As your garden develops, or if you have moved into a home with an existing older garden, there is no way to avoid shade. Trees and shrubs grow – as they should – and soon turn the ground beneath them into shady areas. Often our shrubs and trees grow close to the ground, so there is no room even for shade-tolerant shrubs, and very little else will grow in these places. We have few choices – leave the ground bare or covered with mulch, or find a suitable plant that will grow and spread. These plants, called by gardeners ‘ground covers’, are valuable in every garden, and give a richness and ‘finish’ to the garden that bare earth or mulch cannot do. They also block the growth of weeds, and bring color and interest at seasons when nearby woody plants have less interest.
There are several plants used by gardeners for ground-cover, but one of the most outstanding is lily turf, also known as monkey grass, or border grass. These plants are neither lilies or turf grasses, but they make excellent substitutes for a lawn in shady spots. These are wonderful plants for growing in the shade beneath shrubs, along the front of a shrub border in sun or shade, or for a low-growing and low-maintenance cover over any area of your garden. Of all the varieties of Liriope, Royal Purple Lily Turf stands out for its wonderful and unique coloring, making it a great choice for many places around the garden.
Growing Royal Purple Liriope
As the name suggests, this variety has rich purple foliage, which grows in dense tufts, reaching 12 to 18 inches tall, with glossy, arching, strap-like leaves no more than one inch wide. Clumps will spread at a moderate pace to fill the spaces in between, forming a continuous carpet of foliage. This is not an invasive plant, but it will fill an area with dense leaves, blocking the growth of weeds and making a colorful and very attractive carpet across the ground. To create a continuous ground-cover, place plants about 12 inches apart in all directions. Avoid straight lines, and scatter the plants across the area you want to cover.
In late summer and early fall, flower spikes appear. These rise several inches above the foliage. Royal Purple Lily Turf is among the showiest of these plants when in flower, with the dense flower spikes carrying deep blue flowers. These, with the deep purple leaves, make a beautiful contrast beneath shrubs and small trees – Japanese Maples for example – with rich yellow, orange and red fall foliage. After flowering, the flowers may become black berries, and these interesting spikes often continue to be attractive well into the winter.
Royal Purple Lily Turf grows well from the mild areas of zone 6 all the way into the almost tropical areas of zones 9 and 10. It will also often grow in a sheltered spot in zone 5, but there it will lose its foliage in winter, re-sprouting again in spring. In the warmer areas the foliage persists all winter, looking beautiful and adding interest. To keep beds at their most attractive, clip with shears or run a mower, set high, over your lily turf in late winter or early spring. This is all the attention needed – a truly low-maintenance plant you will love.
Plant Royal Purple Lily Turf in all kinds of soil, from sand to clay, and it prefers neutral to acidic soils. It does not grow well in strongly alkaline soil. It happily tolerated heat, humidity and drought, and thrives in many different areas from full sun to full shade, preferring partially-shaded areas. It has no pests or diseases of any significance at all. It is even resistant to deer, and very rarely grazed by them in winter. Lily turf truly is an easy plant to grow, and it makes an excellent ground-cover anywhere in your garden.
History and Origins of the Royal Purple Liriope
Lily turf, Liriope muscari, is a plant that grows naturally in Japan, Korea and all across China. There it is found in open woods and in rocky places. The natural plant has green leaves, but since its introduction into the southeastern USA in the late 19th century, many varieties have been developed. ‘Royal Purple’ is a well-established variety that has proved its value in gardens for many years, but its exact origins have been lost. Our plants are formed by dividing clumps of correctly-named plants, and growing them on. Avoid cheaper plants simply called lily turf, as these will almost certainly be grown from seeds, and be unreliable in color and form. They may also be invasive forms that can become weeds in your garden.
Adding Royal Purple Liriope Plants to Your Garden
To give your garden a wonderful finish, and make the perfect foil for your trees and shrubs, choose a reliable and easily grown ground-cover plants, to carpet the ground beneath them. Royal Purple Lily Turf is the perfect choice – but our other customers think so too. We know that our stock of quality plants will not be in our nursery long – so order now while supplies last! You may also want to consider the other popular variety of Lily Turf that we carry, Variegated Liriope.