Metro-East Living

Be patient with mondo grass

Q: We bought mondo grass at a retail store last fall and planted it. It hasn’t grown or done anything. Is there something in addition that we need to do to make it grow or start spreading?

R.S. of Red Bud

A: Technically, mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) is not a grass but a member of the lily family. Mondo grass is a native of Japan and Korea. This plant will produce flowers white to a pale purple depending upon the species. Mondo grass is well known to take a longer period of time to become well established in the clump before spreading. I expect nothing is wrong with your plant. But once it becomes established, be ready for the spreading to begin. This plant will tolerate deep shade but not the full sun in lots of heat. The heat and sun will not kill the plants, but they will not grow quickly. Clay type soils also prevent fast growth.

Just be patient, but be ready to control its spread when it starts.

Q: We had the prettiest lawn earlier this spring, but now white clover has taken over. The globe white flowers are everywhere. How do we get our lawn back?

C. W. of Belleville

A: Your turf grass is still there; it’s just that the flower heads of the white clover are taller and more visible.

At one time, white Dutch clover seed was added to grass seed so that the grass plants would receive nitrogen fertilizer produced by the clover plants. Folks didn’t fertilize their lawns and were happy just to mow the white flower heads off. Today, people want to have their lawn to look like a golf course’s evenly mowed sea of green. The golf courses did this to speed up play because looking for a white ball after a long drive slowed down the game. The golf ball blended in very well. Faster play meant more revenue.

When white clover overtakes your grass, you are getting an indication you could use a little more nitrogen fertilizer application in the spring. Because of the recent wet weather, rain has washed the available nitrogen below the root zone of our turf plants.

As nitrogen moves through the soil, most of the necessary nutrients will be held by clay particles. Do not try to add the nitrogen fertilizer in hot weather. Too much fertilizer will cause the grass plants to go dormant to survive, and your lawn will suddenly turn brown. Weed seeds then will be ready to germinate and become a problem, so you will have to use a broad-leaved herbicide to destroy them. Grass seed will not germinate at this time. Leaving your white clover grow actually will help out the situation in the long run.

When cooler weather returns in the fall, you can overseed with grass seed again to get your lawn looking great. Then in mid-September, you can make another application of a turf fertilizer to get the newly growing grass off to a good start for the fall growing season.

Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Maureen Houston, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to

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