published Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Lea: 'Monkey grass' may need to be dug up

By Pat Lea

Q. What can I do about invasive monkey grass? My neighbor's liriope grows in nice rows and mine is spreading all over.

A. There is not much that you can do with your rapidly spreading "monkey grass," the common name used for several different plants that have different growth habits. You have planted a spreading type of plant and it will continue to spread since it is genetically determined to do so.

Let's get technical for a moment. You may have planted Liriope spicata, sometimes called "creeping lilyturf" or "monkey grass," and its natural growth habit is to spread by underground runners. It is widely used as a very sturdy ground cover and it withstands poor conditions.

You could also have planted Ophiopogon, another spreading member of the Liliaceae family. It resembles Liriope spicata, and sometimes you will find them with white-edged, narrow or wider foliage. They are fast-growing and spread widely.

What you wanted to plant was Liriope muscarii, which is a clump-forming liriope that behaves better as an edging plant. Usually the foliage is a bit heavier in appearance. We can all sympathize with the mistake since Liriopes are rarely fully labeled and often mislabeled. The use of common names doesn't help.

You must ask for the clump-forming type of "monkey grass" and then inspect the pot. Notice if it is overgrown and looks especially full in the pot -- that probably indicates a spreader. You can dig up your spreading "monkey grass" and move it to a location where its good qualities as a sturdy ground cover are useful. Then buy the clumping form and start over.

Contact Pat Lea at lea.pat@gmail.com.

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