How To Grow and Care For Mondo Grass In Your Garden

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Mondo Grass isn’t a true grass, It’s an evergreen sod-forming perennial plant. Many gardeners consider Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon jabonicus) a great choice as an ornamental plant or even a turfgrass alternative.

mondo grass guide

Also known as Monkeygrass, this plant has many uses such as a resilient turf alternative, a low-maintenance ornamental, or a plant equally capable of edging your tree-lined rocky pathway and the swampy area by your pond.

The below table gives you the critical info you will need to grow Ophiopogon jabonicus, keep reading beyond the table for more detail on each section.

Ophiopogon jabonicus (Liliaceae family)

  • Dwarf lilyturf
  • mondograss
  • fountainplant
  • monkeygrass

Prefers partial shade, tolerates a variety of soils, suitable for rocky or steep areas, moist roots, or drought conditions.

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Consistent watering initially, drought-tolerant once established.

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Amend soil with compost or organic fertilizer before planting; diluted organic fertilizer annually for a few years.

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Watch for slugs.

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Dense root mass suppresses weeds; hand-weeding and mulching recommended initially.

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Minimal; occasional watering in dry weather; mowing in spring; divide clumps every few years.

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Plant seeds or divide existing clumps; best in early spring after last frost.

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How To Grow Mondo Grass

variegated Mondo Grass in the garden

The perfect growing conditions for Mondo grass are usually the problem areas of your garden where first-choice plants fail.

They prefer partial shade, tolerate rocky soil and steep slopes, can handle consistently moist roots as well as drought, and need little to no maintenance, so they’re perfect for inaccessible areas.

Where To Plant Mondo Grass

Here are just a few of the great options for how you can use Mondo Grass in your landscape:

  • Lawns: If you are looking for an alternative to turf, Mondo Grass is a great option. It will keep your lawn looking good year-round because it is an evergreen and spreads well.
  • Weed-Suppressing Ground Cover: When Mondo Grass is allowed to spread, it forms a dense ground cover and rhizome root-mass. This can be a great option for an area with lots of weeds that you’d like to crowd out. The density of the Mondo Grass roots can out-compete many common weeds once it is well-established.
  • Under Trees: Since Mondo Grass can cope well with shade and does not need to be mowed frequently, it makes an ideal turf to fill the shaded areas under trees.
  • Lining Paths: Because of its weed-suppressing quality, a row of Mondo Grass makes a great pathway-liner, and Dwarf Mondo Grass varieties can be used between stepping stones.
  • Coastal Landscapes: Mondo Grass is tolerant of substantial wind. It is also tolerant of the high levels of salt in the air near the coast.
  • Solidifying Slopes: The dense root mass of Mondo Grass is great for reducing erosion. It is a great ground cover for steep slopes because it doesn’t need to be mowed.
  • Bordering Water: Although Mondo Grass is fairly drought tolerant, it also grows well in very wet areas. You can encircle a pond in Mondo Grass, and it will grow alongside streams as well.
  • Acidic soils: Mondo Grass prefers a pH of 5-6.5. That makes them a great plant to grow under pine trees, where fallen needles have acidified the soil. They are good companion plants for other acid-soil loving plants like rhododendrons, blueberries, and succulents.

Growing Zone

Mondo Grass is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 11, with a high tolerance for a variety of climates. Mondo Grass can withstand cold temperatures but may need protection in areas with severe winters.

It fares well in both humid and dry climates, provided it receives adequate watering.

Light Requirements

Mondo Grass thrives in partial shade but can also adapt to full shade. This tolerance makes it ideal for areas under trees or in the shadow of buildings.

While it can survive in full sun, its leaves may lose some of their vibrant green color and appear more faded.

Watering Needs

Mondo Grass needs to be watered very consistently when it is young. For the first year after planting seed, you should keep the roots moist. After that first year, when your Mondo Grass is established, it will be much lower maintenance.

Established Mondo Grass appreciates watering, but will tolerate drought for longer than true grasses. Healthy leaves are typically a bright, rich green. 

Overwatering or leaving the plant in soggy soil can be detrimental, so ensuring a balance is crucial.

Fertilization Needs

While not a heavy feeder, Mondo Grass benefits from occasional fertilization. A balanced, slow-release fertilizer applied in the spring can promote healthier growth.

Over-fertilizing should be avoided as it can lead to lush growth that is less hardy and more susceptible to disease.

Soil Preferences

Mondo Grass prefers well-drained soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. It can tolerate a range of soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils, as long as there is good drainage.

Poorly drained, waterlogged soils should be avoided as they can lead to root rot.

Weed management

The most challenging aspect of propagating Mondo Grass is keeping weeds from overtaking the area you’re planting. Once it is established, the Mondo Grass should out-compete most weeds, but during propagation and when the plants are young,  there will be enough room between plants for weeds to come through. 

The best ways to handle this are hand-weeding and/or using straw or wood as mulch in the areas directly surrounding your plants after ridding the area of weeds (even small ones) by hand. 

Note: Mowing your Mondo Grass to 2-3 inches in the spring will encourage it to spread faster, so it will have more weed-suppressing capabilities in the second year.

Mondo Grass Maintenance

a person using a push reel lawn mower to maintain Mondo Grass

Mondo grass requires very little maintenance. For this reason, it is an ideal plant to grow in areas that are difficult to reach such as along steep slopes, flower beds and under trees.

To keep this plant looking its best, simply remove any weeds as they come up and water occasionally during dry warm weather.

In the springtime, you will want to mow Mondo Grass being used as turf down to 2-3 inches. Or if you have just a few ornamental plants you can  trim back any ragged leaves to help your plant looking its best using a set of grass shears.

We also recommend thinning the clumps of this plant every three or so years if they’re getting too dense.

Pests and Diseases

Mondo Grass is an incredibly resilient plant that is both tough and durable. It will stand up to everything from shade to deer. However, there are a few things to watch out for.

  • Slugs: Mondo Grass can attract slugs, which may disfigure the plants.
  • Weeds: Weed the ground thoroughly before planting Mondo Grass, then either hand-weed or use mulch around small plants until they establish and fill in the gaps. If necessary, some herbicides can be used to suppress weeds around Mondo Grass, but avoid these when possible, and make sure the label specifies that it is safe to use on Mondo Grass specifically.

How To Propagate Mondo Grass

a hand putting Mondo Grass seeds to the soil

Mondo Grass is one of the easier plants to grow and propagate. You can grow your own by purchasing seeds, planting seedlings from your local plant store, or dividing existing clumps of Mondo Grass. The plant will self-propagate (spread on its own via rhizomes) once it is established.

Before planting, if the soil is compacted, you may want to work the area up using a rototiller. Mixing in roughly 2-3 inches of compost will produce the best results.

Info: Planting in slightly acidic soil is best for mondo grass. If your soil pH is higher than its preferred range (a pH of 5-6.5) you can amend it with sulfur, iron sulfate, peat moss, or pine needles.

Mondo Grass also grows well in containers.

Ideally you will want to plant your mondo grass in early spring following the last frost. It is possible to plant later in the season as long as you provide enough time for your plant to establish before frost sets in.

If planting in full sun be sure to water thoroughly following transplant, and for the first year after planting.

Types of Mondo Grass

Ophiopogon Japonicus

photo of Ophiogogon Japanicus, a type of Mondo Grass

Ophiopogon Japonicus is the most common type of Mondo grass. It has an average height of 6 to 10 inches, but it can grow up to 12 inches tall and 15 inches wide per plant.

This type of Mondo Grass minimizes the time and effort you need to spend in maintaining that area of your yard in three ways.

This variety of Mondo Grass is particularly resilient and can be grown in Zones 7-11.

Dwarf Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nanus’ or ‘Gyoku-ryu’)

photo of a dwarf mondo grass

Dwarf Mondo Grass only grow to a fraction of the size of the other species in this family (just 1-6 inches, depending on the type).

Dwarf Mondo Grass appreciates dappled sunlight or partial shade, but can tolerate more sunlight (six hours plus) compared with some other Mondo Grasses. It can grow successfully both in well draining soil and in moist soil.

That versatility makes it great to grow in shady areas, rock gardens, around water features, or even in pots.

Black Mondo Grass

photo of black mondo grass

Black Mondo Grass leaves start out more of a green color and turn to its dark shade once it’s more established.

Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’)grows in mounds that reach 8-12 inches high, and blooms in the summer months. While some types of Mondo Grass hide their flowers under their greenery, black Mondo Grass produces showy flower spikes held high above the foliage.

Black Mondo Grass has a slightly cooler preferred range than other Mondo Grass, specifically Zones 6-9. It flourishes in part shade (with no more than a few hours of direct sunlight daily).

Black Mondo Grass prefers to be kept moist, so it needs to be watered routinely.

Silver Mist or Variegated Mondo Grass 

photo of ophiopogon japonicus, a variety of Mondo Grass
Supportstorm, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Both Silver Mist and Variegated Mondo Grass are attractive cultivars with green and white variegated leaves. This bi-color effect adds a lot more visual interest than the plain green varieties.

The main difference between these types is the size. The leaves of Silver Mist are about ten inches, while Variegated Mondo Grass is quite tall, maxing out at 12-18 inches.

The botanical names for these types are Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Kijimafukiduma’ or Ophiopogon jaburan ‘Variegatus’

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Photo of author
Emily Cordo is a Master Gardener, writer, photographer, and artist. She is passionate about regenerative agriculture and landscaping, and about integrating art into those environments.

32 thoughts on “How To Grow and Care For Mondo Grass In Your Garden”

  1. Avatar photo

    My Mondo grass is dying I don’t know why, it has enough water, planted in shaded area just over a year old, it has river sand at the bottom then potting soil

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    My mondo grass bed it really thick. should I remove part of the grass by separating it? It appears to be struggling.

    • Aaron Green

      Yes Glenda, you can thin it out be using a hand trowel to slice through the roots as required.

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    Where can you buy dwarf Mondo Grass Ophiopogon seeds?

    • Avatar photo

      where is thee best quality short monograss company to buy it im in zone 6 and have a slopped hilside to fill in

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    Hi, I have so many weeds in my drawf mondo grass lawn. Is there a safe weed killer I can use?

    • Aaron Green

      Sorry Betty, but hand removal is your only option. There are no safe herbicides that I know of for Mondo Grass.

  5. Avatar photo

    My border of flower bed mondo grass has gradually expanded into about 2 feet of the surrounding lawn. It is thick, carpet like and looks great. I’m wondering if I need to just let it keep growing and cover the entire lawn. Suggestions?

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    I have a paved area which gets afternoon sun only and in winter no sun at all. Will mondo grass grow here?

  7. Avatar photo

    My yard guys mowed and weed eated all my dwarf mondo. It looks terrible now. Will it grow back or do I need to replace it? It is just July 15th

    • Aaron Green

      It’s pretty resilient, it will likely grow back just fine.

  8. Avatar photo

    My mondo grass is in pots. This is the second season and now the leaves are turning yellow? Am I over watering?

  9. Avatar photo

    Will Mondo grass tolerate very wet soil and occasionally being under water? I am looking for something to plant near a tidal river. Thank you!

  10. Avatar photo

    Hi,I am living in a tropical region..even though the watering is normal m to this plant,it shows a type of fungal infections like decaying the roots and leaves turns to yellow and leads death of the plant..what may be the possible solution for this..

  11. Avatar photo

    I want to use Mondo grass as a border around my paved patio. But, it does snow occasionally and does get below freezing. If mondo grass is not applicable might you have some suggestions. I would like something which covers, is green and spreads but doesn’t get too unruly. Thanks.

  12. Avatar photo

    I’m thinking of planting Black Mondo grass under some native shrubs as a feature along the driveway and in a full sun position.
    What are your thoughts?
    What kind of fertilizer can I use and how often?


    • Aaron Green

      Hi Dominic, that should work well. Fertilizing isnt really needed, but you can use a slow release fertilizer during the spring and summer – probably apply once each in these seasons.

  13. Avatar photo

    Will Sempra kill dwarf mondo grass?

    • Aaron Green

      Hi Brendan, Im not sure sorry. Best way to check would be to test on a small out of the way section of the mondo grass first and see what happens.

  14. Avatar photo

    Is dwarf mondo grass acceptable in high traffic areas planted between stepping stones?

    • Aaron Green

      Yes it does work well for that!

  15. Avatar photo

    We use Mondo grass for the turf of our Memorial Garden here at our retirement community. The ashes that are scattered have evidently have raised the pH to about 7.0. I understand the best pH for Mondo grass is 5.0 to 6.5. Should we apply some material to lower the pH? If so what would you suggest? Thanks so much!

    • Aaron Green

      Hi Stanley,
      I wouldn’t stress too much about those levels, but if it goes much higher it could be a concern.
      You could either go the long way – by adding some compost or an acidic mulch. Or if you want do it it faster then you can add some aluminum sulfate (available on Amazon here).

  16. Avatar photo

    one of my mondo grass has sprouted long things growing in that resembles wheat. Never seen this before

    • Aaron Green

      It is prone to other grasses growing through it – so it is probably just that. You can pull them out by the roots and hopefully, they don’t come back.

    • Avatar photo

      NO!! Leave alone-it is sprouting it’s flowers!! Look at some liriope images to see what is going to happen! Little pale lavender or white “balls”.

  17. Avatar photo

    Is it resilient to dog urine?

    • Aaron Green

      It is fairly resilient to most things – but it really depends on the dog and what it eats…so I can’t give a definitive answer sorry.

  18. Avatar photo

    Where can I buy dwarf black mondo grass this year April 2019?

  19. Avatar photo

    can black dwarf mondo grass be grown in containers? Which size of container would be preferrable

    • Aaron Green

      Yes it can be grown in a container – in fact it loves it! With regards to the size, it really doesn’t matter and it depends on what else you plan to plant with it.

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