Q: I have a question about dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’). I planted it last year as a groundcover around foundation plants in the hope that someday I wouldn’t have to buy pine straw. It is filling in slowly as I expected. I recently discovered the beautiful blue berries hidden under the foliage. I thought someone had lost their beads when I saw them the first time. If I plant them will they sprout, or is there something I need to do to the seeds first, like dry them or freeze them? It would sure speed up the time it will take to fill in the area if I can germinate some of the berries.
A: My University of Georgia colleague Allan Armitage says that the seeds will sprout if you first soak them in water for twenty four hours and remove the pulp. Plant the cleaned seed one-half inch deep in a plastic nursery flat filled with moistened seed starting mix. Insert the flat into a large plastic bag, to prevent drying, and put in a moderately warm spot. to germinate. In six weeks you should begin to see tiny green leaves peek from the soil. Remove the plastic bag and place the flat in the brightest spot possible. If you don’t have a bright spot, hang a two tube fluorescent fixture four inches above the flat. By May the plants should be big enough to transplant to individual four inch pots. Water and fertilize them regularly during the summer. They can be transplanted to your groundcover area in October.
Q: We have a family burial plot that needs some upkeep. Is there a low growing grass I can plant that won’t require mowing?
A: All of the turf grasses used on lawns will require mowing. Centipedegrass will not require as much mowing as the rest but you’ll have to lug a mower over there a few times each year. Why not try mondo grass? This plant is not a true grass but it stays low to the ground and never needs mowing. It doesn’t like much traffic – but that won’t be a problem in your situation. Mondo grass spreads by underground runners. If you have a friend with a big patch, ask if you can dig some of it and divide it to plant on your plot.
Q:When we bought our house in the late 70s there was a beautiful fescue lawn front and back. Through the years the evergreens in the back yard have thrived, providing 100% shade in the summer. Drought conditions have made the grass back there disappear blade by blade. Until last summer I had a nice stand of weeds which kept the yard green and the soil from eroding but now there are huge areas that are nothing but hard-packed red Georgia clay. What shall I do? Do you have any suggestions? There are three steep banks which I have encouraged ivy to cover. One area has some mosses on it — but the high traffic areas have nothing. I would like some kind of ground cover, maybe, that would be low-growing and not mind the occasional foot step or wheelbarrow going over it. Is Astro-turf the answer?
A: I have the same situation in my front yard, sooo much shade and nooo grass. The best solution is as you mentioned, a ground cover. The best evergreen shade groundcover that I can think of that will tolerate some foot traffic is dwarf mondo grass. It can even be mowed if needed.
It will grow, but not thrive nor spread quickly in hard packed red clay. If you can, loosen and amend the soil with organic compost.
I would advise that you stay away from ivy. It spreads and climbs quickly. It can be a tree and shrub killer. Once established, it is hard to eradicate.
Here is the University of Georgia publication on groundcovers.
In your high traffic areas, have you considered putting in paths with beds of shade loving shrubs and perennials? This can be surprisingly easy and once completed, absolutely beautiful. The University of Missouri has a nice publication for shade gardening.
Feb. 10, 1995
Q: How can I remove mondo grass that is growing in patches in my lawn?
A: Mondo grass is an attractive ground cover, but it can be tough to remove if it grows in the wrong place. It spreads by underground runners. If you miss any of them when digging it out, mondo grass will reappear. Try using a foam paint brush to apply a herbicide containing glyphosate. It will take more than one operation, but the chemical will move from the leaves to the roots and will eventually thwart the invader.
Feb. 23, 1996
Q: You described how to cut monkey grass with a mower last week. Is it correct to cut mondo grass the same way?
A: Mondo grass does not seem to have been damaged much by cold weather. If your mondo grass is dark green and healthy, leave it alone. Although it is called a “grass” the plant is actually in the lily family. Mowing it causes the cut edges to turn brown and unsightly. You can make it spread and grow faster by applying a pint of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet in mid-March.
Q: I’ve got a very dark green “grass” in a few patches in my back yard that I don’t know what it is. A lawn company salesman said it was called “Nuts Edge” and it was more a northern grass. I went on the Internet but couldn’t find any mention of “Nuts Edge”. It seems to be very hardy, really dark green, almost looks like monkey grass but grows very slowly. It spreads very slowly and seems to be shade and drought tolerant. I would like to do my whole yard in it if it would grow OK.
A: I hope the lawn company salesman would not be part of the team coming to care for your lawn. “Nuts Edge” might be a good name for a band in Athens but it is definitely not a grass. I think the salesman was saying nutsedge, however I am reasonably sure the plant you describe is not nutsedge. Nutsedge is a pernicious weed but it goes dormant in winter and doesn’t emerge until later this month. The leaf color is more a light greenish yellow rather than dark green.
I think you have a nice patch of mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) – which I consider to be quite a fine groundcover. Patches of it have sprouted mysteriously in my back yard and I dig it up occasionally to line my bog area. Go to a garden center and ask to see their mondo grass selection. They may have a black-leaved type as well as a super-dwarf form besides the common variety I think you have. If my guess is right, you can dig it up and use it as a border or as a groundcover like I do.
Q: I think that you mentioned on one of the shows that there is a chemical that will kill zoysia that has creeped into my mondo bed. Could you send me the name?
A: Sethoxydim (Vantage) is labeled for use to control grasses in liriope but not mondo. You could try it on a small spot and see what happens.
Study this label.