Q. Ice and snow have battered my liriope (monkey grass). I don't usually cut it this early. Can I do it now?
A. Our severe winter weather has harmed many groundcovers this winter. You will notice brown leaf tips from winter burn, broken stems from ice and the weight of snow, and in some places root systems have been frost-heaved out of the ground. All of these problems need to be remedied.
Inspect your liriope carefully to be sure that the plants have not been lifted out of the soil. Press the ground surrounding the plants firmly with your foot to be sure they are not loosened in the soil. If they are loose, roots can be damaged and the plant may die because of dried roots. Tamp the soil firmly to re-anchor the plants.
If your plants have been frost-heaved, you should not use a motorized string trimmer to cut the plants back. The action of a string trimmer may rip the plants from the soil. It will be more time-consuming, but you will have healthier plants if you cut the foliage back with a hand trimmer. You can use the wide blades of a hedge trimmer, whether it is hand-powered or motorized.
If your liriope is very loose in the soil, you could wait until warmer weather. Add some slow-release fertilizer to the area, then wait a month or so. The plants will have a chance to root in, the soil will stabilize, and you can trim with a mower before the first growth emerges in spring. Your new growth should be green and healthy, and the plants will look fresh.
E-mail Pat Lea at firstname.lastname@example.org.