Mondo Grass Care: How To Grow Mondo Grass In Your Garden

mondo grass
mondo grass
(Image credit: vblinov)

Mondo grass is also known as monkey grass. It is an evergreen perennial that makes a great groundcover or standalone grass-like plant. These plants perform well in almost any soil and lighting condition. 

Mondo grass is a slow growing plant that can be easily propagated by division and requires minimal care once established. A truly attractive and outstanding landscape plant with a multitude of uses, it is well worth the gardener's time to learn how to grow mondo grass.

Mondo Grass Information

Mondo grass can tolerate almost anything, including deer, but fails without adequate moisture. What is mondo grass? It is not a true grass, but it does have strappy leaves and a clumping habit. In summer it brightens up the area with lavender or white flowers that develop into glossy black fruit. 

Growing mondo grass is easy, as the plant withstands neglect in regions where plentiful moisture is naturally available. Once established, you can pretty much forget about the plant unless you want to go check out its seasonal beauty, or it is time to divide it. Imagine great grassy tussocks shrunk down to fairyland size, and you can envision mondo grass. 

These small plants grow only 6 to 10 inches tall (15-25 cm.) and have a clumping or mounding nature depending upon variety. Ophiopogon japonicus is the scientific name and refers to the plant's native region of Asia. The components of the name are derived from the Latin words for snake and beard, a reference to the spiky flowers. As a lawn substitute in shady to partially sunny locations, it is a great sod alternative that never needs mowing. 

Mondo grass spreads by stolons, or underground stems, and can slowly form dense colonies. Leaves are ½ inch wide (1 cm.) and glossy green or even variegated.

How to Grow Mondo Grass

Mondo grass care is extremely minimal, but you do need to choose the correct site and prepare the bed for best results. Plants are light green in full sun but deeper green in shade. Either location works well provided soil is well draining and free of competitive weeds. 

You can separate clumps into sections, each with several stolons and plant 4 to 12 inches (10-31 cm.) apart depending on how quickly you want the area to fill in. Dwarf mondo should be planted 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm.) apart. Cover roots and stolons with loose soil but avoid covering the crown of the plant. Keep soil moderately moist during establishment.

Mondo Grass Care

If you are growing mondo grass as a lawn, there is little you need to maintain it. Remove any weeds as they appear and keep the area moist in the dry season. After winter storms, leaves may be ragged and can be trimmed back a bit for best appearance. Divide clumps every three years if grown as standalone plants. 

Mondo grass needs very little fertilizing. A once-annual feeding in spring with a diluted grass feed is sufficient. Any mondo grass information should list its pest and disease issues. Snails and slugs may be a problem, as can scale

Disease issues are fungal and form during wet, warm periods. Serious damage by any of these is unlikely. There are numerous cultivars from which to choose, with variant flower colors and size. There is even a black-leaved mondo, which is an excellent foil for both green-leaved plants and brightly colored flora.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.