With its black leaves and the advantageously contrasting white flowers, the black mondo grass is a real eye-catcher among the otherwise colorful variety of ornamental plants.
Profile of black mondo grass:
Scientific name: Ophiopogon planiscapus
Plant family: asparagus family (Asparagaceae)
Other names: –
Sowing time: spring
Planting time: spring
Flowering period: June to August
Location: sunny to partially shady
Soil quality: sandy to loamy, sensitive to lime, nutrient rich, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: ground cover, borders, group planting, underplanting, formal garden, japanese garden, rhododendron garden, forest garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: not very much
Plant characteristics and classification of black mondo grass
Plant order, origin and occurrence of black mondo grass
The black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus) is a perennial that belongs to the asparagus family (Asparagaceae). At first glance, this pretty evergreen plant looks like an ornamental grass and is originally from Japan.
Characteristics of black mondo grass
The black mondo grass is a perennial with partially thickened roots. It forms short runners, which gradually create small carpets of plants. With a low growth of only about 20 centimeters (8 in), it is an ideal ground cover.
The dark green, slightly shiny, multi-veined leaves grow densely and bent over. They grow between 20 and 40 centimeters (8 to 16 in) long and four to six millimeters wide. Because of its grass-like shape, the plant can easily be mistaken for a grass when flowerless, but in fact it is an evergreen perennial.
In July and August, short clusters of bell-shaped, six millimeter long, pale violet to white flowers appear at the level of the leaf tips or just above them. The flowers hang like grapes on the stems. Thus, they remind of their close relatives, the lilies of the valley.
The plant forms inedible blue-black berries in autumn.
Black mondo grass – cultivation and care
Ophiopogon planiscapus prefers a partially shady location, but can also cope with a sunny place in the garden when the soil is moist. You can also cultivate the black mondo grass in a pot. Make sure that the substrate is permeable, because the plant does not tolerate continuous waterlogging.
To thrive well, the black mondo grass should be planted in an evenly moist, humusy, not too calcareous soil.
Place black mondo grass in the ground in spring at a distance of about 20 centimeters (8 in). Five plants per square meter are ideal for small group plantings.
Since it does not tolerate dryness well, you should water the black mondo grass regularly. But always water only moderately, because it also does not tolerate waterlogging. In this point, the care is just a little time consuming.
If the plant is cultivated in a pot or on the balcony, it needs some liquid fertilizer about once a month.
If you want to prune the perennial, spring is the best time to do so.
You can divide the plant in spring and move the separated rootstock to another place in the garden.
In spring, you can cut off any frozen leaves that may have appeared during the winter and then divide equally sized vigorous plants. This is the best way to propagate the black mondo grass in your own garden. It also propagates by self-sowing.
Diseases and pests
The most common pests include the larvae of aphids, spider mites and thrips. An infestation first appears on the underside of the leaves, where the parasites lay their eggs and feed on the plant cells. Spots on the upper side of the leaf already indicate an advanced infestation. The gardener should remove the infected leaves quickly and treat the plant as a whole. Occasional moistening or rinsing of the leaves can help to keep parasites away.
In winter, it is important to cover the plant with some leaves or brushwood to protect it from frost and winter sun.
Plants that are kept in a pot should be brought into the house during frost and wintered in a bright place at about 10 °C / -50 °F.
Use in the garden
The black mondo grass is an ideal ground cover for the rhododendron garden or other partially shady to shady places in the garden. As the plant expands like a carpet, it likes to grow beyond borders and borders of beds. The dark and grass-like leaves are best seen in groups in perennial beds, where yellow-leaved perennials and grasses form a beautiful contrast.
A well-known almost black-leaved black mondo grass variety is Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, which is also sold under ‘Arabicus’, ‘Black Dragon’ and other names. It is much more common than the species. The variety with the black leaves is well suited as a border plant. It should be combined with light-leaved, large-leaved perennials such as alumroot or hosta, which creates tension and contrast in the bed. The dark leaves, on the other hand, are less effective against bark mulch and other dark plants.
If you are looking for a lighter variety instead of the dark foliage ‘Nigrescens’, ‘Little Tabby’ is a good choice. This variety has creamy white-green leaves and small white flowers.