Mondo Grass and Monkey Grass, also known as Liriope, are two popular choices that often get mixed up due to their similar appearance and common names. However, these two plants belong to different genera and have distinct characteristics.
Understanding the differences between Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon spp.) and Monkey Grass (Liriope spp.) can help you make informed decisions for your landscaping needs.
Mondo grass belongs to the Ophiopogon genus. It is known for its slender, grass-like leaves ranging from green to black, depending on the species and cultivar. Mondo grass is typically shorter and more compact than Monkey Grass.
Monkey Grass, on the other hand, belongs to the Liriope genus. It is often called “Liriope” or “Lilyturf.” Monkey grass has broader leaves and tends to be slightly taller and more robust than Mondo Grass. Depending on the variety, liriope leaves can be solid green, variegated, or cream-colored.
Monkey grass has broader, lance-shaped leaves that are wider than Mondo Grass’s. These leaves can grow up to 1/2 inch wide and are typically 12 to 18 inches tall. Try variegated liriope for a showy border or Big Blue Liriope for a more traditional look.
Mondo grass forms dense clumps and spreads relatively slowly. It is well-suited for creating neat borders and edging in gardens. Plant your mondo grass closer together to develop lush carpets, or spread them out to create neat mounds. Dwarf mondo gets about 6-7″ wide, and regular Mondo Grass can get upwards of 15″ wide, depending on the location.
Monkey grass has a more sprawling growth habit and tends to form larger, mounded clumps. Use it for larger ground cover areas or neat borders. Depending on the variety, Liriope can get anywhere from 12-18″ wide, making it a larger border grass than Mondo.
Mondo grass produces small, bell-shaped lavender to lilac flowers on short stems. These grasses originate from the lily family, which explains the bell-shaped flowers. Small, round berries often follow the flowers.
Monkey grass produces spikes of small, purple, or lavender flowers that rise above the foliage on slender stems. These flowers are a selling point of this grass and make for eye-catching grasses. Small, berry-like fruits on the stems follow the flowers.
Monkey Grass does well in full-sun situations but can also adapt to full-shade locations.
However, Mondo Grass performs best in partial to full shade, maintaining its vibrant green color. You can use Mondo Grass in full-sun areas, but this will up its water requirements.
Both Mondo Grass and Monkey Grass have several species and cultivars, each with its own unique features and characteristics. Varieties like Variegated Mondo Grass and Big Blue Liriope offer even more diversity for landscape design.
In summary, while Mondo Grass and Monkey Grass share similarities in their use as ground cover plants, they belong to different genera and exhibit distinct leaf shapes, sizes, and growth habits. Understanding these differences is crucial for choosing the right plant for your landscaping needs.
Whether looking for a neat border or a sprawling ground cover, Mondo Grass and Monkey Grass offer beautiful options to enhance your garden.