Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'

How to grow ophiopogon

Grow healthy, evergreen ophiopogons, with the help of our start-to-finish Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December


Do not Divide in January

Do not Divide in February

Do Divide in March

Do Divide in April

Do Divide in May

Do not Divide in June

Do not Divide in July

Do not Divide in August

Do not Divide in September

Do not Divide in October

Do not Divide in November

Do not Divide in December

Ophiopogon is also known as lilyturf and mondo grass. It’s a grass-like perennial that spreads by rhizomes into a carpet of tufted, narrow, evergreen leaves.


Small, white flowers appear in summer, followed by black berries in autumn, but the foliage is the main feature. The most popular varieties of ophiopogon are the dramatic looking black cultivars. They’re a good option for ground cover in a shady spot and are also useful in container displays, and the underplanting of trees and shrubs. The foliage contrasts well with other low-growing perennials or bulbs like cyclamen and snowdrops.

Get the know-how your need to grow ophiopogon, below.

Where to grow ophiopogon

Grow ophiopogon in moist, but well-drained soil. It prefers the slightly acidic, fertile, humus-rich soil typical of shady woodland areas. Choose a spot in full sun or partial shade. The black foliage varieties will darken more in a sunny location.

Planting ophiopogon

Ophiopogon planted with Hosta 'Praying Hands', Asplenium scolopendrium Cristatum Group and Dichondra 'Silver Falls'
Ophiopogon planted with Hosta ‘Praying Hands’, Asplenium Cristatum Group and Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’

Although ophiopogon will spread, if you’re planting up an area under a tree or in a container, use several plants to get an immediate effect. Add a little leaf mould or a handful of ericaceous compost and mix well before planting, firming in and watering.

Propagating ophiopogon

Dividing an ophiopogon clump
Dividing an ophiopogon clump

Propagate ophiopogon by dividing in spring as the plant comes into growth. Simply dig up and pull apart the plant to create new ones.

Ophiopogon: problem solving

Ophiopogon does not suffer from diseases, but slugs may enjoy the new spring growth.

Caring for ophiopogons

Ophiopogon aff. caulescens
Ophiopogon aff. caulescens

Ophiopogons are easy to care for plants, with no need to cut back. They’re slow-growing and will spread over a long period of time.

Great ophiopogons to grow

Ophiopogon japonicus
Ophiopogon japonicus
  • Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ – this is the best known cultivar and is also known as ‘Black Dragon’, ‘Ebony Knight’, or ‘Arabicus’. It grows to 20cm. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
  • Ophiopogon ‘Black Beard’ – another dark variety, but slightly taller, growing to 25cm. Flowers are white with a flush or purple, followed by berries in autumn
  • Ophiopogon japonicus minor – this is a very compact form of ophiopogon. The leaves are evergreen and grow to 10cm, and flowers are pale lilac
  • Ophiopogon planiscapus – the evergreen foliage makes good ground cover and it suits full sun or dry shade and grows to 15cm. White flowers appear in summer followed by blue berries