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Groundcover Grasses: Liriope, Acorus, Othiopogon, and Carex

Every spring I get emails from friends and family asking me to identify a grassy green plant with pretty purple flowers that is blooming everywhere.  The answer – Liriope!  While I used to be surprised at the number of people asking me about this (somewhat boring, in my opinion) plant, I have since come to appreciate everything it has to offer.  A shade tolerant, flowering, evergreen groundcover, Liriope is available in two main types – Liriope muscari a clump forming variety and Liriope spicata a vigorously spreading variety.  While Liriope is universally popular, there are many other groundcover grasses worth considering.

One of my favorite alternatives is Acorus ‘Ogon’ – Variegated Sweetflag.  Tolerant of both shade and part sun, this plant lacks showy flowers but has bright yellow foliage and a delicate cascading form.  I like to combine this plant with evergreen ferns and azaleas for a contrast in color and texture.

Another versatile groundcover grass is Othiopogon sp. – Mondo Grass.  Available in a variety of cultivars, two of my favorites are ‘Nana’ a very low growing dwarf variety and ‘Nigrescens’ a black foliaged variety.  ‘Nana’ can serve as a lawn alternative in shady areas, and can easily be planted among stepping stones for a very interesting effect.  ‘Nigrescens’ adds an unusual element to shade gardens and is most vibrant when planted with variegated or light colored foliage plants.

Carex sp. is another diverse genus of shade tolerant groundcover and upright grasses. Available in a variety of colors, forms, and sizes, it is easy to find a home for one or more of these plants in your garden. ‘Sparkler’ has variegated foliage that has been compared to a fireworks display of texture and ‘Red Rooster’ has a coppery foliage that is often hard to find in a shade tolerant plant.

Interested in learning about groundcover grasses that could be added to your garden? Contact Bright Leaf Landscaping at 919-475-1015 or fill out our online contact form. Landscape design and installation are our expertise, and we are always happy to meet with new clients to discuss potential projects!