Warm Season Grasses
In some ways, growing and maintaining a good-looking lawn in the South
is more involved than in the North. Choosing grass varieties is trickier.
Some grass varieties do much better when started as plugs or sod than
from seed, as is usually done in the North.
Good soil is critically
important for growing a low maintenance lawn in this region. Most
all warm weather grasses will turn brown when cooler temperatures arrive.
Some southern gardeners seed their existing lawns with ryegrass each
fall to maintain green color during the winter months. This is called winter
Maintaining ideal growing conditions for your particular grass type is
critical, otherwise unwanted grass varieties will start popping up and
will be extremely difficult to remove. For example, St. Augustine grass
being invaded by Bermuda grass and vice versa.
There are 2 major types of grass used for lawns in the South: warm-season
grass and evergreen grass.
Warm-Season grasses are of tropical origin and thrive during the scorching
summer heat. They are tough and form a dense lawn cover that thickens
as they age. The are not green during the cold spells of winter. Their
leaves turn brown in late fall and don't green up again until warm weather
returns. In general they are green a little over half the year. Warm-season
grasses are best suited for lower and middle South regions which includes
the Coastal areas from Virginia south to Georgia and west through Alabama
to Texas. Zoysia grass and more cold-tolerant grasses such as Bermuda can be
grown in the upper South which includes the mountainous regions from
Virginia and North Carolina west through northern Tennessee and Arkansas.
Evergreen grasses grow best in the South during the fall and spring.
During the winter months their growth slows, but they remain green for
most of the winter. During the hot summer months they will
struggle to survive and require considerable care to handle the extremes
common to the heat. Evergreen grasses are best for upper and middle South
regions. In most situations, evergreen grasses should not be considered
as a general-purpose lawn grass for the lower South and Coastal areas.
Four major types of warm-season lawns
There are 4 major types of warm season lawns with a variety of characteristics
and attributes. Deciding which lawn is best depends on your preferences
Consider the following: amount of shade on your lawn, how the lawn
will be used (lots of activity, or mostly as a green area that sets off
the rest of the landscape), and the height you prefer to mow. Your preference
for texture in your grass is another consideration.
The 4 major types are Bermuda grass, Centipede grass, St. Augustine grass and Zoysia grass.
Bermuda grass: hybrid bermuda is fine with good cold tolerance. It does not
do well in the shade and can handle activity. Mowing height is low.
Centipede grass: has a medium texture with a fair cold tolerance. Doesn't
hold up under extreme usage. Mowing height is medium.
Saint Augustine grass: coarse texture with poor cold tolerance. Doesn't
stand up to heavy traffic. Mowing height is high.
Zoysia grass: fine to medium texture with good cold tolerance. Doesn't handle
shade too well, is fairly good for usage. Mowing height is medium.