Black Mondo Grass
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘nigrescens’
There is nothing quite as creepy as a sprawling planting of Black Mondo Grass. It looks like a lawn of spider legs, undulating from the earth, dark as night. This is not the kind of lawn you hide Easter Eggs in. This is the Devil’s carpet!
Sometimes also called Black Lily Turf or Black Dragon Grass this extremely hardy plant is, to my knowledge, the ONLY truly black plant on earth. Most flowers and petals or leaves of “black” plants are deep maroon or purple when held to a spot of sunlight. Not so the Black Mondo! No light penetrates this beautiful blade.
Not a true grass but actually a member of the Lily family, the Black Mondo Grass is the cousin of the well-known soldier of the busy landscaper, Liriope. Lirope is an ol’ standby for many gardeners, especially in commercial plantings, because it is shade tolerant and hardy, forgiving of trash and dogs, and overall a fairly attractive (if overused) plant. There was an attempt to reinvigorate Liriope’s popularity a few years ago with a flashy new variegated hybrid, but I digress…
For the average climate Black Mondo Grass does well planted in a shade or partial shade setting. In San Francisco’s foggy but consistent climate this does fine as a sun plant, providing the exposure is primarily morning sun. A north or northeastern facing place is excellent. With a bit more sunlight the blades get wider and the fairly slow-growing Black Mondo thrives. A lot of botanical sites say that this plant can take full sun but I would caution you not to put it into blazing afternoon sun unless you want Black Mondo to become Brown Mondo.
It does get small flowers that give way to a beautiful blue-black fruit. This is pretty small, though, and not all that showy but another cool feature of an already insanely cool plant.
This is an excellent planting for small spaces and container. To emphasize its spidery qualities, plant it in a container edge so it looks like it is crawling over! My friend Bill Barnett at Sloat Garden Center taught me to “Plant the Black Mondo in a cobalt blue pot with Chartreuse Selaginella” for maximum contrast!
About 8″ wide by 12″ wide at its maximum. This is a clumping plant that won’t spread or take over your garden. It grows fairly slowly.
Hardy to 0 degrees (yep, ZERO!)
This is a native to Japan. There are a couple of varieties, including ‘Black Beard’ which has wider blades and grows a little faster.