Mondo Grass – Making a Lawn

Q: I have heard you talk about how hard it is to grow grass in deep shade. On a recent garden tour, one gardener had a spectacular “lawn” of mondo grass.

The gardener said that she sprigged the yard with small plants and that mondo sleeps, creeps, and leaps just like ivy. During those growth times, she weeded like crazy and eventually got this great result!

A: You’re the second person to send pix of this to me! Thanks!

Mondo grass, Ophiopogon japonicus, is a grass-like plant that thrives in shade. It can’t take much foot traffic but it is easy to place stepping stones in it to guide visitors.

If someone wants to establish a mondo grass lawn, I recommend looking for a friend who has it in their landscape and offering to dig and divide clumps of it. A six-inch square clump will yield twenty plants, which can each be planted six inches apart. They will grow together within a year.

The lawn owner comments:

“One side of my driveway is mondo and the other side is dwarf mondo. I did it as an experiment after 20 years of trying to grow fescue in the shade.I divided the 4″ pots into plugs.

“It took the regular mondo grass three years to cover. I used small plugs and placed them 8-12 in. apart in a random pattern. Weeds were a problem, but I used Preen and it helped. The dwarf mondo took 5 years to cover (once again using plugs to save money) with the same problem as above. I also used fertilizer to promote growth but have not used any after it filled in.

“The dwarf mondo never has to be mowed. It is not as “smooth/even” as the regular as it tends to “clump”. The regular mondo grows to different heights only because my ground in on an incline. It also is not weed free as the dwarf tends to grow “tighter”. I mow my regular mondo side 3-5 times a year to keep the violets/tall weeds in line. I use “medium” height on my lawn mower in the spring but raise it as summer progresses. After a fall mowing, it stays green and looks great all winter and spring.

“The mondo does get watered some only because my sprinkler system was put in 20 years ago and covers lawn and shrubs. During the drought it looked the same as it does now. From the road you would not notice the violets or unevenness of either mondo. I just like to mow because, as I said, I like it to look of even “grass”. My landscape is not formal, but it is tidy.

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