Versatile, easy-to-care-for, attractive; these are adjectives that describe the ground cover, dwarf mondo grass. Dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) can be used in a variety of situations, such as beds and borders, but is an especially good choice for areas that either you don’t want to mow and/or are difficult to mow, like perhaps under a tree or in uneven terrain or a slope where mowing can be difficult.
Dwarf mondo grass is similar in appearance to a ground cover commonly called Lilyturf (Liriope muscari), but has thinner leaves and a finer texture. It grows 2 to 4 inches tall and once established is drought-tolerant and resistant to pests and disease. You can find dwarf mondo grass at garden centers where it is sold in cell packs just like your spring bedding plants. Popular varieties include Nana, Nippon, and Gyoko-ryu.
How to Plant Dwarf Mondo Grass (video)
Like any ground cover, the biggest investment of time and energy is in the planting and establishment phase, especially keeping weeds from cropping up between the newly planted sprigs. Weeds can be controlled by using a pre-emergent herbicide or by applying a thick layer of straw or wood mulch between the plants. Some folks say it is easier to mulch the area first then push the mulch aside where you need to plant. Pluck any weeds that may poke through the mulch. Once the ground cover is established it will spread into these areas, effectively choking out any future weeds.
Unlike actual turf, dwarf mondo grass doesn’t take a lot of traffic, except for perhaps, the occasional romping around by children. Mow it in late fall or early spring to keep it looking attractive.
When to Plant
Plant dwarf mondo grass in the early spring or early enough in the fall so it has a chance to establish itself before winter sets in (much like planting a tree or perennial flower in the fall).
Where to Plant
Plant in sun or shade, preferably in a slightly acidic soil. Work up the area to be planted first with a rototiller, then mix in about three inches of compost. If planted in full sun, water well until it is becomes established.
Remove each plant or sprig from the cell packs and plant to the depth it was growing in the cell pack.
Space the dwarf mondo grass sprigs 6-8 inches apart, or if you want faster coverage, space 3-4 inches apart.
The versatile ProPlugger 5-IN-1 will make planting dwarf mondo grass a snap, while sparing you a lot of uncomfortable bending over or kneeling...and it's so easy to use:
- Slide one of the 2" or 4" adapter plates (rings) provided, onto the end of the ProPlugger to set the depth of the planting hole.
- Next, step down on the sturdy foot-peg until the adapter plate bottoms out against the ground, letting your body weight and gravity do most of the work.
- Give the handlebar a slight twist to break the soil plug loose and pull straight up to remove a plug of soil. You've just dug your planting hole in less than 5 seconds! The soil gets stored in the tool as you work and when it's full, simply turn the tool upside down and it empties right out.
Mix in a 5-10-15 or organic fertilizer before you plant. A light feeding in the spring (of a general purpose 12-12-12 or organic fertilizer) for the first few years should be sufficient to keep the dwarf mondo grass healthy and spreading like it should.
Disease and Pest Problems
Like many ground covers, dwarf mondo grass is rarely plagued by disease and pest problems. Any suspected pest problems should be reported to a local county extension agent for identification and recommendations on how to control or eradicate the problem.
Be sure to check out the helpful information on our website, including other uses for the ProPlugger including:
Neil Moran is a horticulturist and author of three books on gardening. He is also the creator and author of the garden blog Haylake Horticultural.