Which Lawn Grass Is Best For You?

Establishing a healthy, lush and beautiful lawn requires diligence. Proper lawn care really means a schedule for mowing, nutrition, and maintenance which must be adhered to throughout the growing season.  Whether establishing a new lawn or overseeding an existing one, a homeowner needs to match the best cool- or warm-season grasses to their growing region.  We will see that warm-season grasses flourish in southern regions where seasonal summer temperatures run high while cool-season grasses show vigorous growth in northern regions with cool spring and fall seasons and moderate summer temperatures.

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Annual Versus Perennial Grasses

Why use annual grass?  Annual bluegrass and annual ryegrasses are often planted to quickly fill in bald spots in lawns while waiting for slower growing perennial grasses establish themselves. Although these grasses are sometimes seeded into lawns, many varieties of weedy grasses such as crabgrass are annuals. Remember, you have to reseed annual lawn grasses yearly; think of annual grasses as a cover crop to prevent soil erosion.

Most lawns consist of perennial grasses including Bahia, bentgrass, Bermuda grass, blue grama grass, buffalo grass, fescue, perennial bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass.  If you are buying grass seed from a major supplier or local hardware store, then you are receiving perennial grass.  If you are buying cheap grass seed online then buyer beware.  Remember all seed companies are required by law to list the composition and percentages of seed in their products.

Which grass types are best for you? Use the tables below to help you decide which turfgrass along with their characteristics is best. But success also rests on choosing the correct turfgrass for your region. Find your grass zone.

Cool-season perennial grasses are those species with optimum growth at temperatures between 60 and 75°F

Grass Mowing Height Traffic Tolerance Soil Type Sun
Bentgrass 1/2-1 inches light tolerates acidic full
Bluegrass 2-2 1/2 inches light pH 6.5-7 neutral full
Perennial Ryegrass 2-3 inches high most types full
Fine Fescue 2-3 inches light most types full/shade
Tall Fescue 2-3 inches high most types full/partial

The majority of northern lawns are a combination of Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescues. Kentucky bluegrass will form the nicest lawn, but it has a very low shade tolerance. Ryegrass can tolerate heavy foot traffic but does not tolerate extreme conditions of drought. Fescues are often found in mixes due to their tolerance of shade, foot traffic, cold, and drought. When combined correctly, these grasses will form a dense lawn suitable for most northern conditions.

Warm-season perennial grasses are those species with optimum growth at temperatures between 80 and 95°F

Grass Mowing Height Traffic Tolerance Soil Type Sun
Bahia 2-2 1/2 inches moderate many types full/moderate
Bermuda 1 1/2-2 inches high light textured full
Centipede 1 1/2-2 inches light tolerates acidic full/partial
St. Augustine 2-3 inches high prefers sandy full/partial

Warm-season grasses are best suited for tropical and subtropical climates with scorching sun and high temperatures. They are a perfect choice for Southern lawns due to their low-water requirements, increased salt tolerances and heat tolerance.  These grasses do most of their growing in the summer. When the weather cools down in late fall and winter, warm-season grasses go dormant and turn brown.

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