Liriope: A Versatile Evergreen Groundcover

Liriope, also known as lilyturf, is an exceptional evergreen ground cover that thrives in South Carolina. With its rapid multiplication and low-maintenance requirements, it’s no wonder why it’s a favorite among landscapers. There are two major species of liriope commonly grown in the area: big blue lilyturf (Liriope muscari) and creeping lilyturf (L. spicata). While they have slightly different growth habits and hardiness levels, both species offer stunning landscaping possibilities.

Height/Spread

Most liriopes reach a height of 10 to 18 inches. Liriope muscari grows in clumps and spreads between 12 to 18 inches wide. On the other hand, Liriope spicata rapidly spreads through underground stems, making it an excellent choice for ground cover but unsuitable for edging.

Ornamental Features

Lilyturf forms a dense evergreen ground cover, resembling grass. In July to August, it blooms with vibrant lavender, purple, pink, or white flower spikes. Although each flower is small, the abundance of blooms on each plant makes them visually striking. After flowering, clusters of bluish-black berry-like fruit emerge, adding further interest to the landscape.

Landscape Use

Liriope is incredibly versatile and can be used as a ground cover under trees and shrubs, or as a mass planting on slopes and banks. Liriope muscari and its cultivars make excellent low edging plants along paved areas or in front of foundation plantings.

One of the remarkable features of liriope is its ability to thrive in various conditions. It can tolerate deep shade or full sun, as well as different soil types such as sand or clay. This resilient plant can withstand heat, drought, and salt spray, but it does require moist, well-drained soil. To promote abundant flowering, it is best to provide a sunny location for liriope.

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When planting liriope, space the plants about 1 foot apart. As the plants grow and mature, they can be dug up and separated every three or four years to increase the number of plants. However, division is not typically necessary for the plant’s overall health.

Problems

Anthracnose, a fungal disease caused by Colletotrichum species, can appear as reddish-brown spots on the leaves’ margins and tips. This disease becomes more prevalent in periods of frequent rainfall or overhead irrigation. To prevent the disease, it is recommended to mow or trim off the previous year’s leaves in late winter and avoid over-watering or watering late in the day.

Leaf and crown rot, caused by Phytophthora palmivora, can affect liriope plants, particularly the ‘Evergreen Giant’ cultivar. Symptoms include yellowing of the interior foliage, followed by browning and discoloration of the basal leaf sections. To control leaf and crown rot, infected plants should be removed and disposed of immediately. Fungicides can only slow down the disease’s progression but are not a cure.

Liriope is also susceptible to root rot caused by Phytophthora, Fusarium oxysporum, or Rhizoctonia solani. Poor drainage or over-watering can lead to root rot. Infected plants show discoloration from the base upwards. To prevent root rot, it is vital to plant liriope in well-drained sites.

Liriope scale (Pinnaspis caricis) or fern scale (P. aspidistrae) may infest liriope, causing chlorotic spotting and foliar necrosis. Pruning the foliage in late winter and cleaning up the clippings can help control scale infestation. Additionally, spraying a 2% horticultural oil solution on the affected liriope after pruning can aid in control.

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Species & Cultivars

  • Big Blue Lilyturf (Liriope muscari): This clump-forming lilyturf is excellent for edging. It features wider leaves (3/8 to ½-inch wide) and slightly larger flowers compared to creeping lilyturf.

    • ‘Majestic’: With deep lilac flowers and dark foliage, this cultivar grows to a height of 12 to 15 inches.
    • ‘Monroe’s White’: This shade-loving variety produces large clusters of bright white flowers and reaches a height of 12 to 15 inches.
    • ‘Christmas Tree’: Sporting light lavender flower spikes resembling a Christmas tree, this variety thrives in shade and grows to 12 to 15 inches tall.
    • ‘John Burch’: This cultivar has creamy yellow edging on each leaf blade and lavender flowers. It reaches a height of 12 to 15 inches.
    • ‘Evergreen Giant’: With stiff-textured leaf blades and white flower spikes, this cultivar matures at 18 to 24 inches tall.
    • ‘Densifolia’: Similar to ‘Evergreen Giant’, it grows to 18 to 24 inches tall and features lavender flower spikes.
    • ‘Gold Band’: This excellent specimen plant displays wide leaf blades with a gold edge and lavender flower spikes. It reaches a height of 12 to 18 inches.
    • ‘Samantha’: A green-leafed cultivar with pink flower spikes, it matures at 12 to 15 inches tall.
    • ‘Big Blue’: Reaching a height of 12 to 15 inches, this cultivar spreads less through stolons and showcases lavender flower spikes.
    • ‘Emerald Goddess’: With lavender flower spikes, this cultivar grows to 16 to 20 inches tall.
    • ‘Ingwersen’: Known for its long, full lavender flower spikes, this cultivar has ½-inch wide, dark green foliage. It thrives in part shade to full shade and reaches a height of 12 to 15 inches.
    • ‘Royal Purple’: With deep purple flower spikes, this cultivar matures at 12 to 15 inches tall.
    • ‘Silver Midget’: Featuring dark green leaves with irregular variegation and lavender flower spikes, it grows to 10 to 12 inches tall.
    • ‘Variegata’: Exhibiting green foliage with white to yellow variegation on the edges, this cultivar produces lavender flower spikes and reaches a height of 10 to 15 inches.
    • ‘Silvery Sunproof’: Leaves striped white and yellow make this cultivar more sun-tolerant than most variegated forms. It reaches a height of 12 to 15 inches and has purple flowers.
    • ‘Webster Wideleaf’: With lavender flower spikes on 12 to 15-inch tall plants, this cultivar boasts the widest leaf among all liriope varieties.
  • Creeping Lilyturf (Liriope spicata): Growing 10 to 15 inches tall, this lilyturf spreads indefinitely.

    • ‘Silver Dragon’: This variety has slender, highly variegated green and white leaves and lavender flowers. It grows to about 12 to 16 inches tall and is perfect for brightening up dark areas. However, it does not grow as densely as other liriope types.
    • ‘Franklin Mint’: With pale lavender flower spikes above green leaves, this variety reaches 12 to 15 inches tall. Its leaves are slightly wider than those of ‘Silver Dragon’.
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For similar uses and appearances, you can also explore mondo grass (Ophiopogon species), which provides comparable landscaping options.

Original article published on Ames Farm Center.