How to Plant Monkey Grass

Monkey grass, or liriope muscari, makes a great groundcover. How should you be planting it?

Monkey grass is a groundcover that looks like turf grass. It is also known a liriope muscari, or another common name, border grass. This plant is widely planted in bulk plantings as a groundcover along the margins of sidewalks, driveways, pathways, shrubbery, and trees.

It belongs to a genus whose individual species are difficult to discern. So much so that it is frequently misrepresented in big box home improvement and garden retailers as one of the other species in its genus.

Check out this page to make sure you don’t plant another species in the Liriope genus when you truly want to plant monkey grass.

We’ll touch on some other Liriope species to clear things out, but we’ll focus on monkey grass and all you need to know to cultivate it effectively.

Grown monkey grass in the garden

General Information

Liriope muscari, or monkey grass, is also known as border grass, huge blue lilyturf, and lilyturf.

The term “lilyturf” is a bit misleading because it is neither a turfgrass nor a lily. It does feature tufts of grass-like evergreen foliage. The leaves can reach lengths of 12 to 18 inches and widths of 12 inches. Individual plants expand to roughly a foot in width thanks to short stolons.

Its fibrous roots are robust and resilient. Its roots’ virile growth behavior makes it a preferred candidate for erosion management.

The little blooms are carried on upright spikes that reach above the foliage. They emerge in dense, tiered whorls of varying colors ranging from white to purple. They resemble the grape hyacinth’s blossom, and the plant’s species name is derived directly from the grape hyacinth’s Muscari genus.

The blossoms turn into berries that are a deep purple color. The berries have been known to remain on the shrub well into the winter.

Monkey grass is easy to grow and requires little upkeep, but if left unchecked, its aggressive growth behavior can overwhelm a landscape.

Big blue lilyturf thrives in the southeastern United States and other temperate regions. It thrives in ordinary, medium, and well-drained soils. It grows best in damp, rich soils with some shade.

While those circumstances are optimal, monkey grass can endure a wide range of light levels. It can also withstand heat, humidity, and drought.

The dark evergreen leaves may turn brown in the winter, but it will revert to its original green color in early spring.

A liriope muscari grass bearing purple flowers

The second most prevalent species, creeping lilyturf (Liriope spicata), is sometimes confused with monkey grass. The prominence of the flowers distinguishes monkey grass plants from creeping lilyturf plants. Monkey grass flowers are slightly larger and bloom above the leaves, whilst creeping lilyturf flowers are smaller and grow within the foliage. The roots of creeping lilyturf are rhizomatous rather than fibrous. Finally, the creeping lilyturf’s leaves are not as broad as those of the monkey grass.

Tall grasses with pinkish flower buds


From Seed

Seeds of lilyturf do not germinate effectively. The pulp of the fruit includes phenolic chemicals that prevent seed germination. For germination to occur, these chemicals must be completely eliminated. This is exacerbated further by morphological dormancy, which need a period of warm stratification for the seed to fully mature.

After the fruit ripens in early fall, clean, mature seeds can be sowed, and germination is very slow the following spring. Sowing the seeds in heated greenhouses in warm, wet soil that is left in the dark helps speed germination.

Division of the Roots

Propagation is most effectively performed by separating the root mass and transplanting the divided sections. This is performed during the dormant season, before new growth has begun.

Plants grown by division are clones of the mother and retain the cultivar’s traits. If you have a cultivar with desirable features, division is the most effective approach to replicate your monkey grass.


Monkey grass can withstand a wide range of harsh environments, including high salt content and extreme temperatures. They are extremely drought tolerant and will just require weekly watering to be healthy. Even in extreme drought conditions, after the plants are established, you will rarely have to water them more than once a week.

However, while the plants are establishing themselves in the landscape, you must keep the soil moist. The plant’s establishment can take many months and will be sped up if the soil is allowed to dry out. So, throughout the first few months, make sure to water the plants on a regular basis to ensure that they fully establish themselves.

Perennial plant monkey grass with purple flowers


These are low-maintenance plants that won’t require much extra effort on your side. It will suffice to provide them with two rounds of light fertilization per year to meet their nutrient requirements. Choose a fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio of 10-10-10. Follow the label’s instructions to determine the exact amount to use. Because these plants don’t eat much, you can go a little lighter than the label suggests if your plants are healthy.

Immediately after applying the fertilizer, water it into the ground. This not only activates the fertilizer, but it also rinses it off the leaves and keeps it from burning.

Common Problems

Not only is monkey grass low-maintenance, but it also rarely suffers from disease, fungal, or pest infestations. So, if you’re seeking for a plant that will take care of itself, this is the plant for you.

When these plants have problems, it is mainly due to poorly drained soils that allow water to puddle or gather.

Anthracnose, a fungal illness, is one such issue. Anthracnose appears as reddish-brown patches on the foliage’s tips and edges. If left untreated, it can cause a severe deterioration in the plant’s general health.

Anthracnose can be treated by spraying a fungicide onto the leaves or mowing or cutting the grass to 3 inches. This will eliminate all dead or unhealthy foliage from the equation.

Although leaf, crown, and root rot problems are not as widespread in these plants, once infected with one of these diseases, the harm is done. It’s better to simply dig out the plant, root and all, and dispose of it. Once rot problems have developed, they are difficult to resolve. So simply cut your losses.

The plant is also vulnerable to fern scale and liriope scale. Both disorders generate yellow and reddish staining on the plant’s leaves. You can solve this problem by mowing or reducing the foliage to a height of 3 inches. It also helps if you clear away the detritus left behind by leaf discoloration over the winter months.

Liriope muscari garden plant bearing purple flowers

Monkey Grass Tips and Tricks

Control the Spread of the Plant

You must control the spread of your monkey grass to prevent it from becoming too big and compromising its health. This can be done by digging up the plants and splitting their roots. The lower size will keep your lilyturf healthy and disease-free. Plant the clumps in separate sections of your planting site after you’ve divided the roots. This will only need to be done every three years.

Control the Weeds

Weeds are the most dangerous threat to the success of your plants. Keeping them at bay so that they don’t compete for nutrients with your monkey grass will ensure that they thrive.

A natural solution is the most effective technique to reduce weeds. Simply wrap the plant’s base with a layer of mulch to reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the soil around the plants.

Without adequate sunlight, no plant can grow. The mulch layer guarantees that your border grass receives the biggest chunk of the sun’s rays.

Planting Your Monkey Grass

Before you sow your plants in the ground, you’ll need to undertake some preliminary work, regardless of where you’re planting. To loosen the earth, start by digging a hole 18 inches deep.

Make certain that the soil drains adequately. Planting roots in wet soil will result in root rot, which is practically a death sentence.

With a trowel or garden fork, incorporate some organic compost into the soil at the bottom of the hole. Plants should be placed in a hole that is deep enough to cover the root system.

To account for the spread above and below the earth, space the plants 6 to 10 inches apart. They will eventually grow into one another to give efficient ground coverage, but they require some space to mature unhindered.

A large bush of monkey grass
Jeffrey Douglas
Jeffrey Douglas own a landscaping company and has been in the business for over 20 years. He loves all things related to lawns or gardens and believes that proper maintenance is the key to preventing problems in the first place.
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