Liriope

Prepared by Karen Russ, HGIC Horticulture Specialist & Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. (New 06/99.)

HGIC 1108

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Liriope, sometimes called lilyturf, is among our best evergreen ground covers. It multiplies rapidly and requires very little care. It grows well throughout South Carolina.

There are two major species grown in our area: big blue lilyturf (Liriope muscari) and creeping lilyturf (L. spicata).

These two evergreen lilyturf species have slightly different growth habits and degrees of hardiness, but both are favorite landscaping plants. Both plants form mounds of grass-like foliage. Usually the foliage is dark green, but in some varieties it is variegated. There are many cultivars available. They differ in leaf color, size and flower color.

Height/Spread

Most liriopes grow to a height between 10 and 18 inches. Liriope muscari generally grows in a clump form and will spread to about 12 to 18 inches wide. Liriope spicata spreads rapidly by underground stems and will cover a wide area. Because of its rapid spread, L. spicata is not suitable for an edging but is excellent for groundcover.

Ornamental Features

Lilyturf forms a dense evergreen groundcover with a grass-like appearance. It blooms in July to August with lavender, purple or white flower spikes. Although the flowers are individually small, they are very showy, since each plant has many spikes of blooms. Clusters of bluish black berry-like fruit follow the flowers.

Landscape Use

Liriope can be used as a groundcover under trees and shrubs and as a massed planting on slopes and banks. Liriope muscari and its cultivars can also be used as low edging plants along paved areas or in front of foundation plantings.

Liriope is remarkably tough. It will grow in deep shade or full sun, sand or clay. It can endure heat, drought and salt spray, but will not take "wet feet"; it requires moist, well-drained soil. Flowers are produced most freely in a sunny location.

Space the plants about 1 foot apart when planting. As the plants grow and mature, they can be dug and separated - usually this is done every three or four years if you want to increase your plants. Division is rarely necessary for the health of the plant.

You should mow off the foliage of these ground covers in late winter before growth starts with a lawnmower set at the highest possible cutting height. Be sure not to injure the crown of the plant when you mow. It is important to prune liriope before spring growth begins - late January in lower coastal South Carolina and by mid-February in upstate South Carolina.

Problems

Brown spots that appear along leaf margins and leaf tips are caused by a fungal disease known as anthracnose. Mow off last year's leaves in late winter and remove the debris. Avoid over-watering or watering late in the day.

Species and Cultivars

Big Blue Lilyturf (Liriope muscari): This lilyturf grows in a clump form, making it well-suited for edging. The leaves are a little wider and the flowers somewhat bigger than those of creeping lilyturf.

  • 'Silvery Sunproof' has leaves striped white and yellow. It withstands sun better than most variegated forms; 12 to 15 inches tall, with purple flowers.
  • 'Majestic' is a strong grower that gets up to 18 inches tall. It has large, deep lilac flowers and dark foliage.
  • 'Monroe's White' has bright white flowers in large clusters. It gets about 12 inches tall. This variety does best in shade.
  • 'John Burch' has a thin border of creamy yellow edging each leaf blade. The flowers are lavender and it gets about 12 inches tall.
  • 'Christmas Tree' has unusual light lavender flower spikes in the form of a Christmas tree. It grows slowly, 12 to 15 inches tall, and prefers shade.
  • 'Evergreen Giant' has stiff-textured leaf blades and white flower spikes. Mature height is 18 to 24 inches tall.
  • 'Gold Band' is an excellent specimen plant. It has wide leaf blades with a gold edge and lavender flower spikes. Mature height is 12 to 18 inches.
  • 'Samantha' is a green leafed cultivar with pink flower spikes. Mature height is 12 to 15 inches tall.
  • 'Webster Wideleaf' has lavender flower spikes on 12 to 15 inch tall plants. Widest leaf of any cultivar.

Creeping lilyturf (Liriope spicata): This lilyturf grows 10 to 15 inches tall and spreads indefinitely. This habit makes it ideal for a lawn replacement or erosion controlling groundcover. It can be invasive in the wrong location. The flowers are smaller and lighter in color.

  • 'Silver Dragon' has slender, highly variegated green and white leaves and lavender flowers. It reaches about 12 inches tall. 'Silver Dragon' is great for lighting up a dark area. It does not grow as densely as most lilyturf.
  • 'Franklin Mint' has pale lavender flower spikes above green leave that grow to 12 to 15 inches tall. The leaves are a little wider than 'Silver Dragons'.

Mondo grass (Ophiopogon species) is similar in use and appearance to lilyturf. You can find information on mondo grass in HGIC 1110, Mondo Grass.

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