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Mondo Grass

November/December 2015

QuestionWe have a beautiful giant red oak tree in the front yard.  Unfortunately, the ground around it is almost bare.  Do you know of any kind of grass that will grow in the shade of this tree?  My husband prefers to purchase blocks of sod grass from a sod farm because he has had success with these in another area of our yard; however, we could seed the shaded patch. We will appreciate your help very much.

AnswerShade is a wonderful commodity in an Arkansas summer, but it doesn’t bode well for lawn grasses.  The most shade tolerant lawn in central Arkansas is St. Augustine or Centipede and they need some filtered light.  They are not typically as winter hardy in NW Arkansas.  Tall fescue is the best option up there, but again, they are a struggle to grow in the shade. I would give up trying to fight it and put in a groundcover or simply mulch the area.    For groundcover options consider mondo grass which can look like grass, or sweet flag (Acorus species) another grass look alike, or  ajuga.  There are numerous evergreen groundcovers that can blanket the area although don’t tolerate high traffic. Stepping stones or a path put in the middle can help you have a path.  


 

(March 2012)

QuestionCould you please tell me what plant I could use as a border for my flowerbed? Right now I have monkey grass and I really don't like it. Is there something I could plant that stays low and doesn't spread everywhere. If I keep the monkey grass, is there anything I can spray on it that will kill the bermuda grass but not hurt the monkey grass.

 

AnswerIn full sun, candytuft is a nice low growing perennial that makes a good border or edging plant, but it does need to be pruned after flowering. Dwarf daylilies, prostrate rosemary and thyme are also good choices. In the shade you can use heuchera or small ferns. Make sure there is a border between your landscape beds and lawn, or the grass will constantly encroach. Grass specific herbicides such as Grass-b-gone, Over the top, and Ornamec will kill grass without hurting most broadleaf ornamentals, including monkey grass (not a true grass, but actually in the lily family.)


(April 2010)

QuestionI have tried and failed numerous times over the years to get either Zoysia or St. Augustine sod to grow on the north side of my home (in the alley between our home and the house next door). My wife and I have decided to consider a ground cover of some type in lieu of grass. Could you possibly point us in the direction of some appropriate types of ground cover for this area which has little, if any, sunshine, year round?

 

AnswerSeveral choices come to mind, including moss as mentioned in earlier columns. If you want a grass look-alike there is Mondo grass (Ophiopogon) and Liriope or monkey grass--if there are strong borders limiting growth you can use Liriope spicata--the running form, but it can be invasive; the clumping form is Liriope muscarii. Other options include Ajuga, pachysandra, and Creeping Jenny- Lysimachia nummularia--I really like the golden form. Mazus, pratia and ardesia are other choices.

QuestionI have tried and failed numerous times over the years to get either Zoysia or St. Augustine sod to grow on the north side of my home (in the alley between our home and the house next door). My wife and I have decided to consider a ground cover of some type in lieu of grass. Could you possibly point us in the direction of some appropriate types of ground cover for this area which has little, if any, sunshine, year round?

 

AnswerSeveral choices come to mind, including moss as mentioned in earlier columns. If you want a grass look-alike there is Mondo grass (Ophiopogon) and Liriope or monkey grass--if there are strong borders limiting growth you can use Liriope spicata--the running form, but it can be invasive; the clumping form is Liriope muscarii. Other options include Ajuga, pachysandra, and Creeping Jenny- Lysimachia nummularia--I really like the golden form. Mazus, pratia and ardesia are other choices.


(June 2006)

QuestionA good friend of mine has moss in his yard and its killing the grass. Also, in his yard are three large oak trees. The lawn man had soil tested and the tests came back that they needed to add lime. Lime was added but the moss persists. They even went so far as to add about 4inches of topsoil before they added the lime. I suggested that he (aerate) by working gypsum into the soil. Then I wasn't so sure, thought I better ask you.

 

AnswerMoss can be present if you have any of the following conditions: heavy shade, compacted soil, acidic pH and/or moisture problems. You need to solve all the problems to get rid of moss. Chances are good that the moss is not killing the grass--the lack of sunlight is. The moss is simply coming in to take over bare space---a good idea in my opinion. Growing grass in the shade is never easy. IF he truly dislikes the moss, try growing a groundcover that likes shade. It should be more competitive with the shade than grass. If you want a lawn look alike, try mondo grass. It is a low growing groundcover and you only have to mow it once a year. It won't tolerate high traffic, but put down some stepping stones to handle that.


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