ophiopogon jaburan ‘Vittatus’
- Black mondo grass Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’
- Dwarf mondo grass Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’
- ‘Vittatus,’ ‘Aureoveriegatus,’ and ‘Variegatus’ have white or yellow striped leaves. The variegated foliage variable usually makes distinguishing one cultivar plant from another difficult.
- ‘Caeeruleus’ has violet flowers and deep green leaves like its parent specie.
- ‘Gyoko-ryu’ is shorter and more compact than ‘Nippon.’
- ‘Nippon’ is very small and grows whitish flowers during summer.
How to Grow Mondo Grass
While mondo grass care is minimal, you must choose the correct area to plant for good results and beautiful landscaping.
Plants are dark green when planted in shaded areas but light green when exposed to the full sun. Either location works well if the plant is free of competitive weeds and well-draining soil.
Separate each clump into sections with sufficient stolons, and plant 4-12 inches apart depending on how fast you want the area to fill in.
Using loose soil, cover the roots and stolons but avoid covering the plant’s crown. Keep the soil evenly moist until it fully matures.
For mondo grass container growth, pots or planters are recommended with a layer of well-drainage material, such as pebbles or broken pottery.
Fill the containers with humus-rich soil mixed with coconut coir, perlite, peat moss, vermiculite, or other moisture-retentive materials.
There are a few key factors to consider when growing mondo grass:
- Mondo grass does best in 6-10 USDA growing zones.
- Make sure you plant your mondo grass in well-draining soil.
- New plants should be watered regularly to help the roots establish. Eventually, mature mondo plants can be watered once a week.
- Mondo grass is not drought tolerant.
- Mondo grass does not do well in extreme heat.
- The best time to plant mondo grass is in early spring.
- Place your mondo grass where it can receive filtered sunlight so it doesn’t move on to the plant afterlife.
- You can amend poor soil conditions by adding nutrients to improve drainage.
- Weed the area before planting.
- Mix the soil in compost to the top six inches of soil.
- The type of plant, last pruning, and other factors like time of year determine the actual size of the plant(s).
Although this plant is easy to take care of, you should keep an eye out for external factors that can cause the demise of your plants, such as insects and hungry animals.
Mondo Grass Care Facts
If you are growing mondo grass as a lawn, there’s little you need to do to maintain it once it has been established. It also needs little to no fertilizing if grown in adequate conditions. An annual spring feeding with diluted grass feed should be sufficient.
After winter storms, if your mondo grass leaves look ragged, they can be a bit trimmed back to achieve a better appearance.
Mondo grass propagation can be easily done in spring by dividing large clumps or side shoots. If grown as standalone plants, divide clumps every three years.
Remove any weeds that may appear and keep the area evenly moist in dry seasons.
Important plant information to remember regarding mondo grass care is common pest and disease issues.
Slugs and snails may be an issue to this plant, as can scale.
Most disease issues are fungal and likely formed during wet and warm periods. Although they’re considered a nuisance, they are not a severe threat.
There are several cultivars with variant flower sizes and colors. There’s even a black-leaf mondo plant that is excellent for brightly colored flora and green-leaved foliage.
Mondo Grass Benefits
When successfully planted and grown, mondo grass is very low maintenance.
You also won’t have to worry about drought season since it is drought-tolerant and can adapt quickly to most conditions.
Mondo Grass won’t even succumb to pests; unlike other types of grasses, there is no need to trim it down as often. Trimming mondo grass once every one to two months should keep it looking great.
Although mondo grass is very easy to care for, there are different varieties, such as Nana, Gyoko-Ryu, Nigrescens, and Nippon.
Each mondo grass variety has its characteristics, so research which type would work best for your garden.
Mondo Grass Disadvantages
Although whimsical in appearance, Mondo grass is a tenacious robust grass that withstands almost anything.
It is typically used to boarder trees and garden beds as it works wonderfully to provide depth to any landscape.
Once mondo grass has been firmly established, it is renowned for spreading swiftly and classified as invasive because it is challenging to eradicate or restrict.
Across many southern states, this grass is considered a nuisance because it infringes on gardens and turf lawns.
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Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa’s work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.