Liriope is a low-growing grass-like perennial which originates in East Asia - China, Japan and Korea; where it is found growing in shady forests, bamboo forests, scrub, grassy slopes and moist ravines. It is grown for its attractive glossy green leaves and unusual white, lilac or purple bell shaped flowers, carried on erect stems from mid to late summer and autumn. The flowers are followed by pea-sized black berries that persist well into winter. Variegated varieties will add golden, silver or white flashes of colour to shady gardens.
Lilyturf is low-maintenance and virtually pest free, making it a great choice for busy gardeners. It is excellent to plant as a groundcover underneath trees and shrubs; or as an edging for walkways and to define beds. It is often planted next to the foundations of buildings to help disguise and soften them; and is especially useful to plant on steep slopes because the dense mat of roots holds the ground exceedingly well, preventing soil erosion. With its finely textured foliage it provides a handsome backdrop for more colourful plants, making it a useful evergreen for mixed planters of seasonal annuals or perennials. Lilyturf looks great in any garden but is most effective in Japanese pebble gardens, woodland and cottage gardens.
Cultivars vary in height from +-25cm to 1m tall. The two species most common in cultivation are Liriope muscari and Liriope spicata. L. muscari stays in a neat clump while L. spicata is a vigorous spreading variety. For this reason L. muscari is the preferred species for use as a border or in a flower bed and Liriope spicata works well as a groundcover in a large area and for erosion control on slopes.
Lilyturf is evergreen and fully hardy to frost and cold temperatures; it grows best in regions with good summer rainfall, but can be grown in drier regions provided it is watered regularly. It grows well at the coast if it is planted in a sheltered position; except for a few, most varieties are not suited to very hot, humid conditions. Lilyturf will adapt to most well-drained garden soils including clay, loam and sand; but prefers a light fertile, slightly acid to neutral soil, which is moist but well-drained. Most cultivars will grow in full sun, semi-shade and even deep shade; in hot regions plants do better in semi-shade.
Cut the leaves back right to the ground in early spring if they are looking worse for wear, mulch with compost and water regularly, and they will quickly shoot fresh new leaves.
Propagation is by lifting and dividing the roots of overcrowded clumps in autumn or spring. Although lilyturf will tolerate dry periods and grows well in the dry shade underneath trees and large shrubs, it looks at its best if watered moderately during hot, dry spells.
No serious diseases or pests plague lilyturf but Anthracnose fungus sometimes causes reddish steaks in the leaves. Scale insects may cause unsightly reddish spots on leaves during late summer, but these can just be cut off. Slugs and snails are occasional pests.
(Liriope muscari) is a hardy clumping perennial with narrow, arching, dark-green leaves and spikes of small violet-purple flowers. It grows +-30 cm high and 45cm wide and will tolerate dry periods.
(Liriope muscari 'Gold Band') has gold edged arching leaves with lavender flower spikes. The leaves are wider than other muscari varieties. It will grow +-35 cm tall and 40cm wide.
(Liriope muscari 'Variegata') has slender mid-green leaves with creamy yellow margins; it produces dense spikes of lavender flowers and grows +-20 to 40cm tall and 20 to 45cm wide. Variegated lilyturf is excellent to plant in the dry shade of trees.
(Liriope muscari 'Monroe White') has green leaves with clustered spikes of white flowers. Mature plant s grow +-30cm tall and 45cm wide. It prefers partial to full shade, and protection from the wind; but will tolerate dry periods.
(Liriope muscari 'Royal Purple') has deep green leaves and dark purple flower spikes. It grows +-35 to 40cm tall and 45cm wide and will tolerate dry periods.
(Liriope muscari 'Evergreen Giant') is a large cultivar with beautiful dark green strap-like leaves and a profusion of violet-purple flower spikes. It can reach +-80cm to 1m tall with an equal spread, and grows in full sun to shade. It tolerates frost and coastal conditions with minimal care.
(Liriope muscari 'Big Blue') has arching dark green leaves and abundant clusters of blue flower spikes. It grows +-60cm tall and 60cm wide.
(Liriope spicata 'Frankin Mint') Green Carpet. has darker green leaves than the other varieties with lilac flowers in summer. It grows to a height of +-45cm and is well suited as a ground cover as it forms a broad dense carpet.
(Liriope spicata) has green grass-like leaves and spikes of pale violet to lilac flowers. It is a vigorous spreading variety which grows +-40cm tall and tolerates heat, humidity, and prolonged dry spells. It is mainly used in mass plantings as a groundcover, and is excellent to plant on steep slopes where erosion control is needed.
(Liriope spicata 'Silver Dragon') has striking white and green leaves and produces short dense spikes of pale lavender flowers in summer. It grows +-45cm tall and is well suited as a ground cover as it forms a broad dense carpet. It is very tolerant of adverse conditions and can be invasive.