Liriope, commonly known as lily turf, is not a member of the lily family but is closely related to lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis), with which it shares a creeping trait. The two most commonly grown species, Liriope muscari (big blue lily turf) and Liriope spicata (creeping lily turf), differ slightly in appearance and habit. Both are used as flowering ground covers in a variety of situations.
Ground Cover Use
Grasslike liriope makes an excellent ground cover because of its arching, green or variegated foliage and mounding habit. Specimens planted close together quickly form dense masses that crowd out weeds. Liriope spicata, a vigorous spreader, can even be used to replace lawn grass in situations such as sandy soil or shady spaces, where grass does not thrive. Though its height and flowering nature make liriope less suitable for areas with heavy foot traffic, it is perfect for filling open spaces. Liriope muscari can also cover ground in garden beds, making a nice foil for taller plants, insulating the soil and keeping weeds at bay.
Individual liriope plants grow 10 to 18 inches tall and wide. Liriope spicata spreads more quickly than the muscari species, expanding by way of underground rhizomes. Multiple spikes of purple, white or sometimes pink flowers appear in late summer. Liriope is often evergreen, though old leaves should be cut back in late winter.
Liriope is not fussy about soil and location. Though the plants flower best in full sun, they can thrive in shade--even in the shade of mature trees. The roots will hold the soil and prevent erosion on sunny or shady slopes. Just about the only conditions that are uncongenial to liriope are perpetually wet or boggy locations.
Variegated varieties of Liriope muscari include 'Silvery Sunproof', 'John Burch' and 'Gold Band'. Liriope muscari varieties 'Monrose's White' and 'Evergreen Giant' have white flowers and 'Samantha' produces pink blooms. 'Silver Dragon' is a variegated cultivar of Liriope spicata.
The genus is native to eastern Asia, including areas of China, Japan and Malaysia. It was first described by Portuguese botanist Joao de Loureiro in the 18th century.