Add some color and ground cover to your yard with this unique plant.

By Lauren Wellbank
August 19, 2020
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monkey grass purple flowers ground cover
Credit: Getty / magicflute002

Have you heard of Liriope muscari before? The grass, which our experts say is more accurately described as a perennial ground cover than a grass, makes an excellent border plant in most beds and gardens. Often called simply Liriope, lily turf, or, most commonly, monkey grass, this unique plant is actually part of the asparagus family. Its showy purple or violet flowers make this ornamental grass a versatile plant that will thrive in most gardens.

Where to Plant Monkey Grass

Monkey grass is a fairly adaptable plant, according to Justin Hancock, a Monrovia horticultural craftsman, because you can grow it in sun or shade. "In most areas, it prefers part shade and moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter," he says. "Once established, it's fairly drought tolerant." That's something that makes it valuable in shade gardens, which often don't have a lot of options for color. "In warm-winter areas, it tends to be evergreen; in colder climates, the foliage may die back in winter." Hancock offers a professional tip: If you want to give it an instant refresh in the spring, set your lawnmower blade on the highest setting and mow over your monkey grass. According to Hancock, this will make it send up new foliage afterwards. The plant can grow as tall as a foot high, with each blade reaching no more than a half inch in width.

How to Use Monkey Grass in Your Garden

Vicky Popat, CFO and tropical plant expert at PlantOGram, explains that Liriope can make a great addition to any garden. "One of the most gorgeous plants that adds depth to any yard and really frames it out is the monkey grass," she says. "Usually mistaken as turf grass, this ground cover adds an amazing frame to any garden." It's a great option if you get a lot of foot traffic of the four-legged variety as well. "It offers some deer resistance, too, so gardeners can enjoy it even in areas frequented by deer," Hancock says, adding that deer resistant doesn't mean deer proof. If there aren't other food sources around, deer will have no problem snacking on your monkey grass plants.

Fertilizing Your Monkey Grass

Monkey grass is pretty low-maintenance when it comes to fertilization. "In average to rich soils, additional fertilizer isn't necessary," Hancock explains. If your soil is on the poorer side, you may want to add a boost in the spring. A balanced, general-purpose garden fertilizer should be plenty to up its growing potential. Even a good layer of compost will help spruce up your plant according to Popat. "This grass is very low maintenance and looks gorgeous full of life all the time."

Where to Buy Monkey Grass

While it's possible to grow Liriope from seed, it's not that common. "I have not seen seed for sale before," Hancock explains. "It's much more common to purchase this ground cover as a plant from your local garden center, especially if you want to grow a particular variety (some varieties have attractively variegated foliage; some have white flowers instead of purple; etc.)," Monkey grass is an especially versatile plant, and according to Chad Husby, PhD., and chief explorer at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, one of the few types of plants that can be grown in cold temperate areas. It can be grown in USDA hardiness zone six through zone 10. "However, monkey grass looks best in warmer climates of zone eight or above," he says. "In colder areas, it does not look as good during the winter and some types will not tolerate cold."

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