Monkey Grass: A Versatile and Beautiful Addition to Your Garden

Are you looking to add some charm and elegance to your garden? Look no further than monkey grass! Monkey grass, also known as the Black Mondo Grass or Creeping Lilyturf, is a perennial plant that comes in three different varieties. Each variety has its own unique characteristics and uses. In this article, we will explore these varieties and provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision when choosing one for your garden.

Types of Monkey Grass Plants

Let’s start by discussing the three different types of monkey grass plants.

Black Mondo Grass Plant

black mondo grass

The Black Mondo Grass, scientifically known as Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens,’ is not actually a grass, but a perennial plant that belongs to the Lily family. It features beautiful black foliage and small bell-shaped pink flowers that bloom in the summer. This monkey grass works well as ground cover in semi-shaded areas or as a border plant. It also looks stunning when combined with plants like Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ in rock gardens. The Black Mondo Grass is slow-growing, so it is best to plant it in spring to establish before winter. It reaches a mature height of 12 inches and is native to Japan, thriving in USDA zones 6 to 9.


black mondo grass lighting

When it comes to lighting, the Black Mondo Grass is quite adaptable and can thrive in various conditions. However, it prefers partial shade rather than direct sunlight, especially in warmer climates.

Soil Needs


For optimal growth, the Black Mondo Grass requires well-drained, moist soil rich in organic matter. It thrives in slightly acidic soil.


To keep your Black Mondo Grass healthy, it is important to keep the soil moist but not overly saturated. Water more frequently during hot temperatures, but be cautious not to overwater, as it can lead to root rot.

Temperature and Humidity

black mondo grass

The ideal growing conditions for the Black Mondo Grass are warm weather without extreme heat. It can tolerate different humidity levels as long as the soil remains moist. However, be aware of slugs, as they can become a problem.


The Black Mondo Grass doesn’t require additional feeding. A top dressing of organic compost in spring can serve as an ideal fertilizer for this variety.


To maintain a tidy appearance and encourage new growth, prune your Black Mondo Grass in spring before new growth appears. You can use sterilized garden shears or a lawnmower set to the highest setting. Removing old foliage also helps promote healthier growth.


The best way to propagate the Black Mondo Grass is by dividing the fibrous root system in spring. Using a garden fork, gently separate the clumps and ensure each plant has a set of leaves. Use a knife to cut through the thickly entwined roots, and plant the clumps four inches apart in the ground. If you can’t plant them immediately, keep the roots moist until you can.

Creeping Lilyturf (Liriope Spicata)

Liriope Spicata

Another type of monkey grass is the Creeping Lilyturf, scientifically known as Liriope spicata. It grows taller compared to the Black Mondo Grass, reaching a height of up to 18 inches. It belongs to the Asparagus family and is hardier than the other varieties. This makes it suitable for northern gardeners, as it is drought-tolerant and helps prevent erosion. The Creeping Lilyturf spreads with underground rhizomes and makes an excellent ground cover to control weeds. It blooms with lavender or purple flowers from August to September and is native to Japan, China, and Southeast Asia.


monkey grass lighting condition

When planting Creeping Lilyturf, space them up to 18 inches apart to allow them to fill the gaps. Late fall to early spring is the best time to establish these plants. In poor soil, consider amending it with compost. Creeping Lilyturf can tolerate a variety of sunlight conditions. In colder climates, it can be left in full sun, while in warmer environments, partial to full shade is preferable.


well-draining mix with organic matter

Creeping Lilyturf thrives in well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. It prefers a slightly acidic to neutral pH level between 6.0 to 7.0. The big blue lilyturf variety can even be grown in containers to control its growth.


The slow-growing Creeping Lilyturf performs well with heavy watering once a week. Once established, it becomes fairly drought-tolerant. Ensure proper drainage to avoid root rot.

Temperature and Humidity

creeping liriope

Similar to the Black Mondo Grass, the Creeping Lilyturf thrives in warm weather without extreme heat. It can withstand different humidity and temperature levels.



Creeping Lilyturf doesn’t require much fertilizing. Amend the soil with compost or use a slow-release fertilizer for shrubs or trees in spring. Avoid feeding the plants from fall to winter, as they can be susceptible to diseases during that time.


After the growing season ends, you can prune your Creeping Lilyturf by mowing it down with a lawnmower set to a high setting. In some regions, the foliage may remain green in late summer. Pruning is best done in spring, especially if the plant is grown in warm winter areas that cannot tolerate frost.


To propagate Creeping Lilyturf, divide the plant’s root system. Plant the individual plants leaving about 18 inches of space between them.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, monkey grass is a versatile plant that can add beauty and texture to your garden. Whether you choose the Black Mondo Grass or the Creeping Lilyturf, these plants are sure to make a stunning addition to any landscape. Just remember that monkey grass berries can be toxic to humans and pets, so be cautious if you have them in your garden. So why wait? Start planting your monkey grass today and enjoy the beauty it brings to your outdoor space.