I like a good tough plant and so do a lot of folks that are into low maintenance landscapes. But when it comes to groundcovers, I tend to avoid using them because they are usually more trouble to keep clean than just simply adding mulch or pine straw. Things like acorns, cherry laurel seedlings, bermuda grass and nutsedge tend to invade these planted areas and result in maintenance nightmares. There are a couple of groundcovers that I don’t mind in certain circumstances and one of my favorites is liriope.
Liriope, sometimes called lilyturf, is among our best evergreen ground covers. It multiplies rapidly, requires very little care and, once established, it is almost impossible to kill. The two major species of liriope in our area are big blue lilyturf (Liriope muscari) and creeping lilyturf (Liriope spicata). They are only slightly different in appearance.
Liriope muscari grows in a clumping form and will spread to about 12 to 18 inches wide. The leaf blades tend to be a little wider. With a narrower leaf, Liriope spicata spreads rapidly by underground stems (rhizomes) and will cover a wide area. This type of liriope doesn’t work well for an edging but is excellent for groundcover.
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Lilyturf forms a dense evergreen groundcover with a think bladed grass-like appearance. In my mature yard, the liriope has creeped out into my St. Augustine grass and I just mow it with the rest of my grass. It has done a great job of filling in areas that aren’t as full due to the dense shade from massive pines and a large ash tree. It isn’t perfect sod, but I think it looks pretty good.
While standard varieties have a deep dark green leaf, liriope does have a variegated variety that can add nice color to the landscape. It blooms in mid-summer with lavender, purple, pink or white flower spikes. Although the flowers are individually small, they are very showy with multiple blooms per plant. Flowering is heavier with more sun. Following blooms, clusters of bluish black berries adorn the plant into fall.
Liriope is remarkably tough, handling deep shade or full sun, sand or clay. I personally think it stays a deeper green if not in all-day sun, but still doesn’t mind the direct light. Liriope can also endure heat, drought and salt spray, but will not make it in saturated areas for long.
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When planting, spacing should be about 12 inches apart. As the liriope matures it can be dug and separated into as many little plants as you would ever need; or your neighbor would ever need; or the southeastern portion of the United States would ever need.
This is the time of year to prune liriope. Although the plant is an evergreen, the leaf blades can begin to look a little ratty. If you only have a little bit of lilyturf, give them a haircut with a pair of utility shears/scissors. If you have a lot of it, fire up the lawn mower, raise the blade to about 3-4 inches and clobber it.
Remember when I told you liriope is almost impossible to kill? I know with the weather this weekend possibly being comparable to Antarctica, you probably don’t want to get out and prune your evergreen groundcover until a warmer spell. When you do get around to it, try and get it cut back before it puts up new growth, which will be around the middle of February. It does make a difference on next year’s overall appearance.
Did I need to remind everyone again this week that my football team is the National Champion?
Reach Campbell Vaughn, the UGA Agriculture and Natural Resource agent for Richmond County, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Campbell Vaughn: Liriope makes a great low-maintenance groundcover