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Do You Cut Back Or Mow Mondo Grass?

Mondo grass, or monkey grass, is an easy-to-grow ground cover. If you have chosen mondo grass for your landscape, you are probably wondering how to care for it. For your convenience, we did the research to determine whether you need to cut back or mow mondo grass. 

Mondo grass does not require mowing or cutting back to maintain its health. However, you can cut back your mondo grass annually to promote new growth in the spring. 

Now you know you can cut back mondo grass, but how exactly should you do it? Keep reading as we lay out the details you need to cut back your mondo grass as well as additional tips and tricks to maintaining this plant. 

Variegated Lily Turf/Variegated Mondo Grass with sunlight. - Do You Cut Back Or Mow Mondo Grass?

How To Cut Mondo Grass

Despite the name, mondo grass is actually not grass at all. Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), is a member of the lily family. It is commonly used as a turf alternative, as it has grass-like foliage that spreads over the landscape surrounding it. 

Mondo grass typically does not require pruning. However, you can cut back your grass annually to promote new growth. Annual pruning should be done in late winter before the new growth season in spring. 

To prune this plant, gather clumps of mondo grass, avoiding the tips of any new emerging foliage. Using lopping or pruning shears, you can cut the grass about four to six inches from the base of the plant. 

You can find pruning shears here on Amazon.

After pruning, ensure you remove all cuttings from around the plant. Removing cuttings will help prevent attracting rodents or pests. Additionally, leaving cuttings around the plants run the risk of smothering new growth. 

Can You Use A Lawn Mower To Cut Back Mondo Grass?

You can use a lawn mower to cut back mondo grass. However, this should be done using caution. You want to avoid scalping your plant, or cutting it too short, as this will damage new shoots. 

Stock photo of mondo grass also known as snakes beard or orphiopogon japoncicus blooming in the garden area under bright sunlight. Picture captured at Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India.

If you plan to use your mower, set the device to the highest. Push your mower over the plants, still leaving about three inches of the foliage in place. Use a rake to brush out any clippings left behind. 

Mondo grass is not as sturdy as turfgrass, which is why it is important to take caution when cutting back your plants. Additionally, due to its delicate nature, you should avoid planting mondo grass in areas of high foot traffic. 

How Do You Maintain Mondo Grass?

Mondo grass is easy to care for and is a great choice for low-maintenance gardens. There are a couple of care must-knows for your mondo grass to promote optimal growth and health. 

This plant is a light feeder but can benefit from a little fertilization. In the spring, when your plant begins to grow new shoots, you can add organic plant food or shrub-specific fertilizer to your plants. 

Amazon offers a slow-release shrub and tree fertilizer here.

Proper watering is another important aspect when caring for mondo grass. Once established, this plant is drought tolerant. However, during the first growth season, this plant prefers consistently moist soil.

You want to maintain moist soil without leaving your plant in standing water or in a soggy environment. Too much water runs the risk of root rot and inviting other pests that can affect your mondo grass. 

Just like other plants and grasses, mondo grass prefers a specific soil pH to thrive. For this plant, you want your soil to be slightly acidic, falling in the range of 5.0-6.5. Soil pH should be checked regularly and can be done with a pH probe. 

See this soil meter for pH and moisture here on Amazon.

The last care tip we will talk about is how much sun your mondo grass should be getting. This plant can survive in conditions of full shade to fun sun. However, the most ideal condition for mondo grass is an area where it gets plenty of filtered sunlight. 

If you live in a hotter zone, more shade is beneficial. Certain species of mondo grass have lighter-colored leaves; these plants like a little more sunlight than shade. 

Read more: How Far Apart To Plant Mondo Grass

Does Mondo Grass Tolerate Frost?

Once established, mondo grass can tolerate frost and the cold up to a certain extent. Mondo grass grows best in USDA Zones 7-10 and is cold hardy in up to -10 degree weather. Colder environments do run the risk of killing this plant. 

If growing in proper zones, the leaves of mondo grass can actually stay green throughout the winter. There is no care needed for overwintering this plant. However, if you have mondo grass in pots, you can move them inside during the worst of the cold. 

Snow falling on an ornamental grass in the garden

For new plants, you want to ensure they are getting planted after any threat of frost. New plants will not survive a frost and are best planted early spring through late fall. The plant just requires enough time to establish roots before the winter. 

Will Mondo Grass Spread?

Mondo grass will spread. Once established, this plant grows underground stems that eventually create dense colonies of mondo grass. Since this plant is slow growing, you may not notice spreading until a year after planting. 

The exact timing of when mondo grass will spread depends on environmental conditions and the species of plant you are growing. 

The way mondo grass spreads will make it an ideal choice for lining walkways or paths in your garden. Additionally, this plant can be used to define garden beds. 

Green leaves plant Mondo Grass Ophiopogon Japonicus plants in nature park.

Do you want to stop your mondo grass from spreading? Use a shovel to dig around your plant, removing the horizontal roots. Once removed, till the soil around the plant, and cover it with plastic or paper to stop any new growth. 

Read more: Does Mondo Grass Spread [Is It Invasive?]

Why Is My Mondo Grass Turning Brown?

Mondo grass typically stays green all year long. If you notice a change in your leaves' color, it is a good idea to investigate. Browning or yellowing leaves indicates your mondo grass may be experiencing an issue. 

In good health, mondo grass is resilient to pests and disease. However, if your plant is getting too much water, this can start affecting your roots, eventually leading to root rot. 

If your plant is suffering from rotting roots, you will notice this color change. Additionally, the tips of the leaves may appear wilted and burned. To check for root rot, try to pull on the leaves. If the leaves separate easily from the plant, your mondo grass most likely has root rot. 

To treat root rot in mondo grass, you will need to use a fungicide. You must apply the fungicide on a dry day when no rain is expected for at least 12 hours. 

You can find this fungicide here on Amazon.

After you treat with your fungicide, add a layer of compost around your plants. This layer should be about an inch thick and can be worked around the blades of your mondo grass using your fingers. 

The microorganisms in the compost help to further combat root rot. You must allow your soil to dry about an inch deep before watering again. When you water, moisture should reach about six inches deep, but the soil should never be soggy. 

Are There Different Types Of Mondo Grass?

There are many types of mondo grass species and cultivated dwarf species too. The three most commonly seen species include Ophiopogon japonicus, Ophiopogon planiscapus, and Ophiopogon jaburan

Colors of mondo grass vary from black to green. As we mentioned, mondo grass is actually a member of the lily family. This becomes more apparent as the grass begins to bloom small lilac-colored flowers. 

From these flowers, small blue-colored berries will form. The care required for mondo grass is the same across the different species, varying slightly when it comes to their sunlight requirements. 

Black mondo grass Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens with pink flowers growing in summer garden

How you choose which species is best for your landscape just depends on personal preference when it comes to aesthetics. 

In Closing

Mondo grass can be cut back, but it is not also necessary for this low-maintenance ground cover. We hope there are a few tips and tricks you can take away from this article when it comes to caring for your mondo grass. 

Are you looking for more plants to add to your landscape? Take a look at this post: 15 Low-Growing Border Plants You Should Consider