How to Grow Dwarf Mondo Grass in Your Yard

Mass of dwarf mondo grass plants used as ground cover.

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Dwarf mondo grass is a lower-growing cultivar of mondo grass (Ophiopogon spp.) valued as a low-maintenance alternative to grass in spots with full shade or partial shade. This ground cover is not, despite its common name, a true grass; it is a member of the Liliaceae family and is often compared with creeping lilyturf. The two plants are similar in appearance, have similar functions in the landscape, and are both very popular in the southeast.

If you aren't interested in growing it as a turfgrass substitute, you can use it as an edging plant, to create interest under trees (taking advantage of its shade preference) with its dark green leaves, or as an accent plant within rock and pine straw beds.

Learn what conditions dwarf mondo grass thrives in as well as how to propagate it.

Growing Dwarf Mondo Grass in the Lawn

  • It holds up well to light foot traffic

  • It only needs to be mowed once each year

  • It is evergreen in zone 6 and warmer

  • It doesn't provide as even of a surface as many turfgrasses do

  • It prefers shade, so not a good choice for lawns with sunny conditions

 Common Name  Dwarf mondo grass
 Botanical Name  Ophiopogon japonicus 'Nana'
 Family  Lily family
 Plant Type  Perennial
 Mature Size  4 to 6 inches tall by 8 inches wide
 Sun Exposure  Full to partial shade
 Soil Type  Rich, well-drained
 Soil pH 5.5 to 6.5
 Bloom Time Summer
 Flower Color  White or light lilac
 Hardiness Zones   6 to 10 (USDA)
Native Area Japan and Korea

Dwarf Mondo Grass Care

Dwarf mondo grass is not reliably hardy in zone 6. In fact, it is often not evergreen throughout zone 6. If you grow it in this zone and find, in the spring, that there are brown blades on your plant, do not give up prematurely: It may or may not come back as the weather warms. To counteract this borderline hardiness in zone 6, locate it in a protected location (such as on the south-facing wall of your house).

Spreading via underground runners, dwarf mondo grass will fill in an area over time, but only very slowly. To speed up this process, divide the plants and space dwarf mondo grass 4 inches apart.


Dwarf mondo grass works well as a ground cover in shady conditions. To some degree, its preference for shade can be offset if you are willing to water it whenever its soil dries out or live at the northern end of its hardiness range

If you live in zone 7 or warmer, or if you can't be bothered with the maintenance involved in keeping it irrigated, it is better to use dwarf mondo grass in one of its other capacities (like as an edging plant) rather than a grass substitute.


Dwarf mondo grass wants humusy soil that drains well. As a bonus, it is a salt-tolerant plant, making it a good choice in seaside communities and along roadsides.


You need to keep the soil of dwarf mondo grass consistently moist but not soggy. Mixing compost into its soil will help strike just the correct balance between moisture retention and good drainage.

Temperature and Humidity

Dwarf mondo grass holds up well to the humidity of the southeastern U.S. It likes warm but not extremely hot temperatures. Its lack of cold-hardiness keeps northern gardeners (zone 5 and colder) from enjoying it.


Dwarf mondo grass requires less fertilizer than do most types of turfgrass, but it thrives best in a quality loam enriched periodically with compost.

Types of Mondo Grass

There are various types of mondo grass, offering you different sizes, blade colors, hardiness, etc.:

  • Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'): 9 to 12 inches tall and wide; zones 6 to 9; likes more sun than do the dwarf cultivars; black leaf blades
  • Ophiopogon japonicus 'Gyoku-ryu': dwarf mondo grass cultivar standing at only 1 to 2 inches tall; zones 7 to 10; dark green leaves
  • Ophiopogon japonicus 'Kyoto Super Dwarf': dwarf mondo grass cultivar standing at 2 inches tall; zones 6 to 10; leaf blades are dark green
  • Ophiopogon japonicus 'Fuiri Gyoku Ryu': 3 inches in height; zones 7 to 10; foliage variegated, with medium green stripes on the margins and a lighter stripe running down the middle

Propagating Dwarf Mondo Grass

Propagate dwarf mondo grass by dividing the roots in spring. Pry the clumps up from the ground using a garden fork, then, with your hands, tease apart groups of roots, dividing them into sections. Each section should contain a few leaves. Use a sharp knife on roots that are thickly entwined. Remove any dried or diseased portions of roots. Replant the clumps in your garden, 4 inches apart. If you cannot plant them right away, keep them moist until planting.

How to Grow Dwarf Mondo Grass From Seed

While it is possible to propagate dwarf mondo grass from seed, there are two reasons why this is not the preferred method of propagation: germination is unreliable, and even if germination is successful, the resulting plant may not come true to type.

But if you do decide to try growing dwarf mondo grass from seed, here's how to do it:

  1. Watch the berries on your plants closely in the fall to look for signs of maturity. The berries are mature when there's no green at all on their skin.
  2. Pick the mature berries, bring them indoors, open them up, and remove the seeds. It's best to plant the seeds right away rather than storing them.
  3. Soak the seeds in room-temperature water for 2 days. At the end of the first day, change the water so that they have clean water to soak in for the second day.
  4. Find a container you can use as a seeding tray. If the bottom is solid, punch drainage holes in it. Pour in a seed-starting medium.
  5. Poke 1-inch-deep holes into the medium.
  6. Sow a seed into each hole and cover it with the medium. Put the tray in a window where it can get direct sunlight.
  7. Mist the medium to keep the soil moist until the seed sprouts.
  8. After sprouting, water regularly to keep the medium moist but not soggy.
  9. Transplant outdoors next spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Slugs and Snails

Common pests that bother dwarf mondo grass are slugs and snails, while, for plant diseases, the ones that you will have to worry about the most are fungus-related. All three problems (slugs, snails, and fungus) are exacerbated by wet conditions.

You will know if your plant is being attacked by slugs and snails if you spot wilting leaves or holes chewed into the leaves. After a rain, check your plant for snails and slugs and, if you find any, pick them off by hand.

Root Rot

An example of a fungus-related disease that attacks dwarf mondo grass is root rot. Yellowing leaves are a symptom of root rot. Prevention is preferable to treatment, and two effective modes of prevention are providing your yard with good drainage and avoiding overwatering.

If it is too late for prevention, treat root rot by digging up the plant, washing the roots, and removing the diseased parts with a sterilized cutting tool. Replant the plant in a spot that has good drainage.

How to Get Dwarf Mondo Grass to Bloom

The flowers of dwarf mondo grass are insignificant, but its blue berries are attractive. These berries are often hidden in the foliage and are a necessity for propagating the plant from seed. Since you need it to bloom before you can enjoy the berries, it is helpful to learn how to help dwarf mondo grass bloom.

If your dwarf mondo grass is not flowering, it may be suffering from excessive shade. While the plant, itself performs well in full shade, full shade is not ideal for bloom production. Consider transplanting it to a spot with partial, rather than full shade.