Warm Season Grasses

By   November 14, 2015
map showing the USDA grass growing zones

USDA grass zone map

Warm season grasses are the types usually found in the warm humid area of the map.  They grow best in a band across the Southeast starting with Southeastern Texas across the Souther parts of the Gulf States, including all of Florida, and wrapping around to South Carolina.

As the name implies, warm season grasses thrive in a warm climate but often go dormant when the weather cools.  Some will die if the ground freezes.

Fine textured turf grasses don’t grow really well in this area and most lawns are planted with course textured grass.  They still look great and can meet our standards of easy lawns if chosen with care.

Choices for Warm Season Grasses:

The most popular warm season grasses are:

  • Stenotaphrum secundatum, commonly known as St. Augustinegrass is a thick carpet producing sod that spreads aggressively by stolons.  Stolons are above ground runners or shoots. St. Augustinegrass has rich dark green color blades that are fairly wide and shoot out in all directions.
  • Cynodon dactylon, commonly known as Bermudagrass has a silver or purple tinge and very deep roots which help it survive.  Bermudagrass also forms a thick mat and spreads above ground wherever a node comes in contact with soil.  It’s a full sun grass and is commonly used in southern golf courses.
  • Paspalum notatum, commonly known as Bahiagrass is a tough grass that is easy to grow.  It is native to Central and South America where was originally a pasture grass.  Bahiagrass isn’t as thick or green as St. Augustinegrass or Bermudagrass, but it requires less care and has a place in easy lawns for warm areas.
  • Zoysia is a creeping grass native to Asia.  It forms a thick, generally low growing and finely textured sod that leaves little room for weeds. Zoysia is commonly used for golf course fairways and athletic fields because it will fill in damaged areas on its own quickly.  It is tough to cut, though and doesn’t get along well with rotary mowers.  Reel type (scissor bladed) mowers are best.  Zoysia is easy to care with low fertilizer requirements.  On the downside, zoysia goes dormant when the weather cools leading some landscape companies to simply paint it green for the winter.
  • Buchloe dactyloides, commonly known as Buffalo grass was selectively bred from a prairie grass on the Great Plains where it got it’s “buffalo” name.  It spreads by stolons and rhizomes and forms a thick sod. Buffalograss is moderately heat and drought resistant.
Type Water
Needs
Drought
Tolerance
Texture Sun Notes
Bahiagrass Low High Coarse Full to partial Moderately
aggressive
Bermudagrass Medium Medium Fine to Medium Full Fills in
fast
Buffalograss Low High Fine Full Minimal
Maintenance
St. Augustinegrass Low to
medium
Medium
to Low
Coarse Full to partial Grows
quickly
Zoysiagrass Medium
to high
Medium
to High
Fine to Medium Full to partial Dense and
wiry

In most southern areas, easy lawns are a mixture of these types with St. Augustinegrass is mixed with Bahiagrass or Bermudagrass. The resulting mixture is more able to adapt to your landscape situations and shows the best features of each.