How to grow and care for banana trees
Name: liriope, lily-turf (Liriope giganteum, Liriope muscari)
Plant type: clump-forming evergreen, grass-like perennial
Height: 40–60cm approx
Foliage: long (40–60cm) and thin, around 2cm wide. Grass-like; deep glossy green, but also variegated.
Climate: sub-tropical, warm and cool temperate.
Soil: best in quality soil with added organic matter, but adaptable to virtually any soil.
Position: full sun to shade, but foliage colour is often weaker in shade.
Flowering and fruiting: masses of small blue to pinkish flowers on a tall spike in late summer. Fruit are purple-black, shiny, round berries around 8mm in size, appearing in late autumn.
Feeding: annual application of controlled-release fertiliser.
Watering: dry tolerant once established, but benefits from reliable moisture.
There are only a handful of plants that really tick all the boxes: look great year-round, has excellent form and foliage, has colourful flowers, and is hardy and easy-care. Liriope is one of them. The larger giant liriope (Liriope giganteum) is such a reliable performer, it’s one of the few plants that is described as a ‘landscaper’s mate’. The differences between the two most commonly seen species are mainly in size. Their preferred growing conditions and performance are pretty much equal, so pick your favourite and get planting!
Clumping and grass-like is the best way to describe the growth habit of the liriope. The outside leaves tend to weep down, while the newer, central leaves are held upright, creating a fountain-like appearance. The foliage is glossy, and quite tough.
Interestingly, green-leaved liriopes tend to become lighter in colour in the shade. Normally the opposite is true, as plants generally produce more chlorophyll to compensate for lower light. The variegated varieties bring excellent appeal with their striped leaves, although they do tend to perform better with a little sun protection.
All varieties of liriope flower. Liriope muscari and its variegated forms put on the best display, with their upright purple flower spikes. The giant liriope will flower, but the stems tend to be a bit weaker and flowers sparser.
Liriope can be grown for a variety of uses, including:
Sunlight: full sun through to shade. Variegated forms do better with some sun protection, and all will grow in heavy shade, although performance will suffer.
Aspect: foliage may suffer if your plant is grown in a windy spot in full sun and is not receiving adequate water, but otherwise it will be very adaptable. Will tolerate mild frosts and cold conditions.
Soil: best in a good-quality soil that is free-draining and has organic matter added. However, will perform very well in regular garden soil, and is adaptable to most soil types.
Watering: keep well-watered as the plants establish, but liriope is considered dry-tolerant once settled in.
For best results, follow these tips when planting liriope:
Liriope is extremely easy-care once established, but it will perform better if given some TLC.
Before new foliage starts to appear, generally in late winter or early spring, the old foliage can start to look tired. At this time you can either selectively prune out the oldest leaves, or trim the plant down so only around 5cm remains above the ground. Take care not to cut off new foliage if it has started coming through.
The only potential problems affecting liriope are slugs and snails.
Growing liriope from seed
Remove the fleshy coat from seeds and sow in a tray or pot of propagating mix. Keep moist in a warm spot, and they will germinate readily.
Dividing liriope plants
Larger, established plants can be lifted and divided. This is best done in late winter, while plants are near dormant. Cut foliage back hard when you divide.
Murraya: murraya makes an excellent easy-care hedging plant, perfect to work with your liriope border.
Rose: rose-growing is easier than you may imagine.
Camellia: this garden classic is so versatile—hedging, feature planting and beautiful cool-season flowers.