Ophiopogon japonicus, Mondo Grass or Dragon Beard, is native to China, India, Vietnam and Japan. It is an evergreen perennial of the Asparagaceae family which spreads by rhizomes and stolons. In their natural habitat they are often found along streams or in moderate damp woodland conditions where they thrive in shade to semi-shade. Flowers are quite insignificant but the berries are a beautiful pearly blue.
In their native Japan Ophiopogon are used around water basins or rocks for accentuation and to soften their base. The smaller cultivars like ‘Kyoto’ and ‘Tama-ryu’ are often planted between stones in a path or along gravel garden edges to imitate moss. They are also sometimes used as underplanting for larger bonsai.
Ophiopogon are not prone to have many pests or diseases but vine weevil, especially when the plants are grown in pots, need to be treated with nematodes.
Propagation of Ophiopogon is very easy. Rooted stolons can be split off and potted up to increase stock. Some Ophiopogon however are very slow growing so it may take some time before the plant is big enough to be split.
Recommended cultivars for gardens
Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Spring Gold’ – this cultivar shoots out bright yellow foliage in spring and remains a good yellow throughout the year, hardly fading at all.
Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Kyoto’ – this dwarf cultivar is lovely as path edging or even underplanting in a pot which has a larger plant in it.
Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Silver Comet’ – this cultivar has leaves that are almost completely white. It combines beautifully with darker foliage or can brighten up a shady area garden.
Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Lengteng Giant’ – a cultivar which does its name proud as it is a true giant amongst Ophiopogon. Tall, wide leaves quickly fill a pot or corner of the border. The texture of the foliage looks great in any mixed border.