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Plant Pathology Infobytes

February 26, 1998

Time to Trim Liriope

Outside workday activities have been tough to complete in recent weeks. However, when we do have a few days of sunny weather, "whacking back the liriope" is one chore that needs attention. This project won't take long to complete and will improve the appearance of your landscape later this year.

Liriope, often referred to as "monkey-grass", is frequently planted in Southern landscapes as an edging material for walkways, flower beds, and groundcover for shady spots in the garden. Liriope forms close mats of dark-green or variegated foliage and is a great landscaping plant.

While liriope will tolerate a range of soil types and performs well under a variety of landscape conditions, the plant is susceptible to a foliage blight which often detracts from its appearance during late fall and through the winter.

The technical name for the problem is anthracnose, a fungus disease which causes leaves of liriope to turn brown and die back. If your liriope has that "blighted" appearance, it's probably due to this disease.

What should you do about controlling this problem? First, don't worry about the disease killing your liriope. It won't, but who wants to look at blighted liriope any longer than necessary?

Here's a tip that will improve the looks of your liriope, and you can get the job done in a hurry (when the ground is a bit drier). Simply run your lawn mower over the top of the blighted growth to cut off the diseased foliage. You can use the same technique to revitalize your mondo-grass as well.

The job is a lot easier to complete if you have a sharp lawn mower blade. Cut the diseased growth back to a height of 3 or 4 inches. Be sure to rake and discard all cut foliage.

Giving your liriope, or mondo-grass, a "flat-top" is a great way to give it a fresh look when the new growth comes out later this season, and it will add to the appearance of your landscape.

However, a word of caution: if you plan to mow down your monkey- grass, don't wait too late into the season to carry out the project. It should be done before new shoot growth appears, generally by early March in the southern part of the state. If you wait too long to cut off the diseased foliage, you'll also remove part of the new growth.

For more landscape tips, free publications, and other useful information, drop by your county Extension office.

Infobytes newsletter was written by the late Dr. Frank Killebrew, Extension Specialist.