The big blue lilyturf is known only to a few gardeners. With its purple flowers, it is one of the precious garden rarities. This is how it is planted and cared for.
Profile of big blue lilyturf:
Scientific name: Liriope muscari
Plant family: asparagus family (Asparagaceae)
Other names: lilyturf, border grass, monkey grass
Sowing time: from January
Planting time: spring between March and April
Flowering period: August to October
Location: partially shady to shady
Soil quality: gravelly to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, ground cover, borders, planters, underplanting, flower, garden natural garden, potted garden, forest garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: –
Plant characteristics and classification of big blue lilyturf
Plant order, origin and occurrence of big blue lilyturf
The big blue lilyturf (Liriope muscari), usually called lilyturf, border grass or monkey grass, is one of six species within the genus Liriope. It originates from Asia (China and Japan) and is botanically classified as a member of the asparagus family (Asparagaceae).
Characteristics of big blue lilyturf
The big blue lilyturf grows as a perennial and forms small clusters. It is frost hardy and wintergreen. It grows upright from its tuber, grows up to one meter (40 in) high and about 60 centimeters (24 in) wide. The whole plant is slightly poisonous.
A main feature of the big blue lilyturf is its attractive, grass-like tufts of leaves. The leaves are basal, glabrous, linear and with entire margins. They show an attractive yellow coloring in autumn.
The big blue lilyturf shows its distinctive, upright flower racemes from August to October, which makes it a striking bloomer in autumn. Its flower candles consist of a multitude of blue-violet bell-shaped flowers and can grow up to 40 centimeters (16 in) long.
The big blue lilyturf forms compartmentalized, dark blue-black colored capsules, in which the small seeds are located.
Big blue lilyturf – cultivation and care
The exotic autumn bloomer prefers warm, partially shady to shady locations. Even in sunny places, the big blue lilyturf is happy to bloom, as long as its winter-green leaves are protected from the drying winter sun with brushwood during the cold season. The location should also protect the plant from strong wind and rain.
The big blue lilyturf grows particularly well on humous, slightly acid and nutrient-rich soil. Gravelly loamy soil, which should be at least 30 centimeters thick and permeable, is what is best for it. Lime should be avoided.
Planting big blue lilyturf
The best planting time for the Liriope is in spring between March and April. This gives it enough time to take root until the next winter. The planting distance should be about 25 centimeters (10 in). The addition of compost during planting gives the big blue lilyturf plenty of energy. Small groups of five to ten perennials achieve a beautiful effect. From April onwards, the perennial can also be sown directly on site. Cover the light germs only with a little soil and keep the sowing place moist.
Big blue lilyturf do not tolerate waterlogging, so caution is required when watering. They should only be watered when the upper layer of the substrate has dried. Persistent dryness is also unfavorable. Especially during the first years of standing. Older plants, on the other hand, can survive longer rain-free phases. In addition, the following is important when watering the border grass:
- Use lime-free water, such as rainwater, stale or filtered tap water
- Water only in the morning or evening
- Never water in direct sunlight
If the big blue lilyturf has just been planted or repotted, i.e. if it has fresh substrate and thus nutrients available, fertilization is not necessary. Only from the second year onwards can this become necessary.
A regular additional supply of nutrients is particularly important when cultivating in pots or tubs. Liquid fertilizer for flowering plants is recommended here, which is added every four weeks from April to September.
In the garden, it is sufficient to fertilize every six weeks during the same period. If you do without a cut, you must even start with this care measure of the border grass in May or June.
Big blue lilyturfs are evergreen plants that retain their fresh color even in winter. Only the flowers dry out. In some cases, individual leaves that have been damaged in winter can also wither.
If you find them very annoying, you can certainly cut them off. The best time to prune is between April and May. However, this is not really necessary and useful. Because the dead parts of the plant are quickly covered when new shoots appear and are then no longer noticeable anyway. In addition, they release the nutrients they contain when rotting and thus represent a natural fertilization. That might be pleasing everyone, who would like to operate with as little effort as possible in the garden.
As the big blue lilyturf forms rhizomes without runners, the choice of propagation methods is quite limited. It is easy to divide the plants by hand, while several steps are required for sowing. Both procedures are explained in detail below:
Between the middle of April and the middle/end of May you dig out the root ball widely. Shake off the soil or sprinkle the rhizomes with soft water. When laid out on a firm surface, the plant can easily be cut into segments. A suitable segment should have at least 2 buds so that it can turn into an adult big blue lilyturf. Plant the rhizome pieces in the partially shady place in the humus-loose soil while maintaining the previous planting depth and water. Add some leaf compost with horn shavings into the planting hole to promote growth. The water supply must not be cut off in the following period to ensure that rooting proceeds as desired.
The germination of Liriope muscari is limited, especially since they are both dark and cold germinators. With a good portion of perseverance, however, you can grow numerous young plants by following these steps:
- In January/February, fill a seed container with seed soil, peat sand or lean standard soil
- Sow the seeds, cover them as thick as a seed and moisten them with soft water
- Place in a heatable greenhouse for 21 days at 28-30 °C / 82 to 86 °F
- Then store in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for another 21 days
- The third temperature phase begins for 8 days at 12 °C / 54 °F and ends in permanent 18 to 20 °C / 64 to 68 °F
Keep the substrate continuously moist with soft water during the procedure. In order to prevent the seed trays from fogging up the refrigerator, place the sowing on the balcony in adequate weather conditions. A blanket of snow on the seeds is desired and will force germination. However, it is important to ensure that the temperature does not drop below freezing point. Be patient and do not throw in the towel if the seeds take plenty of time to germinate after the cold stimulus. Those seedlings with at least 2 pairs of leaves are pricked out into individual pots and cultivated on the partially shady windowsill.
Large clusters can be divided every two to three years in spring. Dig out the root ball of the monkey grass, shake off the remaining soil and remove weak roots. Use a spade to divide the plant into several parts. These can then be used again in the new location.
Diseases and pests
The border grass sometimes suffers from anthracnosis. This is a fungal disease that causes the leaves to become spotty and die. All infested parts of the plant should be removed as soon as possible and disposed of with the household waste. The big blue lilyturf is also not immune to root rot. In both cases, fungicides can help. Especially when the leaves sprout in spring, the plants should be protected from snails.
The pure species is assigned to the winter hardiness zone 6, which implies a frost hardiness of up to -20 °C / -5 °F. This resistance is not always valid for hybrids resulting from it. In regions with harsh winter conditions, it is therefore recommended to take the following precautions for a healthy overwintering:
- Leave the leaves on the perennial as a natural winter cover until early spring.
- Pile up the root disc thickly with leaf mould, peat dust or brushwood.
- Water a little on mild days when there is black frost
Wrap large planters with jute tape or bubble wrap and place them on cold-insulating material, such as a block of wood. Pots with a diameter of less than 30 cm are better to put away. A suitable winter location is bright and cool, with temperatures between 6 and 13 °C / 43 and 55 °F. An unheated staircase is ideal for this purpose or the windowsill in the cool bedroom. From November to March, water just enough to prevent the root ball from drying out. Every 6 to 8 weeks the leafy big blue lilyturf in the winter quarters receives diluted liquid or cactus fertilizer. No fertilizer is administered in the field.
Use in the garden
The big blue lilyturf can be used in the garden in many ways. Runner forming species are wonderfully suitable as easy-care ground cover. In addition, there are cluster forming, beautifully flowering species and varieties that become autumnal eye-catchers in variously planted borders or as planting of smaller vessels and pots. The border grass can also be used as a border plant and for planting under trees and shrubs.
The true species inspired capable cultivators to develop some magnificent hybrids. Get to know some of the most beautiful varieties here:
With this big blue lilyturf, the focus is on an intense blue color of the flowers. With a growth height of 50 cm (20 in), this perennial plant will green all partially shady, humid locations in the garden or will set the scene in a tub or balcony box.
With a dainty 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 in) growth height, this hybrid scores with a robust constitution and vital vigor. The dark purple flower clusters rise in large numbers above the winter green foliage.
A white flowering big blue lilyturf must not be missing in the creative garden planning. With Monroe White, you can create garden pictures rich in contrast if you combine the different varieties.
With truly royal grace, the violet-blue inflorescences are enthroned above the wintergreen, lanceolate foliage. In tubs with a substrate volume of 3 liters or more, the perennial also unfolds its late summer flower festival on balconies and terraces.