Pruning Liriope - Groundcover

ambitiousbeginnerOctober 23, 2006

Hi, a friend of mine suggested I cut back my Liriope, so my husband went to Lowes and brought me some pruner (I guess thats what you call it). I do not know much about gardening but they look pretty good except I think they are about to go dormant for the winter.

I have already cut two down to the ground but I got nervous and thought I better ask the experts on this site. I also did a little research on the web and it suggested I used hedge sheers - are those the type that you use to trim hedges or can I use my pruners my hubby brought for me?

Hubby did not want me to use the hedges we have now because he said it could transmit disease to the Liriope.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you in advance!!!

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I'll tell you my experience with our variegated liriope and let you be the judge. My var liriope is hardy to zone 8, so for me it will get just enough browned out foliage (and it does not have a nice winter look like so many ornamental grasses do) to require cutting back and cleaning up. I cut it back in February before new growth starts pushing up. Since it isn't a super hardy variety that I have, I do not cut back in winter, but let the foliage protect it.

The problem came with how to cut back. I always have trouble finding the right tool to cut back sedges and soft grasses. Hedge trimmers tend to tear and rip, while shears just don't work on a large clump. It may sound crazy, but I use a really sharp good pair of 8 inch scissors. First I take a rake and rake through the foliage, pulling up all the dead and debris in the plant. Then I actually give them a nice shaped haircut. That's my liriope experience.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 6:41PM
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Thanks grass guy for responding so quickly. So I guess I should wait until February? How low should I cut? The two I mentioned earlier that I cut, I cut them all the way to the ground...flushed. Was I correct in doing that? They were so pretty during the summer and I do not want to kill them.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 6:48PM
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ambitious...a couple of thoughts:

It would help us if we knew where you are, zone-wise. Lily relatives like Liriope react differently in different zones, and definately different from grasses.

Unless you have a lot of plants in reserve, it's often better to ask questions like this before you cut.

Now, we need to know what kind of Liriope you have. If it's plain old Monkey Grass, and you're in a fairly temperate zone, say zone 7 or up, trimming it flush to the ground probably won't hurt it.

If you're in a colder zone, or if you have a sensitive cultivar, you may want to mulch it for the winter to give it some protection.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 7:54PM
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don, sorry, I should have mentioned the zone and type. I am in Zone 7 - and the type of Liriope I have is Liriope 'variegated. They have purple flowers growing from the center. They were planted when I had my landscaping completed along with Azaleas and a Dwarf Japanese Maple on January 10, 2006. Hope this helps!

Thank you so much for responding.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 8:24PM
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don, it is the type mention is the subject

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 8:39PM
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If you're in zone 7, you must have true variegated liriope. I'm growing aztec grass, which everyone around here calls variegated liriope, but is really an ophiopogon...i believe. It gets much thicker clumped and much harder to cut back.

Are these in a border or planted in a massed planting? Ive seen people take their mowers right over liriope plantings and cut them down to 3 or 4 inches. They seem to come back just fine around here.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 8:59PM
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grass guy, the Liriope are planted in a border outlining a very curvy landscaping from the front of the house to both sides. I must say the landscapers did an outstanding job. I guess my hubby could use the lawnmower but I am afraid he is going to nick the heads of the irrigation system or get to close to my dwarf azaleas.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 10:16PM
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cutting back the old fashioned way may be the best solution. :)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 8:41AM
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crazykwilter(z10 S FL)

You wrote:
they look pretty good except I think they are about to go dormant for the winter.

Why cut them back at all? I just trim off the few "blades" that turn brown and leave the rest alone.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 9:57AM
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leslie197(z5 MI)

I was surprised to find that anyone in zone 7 would be cutting back their liriope now. My Variegated Liriope up here in zone 5 Michigan hasn't started to look bad yet. (I grow it in a protected area close to my house because it is only marginally hardy. I know you guys will laugh, but up here I treat this as a specimen plant!)

We have already had a couple of snow squalls this fall and many of the trees in our neighborhood have lost their leaves, all my hostas are gone, the spring bulbs are planted, but the liriope still looks fine.

BTW, I never cut mine back hard in the spring either. I trim off a few burned fronds and cut stems as necessary with household scissors &/or run my hands through the plants and grab and toss debris, then let the new foliage fill in.

I always find zone differences to be fascinating. :~))

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 6:44PM
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I never cut mine back hard in the spring either.

Me too! I don't even trim off the dead leaves.. my liriope are a sort of self cleaning plants, but I guess that the warmer zone can make the difference.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 7:01AM
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I'm in zone 7 in VA and have a border of variegated liriope that does very well. I give it a serious cut in February, before the new growth starts. I cut it as low as I reasonably can without actually getting into the crown of the plant. I've used everything from hand pruners to scissors to hedge trimmers to a gas powered string trimmer. The easiest by far is the string trimmer but the neatest looking is the scissors. However, they also make for the hardest work. If you're worried about transmitting diseases from one plant to another, just rinse the tools you're using with a 9 parts water to 1 part bleach solution between plants.

A few years I've left it without trimming and it's really messy looking for several months from the dead leaves. We also get some fungus in it each winter that seems to be better controlled by the spring cut. Then it looks great all summer and fall with very little evidence of the fungus.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 11:21AM
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Larry Kahn(7b)

I'm in zone 7 and simply mow them over (both the green and the variegated) with a lawnmower in very early spring before the new growth starts emerging. No muss, no fuss, and they fill out quickly once it starts warming up. The ones I can't use the mower on get hand trimmed with clippers.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 1:41PM
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