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Evergreen, Perennials

These grasslike Asian natives are slightly less cold-hardy than their close cousins Liriope. They are easy to grow, requiring little more than well-drained soil and protection from snails and slugs. Good as an informal groundcover in small areas, along paths, or in rock gardens. Attractive when planted in large sweeps in areas where lawns don’t succeed, such as under trees. They also do well in containers. Grow them for their lush, evergreen foliage; the summer flowers, borne on short spikes, are largely hidden by the leaves.

It’s easy to obtain more plants by division. Use a sharp spade to divide clumps in early spring; or use a knife to divide clumps sold in flats or cell-packs at garden centers.

Ophiopogon jaburan

From Japan. Sometimes sold as Liriope gigantea. Grows to 2–3 ft. tall and 1–1 1/2 ft. wide, with dark green, slightly curved, 1/2-in.-wide leaves. Forms clumps; does not spread by underground stems. Nodding clusters of small white flowers are followed by showy, 1/2-in.-long oval fruits in a metallic violet-blue (attractive in arrangements).

Ophiopogon japonicus
Ophiopogon japonicus

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Ophiopogon japonicus

Native to Japan and Korea. Forms a dense clump to 6–8 in. high; spreads by underground stems, many of which are tuber-like. Slow to establish as a groundcover. Light lilac flowers in short spikes, usually hidden by dark green leaves 8–12 in. long and just 1/8 in. wide. Blue fruits are round, about 1/4 in. across. If plants look shabby, mow or shear before spring growth begins. Set divisions 6–8 in. apart.

Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

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From Asia. Grassy tufts grow to 8 in. high and 1 ft. wide. Spreads slowly and does not make a solid cover. Leaves grow to 14 in. long and 1/8–1/4 in. wide, emerging green but soon darkening to nearly black. Bell-shaped white or purple-flushed flowers are 1/4 in. long. Dramatic in containers, especially when combined with yellow or chartreuse foliage, such as that of yellow creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’).

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