Liriope is a tough plant that forms mounds as it grows and spreads. Whether used as groundcover or along a border, the plant is easy to maintain. It spreads through underground stems, which is mostly beneficial but can lead it to become invasive. Lilirope's small flowers grow on spikes clustered in the center of each plant, blooming white, pink, and various shades of purple. After blooming, the plant develops small, dark-colored berries.
Preparing the planting area allows the liriope to settle into its new home without competing for nutrients. Remove any grass or weeds growing in the area. You can pull everything by hand or use a broad-spectrum weed killer. If you use weed killer, wait at least two hours before planting.
If you plan to use liriope as a groundcover or border, set the plants out before you begin digging to determine the best placement. Leave at least two feet between each plant and at least one foot from the plant to the edge of your planting bed.
The planting hole should be the same depth as the liriope's root ball and two to three times as wide. Gently remove the liriope from the container and place it in the hole. Once in the ground, the root ball should crest the hole slightly. Backfill around the hole, pressing down lightly as you go. Water thoroughly.
Liriope is not particular about its soil needs. It does best in soil that is slightly acidic to neutral, which is most garden soils. It does appreciate well-drained soil. If the area you are planting has heavy clay or is too sandy, improve drainage by working in composted manure or other organic matter when planting.
Most varieties of liriope do best in partial to full shade, although a few varieties grow successfully in full sun. If you have a particular area you want to plant the liriope, select a variety that tolerates the amount of sun exposure in that spot.
Some varieties are hardy to zone 4, which includes areas of Iowa, Alaska, and Maine. Other varieties are hardy to zone 5, which includes parts of Montana, Ohio, and Washington. In colder climates, liriope dies back over the winter, but it remains evergreen in warmer areas.
The liriope requires a little special care the first year, but once established, it does well without much maintenance. After planting and through the remainder of that growing season, water as needed. Although you don't want to overwater, don't allow the soil around the plant to dry out. Next season, only water your liriope if there is an extended period with no rain. Wilted or discolored foliage indicates the plant may need a drink.
The dense, low-growing foliage of the liriope makes it attractive to snails and slugs. Ragged edges on the leaves is a tell-tale sign that these pests are visiting your plants. Slug and snail traps are an effective way to remove them from your garden. You can purchase commercial traps or make your own by pouring beer into a shallow dish and placing it by the plant. Scale insects can also attack the liriope. Leaves that develop small bumps along the leaves and stems may have scale. You may notice the top of your plants losing color, and the leaves may eventually fall off the plant. Treat scale with an insecticidal soap designed to target this pest.
One disease that can infiltrate your liriope is crown and leaf rot. This fungus occurs naturally in the soil, but excessive moisture allows it to attack the plant. If you notice the inner foliage of your plant fading to yellow, then brown, your liriope probably has this affliction. It is highly contagious, so remove the affected plant from the garden to prevent its spread.
Another fungal infection that can attack the liriope is anthracnose. This causes the leaves to develop brown spots along the edges and is the result of excessive rain or allowing the foliage to become overly wet when watering. Cut the plant down to about 3 inches and remove the infected trimmings to help your plant fight off the disease and prevent it from spreading. Avoid spraying water over the whole plant — focus on the soil — when watering to help prevent this.
The liriope is low-maintenance and doesn't require much special attention. Remove old growth in late winter by trimming or mowing to keep it looking tidy as new growth emerges. While the liriope does well without fertilizer, a light application of 10-10-10 in the spring can encourage new growth. Overfertilizing may make the plant more susceptible to pests and disease.
The liriope propagates easily through division. The plant naturally spreads, creating new crowns as it does. Propagate late in the fall or early in the spring. Dig up the existing plant and use the edge of a shovel to divide. Carefully separate them, returning the original plant to its hole, and planting the division in a prepared spot. Treat the division as you would any first-year plant, adding organic matter to the soil and watering it carefully.
The liriope provides an easy to grow, low-maintenance, and attractive addition to borders and slopes. It spreads easily, making it a good choice for areas that would benefit from groundcover to prevent erosion. When planted on hillsides and other areas that are challenging to mow, it will quickly spread to cover the area, preventing weeds from taking over.