Liriope Solves Many Problems

This is my kind of plant. It’s not flamboyant. It’s neat and it’s well-mannered. It plays well with its neighbors, and it seldom asks any special favors. It’s just a great plant to have in our landscapes.

Liriope fills its bed with evergreen foliage, and for two months in summer, with lavender blooms. Click image for larger view.

I said all of that in the singular “it’s,” but there are actually dozens of types of liriope in the market today. As I often do, I’m just going to jot down the highlights.

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What you need to know about Liriopes…
Scientific name: Liriope muscari

According to the Missouri Botanical Gardens website, genus name refers to Liriope, the mother of Narcissus, and the species name means “with flowers resembling grape hyacinth” (Muscari).

Liriope on top of wall provides nice contrast with foliage of English ivy on bottom of wall. Click image for larger view.

Common names: Liriope, lilyturf

Note that it has a grass-like appearance, but it is in the family Asparagaceae. It does not stand pedestrian traffic well at all.

Giant liriope in bloom in the Sperry home landscape a couple of summers ago.

Do not confuse liriope with its finer-textured, smaller-leafed cousin mondograss (Ophiopogon japonicas)

Native home: Southeast Asia, including China, Taiwan and Japan

Height: 12 to 18 in.
Width: 10 to 15 in. Liriope muscari is more clump forming. L. spicata spreads aggressively and is best used as a groundcover.

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Flowers: Lavender or white, in spikes to 15 to 28 in.
Bloom time: July and August
Flowers are followed by pea-sized dark fruit along the flower stalks.

Exposure: Shade to morning sun, full sun in better settings in East Texas

It would be difficult to maintain any shrubs in this narrow bed, but liriope fills the space beautifully.

Landscape uses: Bed edgings, groundcovers, alternative to low shrubs in limited spaces, source of color in shade.

Soil preference: Highly organic and consistently moist

Hardiness Zones: 6-10 (all of Texas)

Several varieties of variegated liriope are sold in local nurseries. They’re great ways to bring light to dark corners of the landscape. Click image for larger view.

Care tips: Prune to remove browned leaves in January or early February (before any new growth begins). You do not want evidence of trimming, or you’ll have to look at it the rest of the growing season.

Watch for crown rot. Remove infected plants immediately and work to improve drainage in bed.

New planting of liriope groundcover is starting to become established.

Propagation: By division. Anytime, but late summer and fall are ideal.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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