The genus Ophiopogon comprises around 65 species, which are in their majority grass-like, evergreen plants related to lily of the valley, asparagus and Dracaena. Most of these Ophiopogon species are native to East, South-East and South Asia. The most well-known and most frequently cultivated of them is mondo grass, Ophiopogon japonicus. It is found on shaded, moist hillsides and on rivulets in China, Korea and Japan, and it has been considered a medicinal as well as an ornamental plant in these countries for centuries. The dried tubers are an expectorant drug (Radix Ophiopogonis, chin.: Mai Men Dong), and in many Chinese gardens, dark mondo grass tufts line the bizarre rock compositions. In parks and gardens of many regions with a warmer climate, it is used as a lawn-like ground cover. It has dark green, wiry, overhanging leaves growing to a length of 10 to 50 cm and a width of 2 to 4 mm. There is also a dwarf cultivar of O. japonicus with the name 'Kyoto Dwarf', also sold under other names in trade.
O. japonicus is frequently offered as aquarium plant in zoo shops, however, it is not suitable for submersed cultivation. When planted into a tank, it may survive for months due to its exceptional robustness, however, sooner or later it will die off and rot away.
Mondo grass, however, is highly suitable as slow-growing, robust terrarium plant in normally moist (not wet) soil. In protected outdoor areas or in regions with mild winters it is sufficiently hardy in Central Europe, and its high shade tolerance makes it a great plant e.g. for city house patios. Fresh soils rich in humus are recommendable, but short dry periods are tolerated by this deep-rooting plant. During the warm season, mondo grass grows short flower stalks with small whiteish or blueish flowers, from which dark blue berries develop. On the rhizomes, daughter plants develop, which can be cut off and re-planted in the ground or in pots. Mondo grass also grows long subsoil runners.
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