Mondo Grass

Steps, pavers, concrete slabs or tiles can look very stark and harsh in the garden. A popular landscaping trick is to tone down these areas using one of the varieties of mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus). Don visited Bronte House in Sydney, where mondo grass has been used very effectively to soften and add charm to a flight of steps.

Mondo grass is not actually a grass but a lily. This versatile plant can also be used as a border to create a formal look, or as a lawn in areas where there is no traffic. Although it will last for years undisturbed, well-established clumps can be divided and spread round the garden. Mondo grass grows in all areas of Australia.

Other mondos

Mini or dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus 'Nanus') is a hardy plant which will tolerate very dry conditions and is frost tolerant. It grows to 75mm (3") tall. Black mondo (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') has purple-black, strap-like leaves. It reaches a height of about 25cm (10"). Giant mondo (Ophiopogon jaburan) has longer, broader leaves with flowering stems up to 60cm (2') long. It has a weeping habit and is more clump forming than the common mondo. It will only tolerate light frosts. There is also a variegated form (Ophiopogon jaburan 'Variegatus').

Blue Mingo

Although not a mondo grass, blue mingo grass (Themeda australis var. Mingo) could be used to similar effect. It is a tussock-forming Australian native grass with lush blue foliage, 75-100mm (3-4") tall.

How to Grow Mondo Grass

    • 1

      Plant in the right climate. Mondo grass can be a carefree and permanent addition to your landscape, provided it has the right weather conditions. The grass is very heat-tolerant but cannot survive the cold winters of the northern United States. Any gardener that lives in an area where temperatures dip into the negative digits, should plant Liriope instead. Give it full shade or partial sun. They will not do well if exposed to a full day's sun. No matter where you live, pests, disease and deer are seldom an issue with these plants.

    • 2

      Put them anywhere in the yard in place of grass. The biggest advantage to planting Mondo grass is that it will flourish in parts of the yard where nothing else will grow. Many people opt to put them underneath the dense shade of oak trees where lawn grass growth is sparse. Since Mondo Grass is a slow grower, it rarely needs cut back or pruned. For this reason, some people use these plants in place of traditional lawn grasses. It will take several years to completely fill in, but once it does, you need never mow again. If this is your goal, stay away from the dwarf varities of Mondo Grass as these take much longer to spread.

    • 3

      Give it well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. The grass will grow in just about any soil condition, but good drainage and proper Ph will help them to stay healthy and spread. There is no need to sift the soil as Mondo grass does just fine in rocky soils. They need only moderate watering. Rain water is usually sufficient, especially during the winter.

    • 4

      Prune and fertilize as desired. In general, Mondo grass does not need pruning or fertilizing. If you do opt to prune them, cut out any brown portions of the leaves in early spring. You may opt to give Mondo grass a general plant food or a lawn fertilizer, especially if you want them to grow faster. If you choose to mow, you must give them a fertilizer to help them regenerate. Instead of pruning larger plants, simply divide into clumps in early spring. Trim roots and replant in another location.