If you have the opportunity to choose the species of grass that will be used in your lawn, then you need to be aware of your climate, environment and specific conditions concerning shade, sun, and more. Moreover, you need to be aware of how the lawn will be used, and how much traffic it needs to endure.
First thing to consider is whether or not there is adequate sunlight to support the growth of shade-tolerate types of grass.
Second, what types of grass thrives best in your climate – cool-season grasses or warm-season grasses?
Third, you will need to decide if you will depend on grass seeds or sod.
Once you have determined these three issues, then you can select the species of grass or mixture of grasses that best comprise your yard.
The 10 most popular species of grass that are commonly used on a lawn include:
- Tall fescue (add 15% Kentucky Bluegrass for better fill-in)
- Dwarf tall fescue (tolerates a short mowing height)
- Double-dwarf fescue (not recommended for active play or large pets)
- Hybrid Bermuda (not suited for shaded areas)
- St. Augustine (very sensitive to chemical weed controls)
- Kentucky Bluegrass (avoid hot full-sun exposure)
- Perennial ryegrass (Doesn’t self-repair, must spot seed)
- Zoysia grass (requires annual dethatching)
- Seashore paspalum (trails aggressively, weekly edging recommended)
- Creeping red fescue (no mowing required)
The performance of tall fescue, dwarf tall fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Perennial ryegrass can be improved when you include them in a mixture of other grass varieties.
When it comes to the range of sunlight required, Tall fescue, Dwarf tall fescue, Hybrid Bermuda, Perennial ryegrass, Zoysia grass, and Seashore paspalum prefer sun; Double-dwarf fescue favors either sun or light shade; St. Augustine prefers shade; Kentucky Bluegrass does best in sun to semi-shade; and Creeping red fescue favor sun to semi-shade.
The drought-tolerant species include Tall fescue, Dwarf tall fescue, Double-dwarf fescue, Hybrid Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Creeping red fescue. Seashore paspalum is moderate drought tolerant and highly salt tolerant species of grass.
Tall fescue, Dwarf tall fescue, and Double-dwarf fescue grow all year round; Hybrid Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Seashore paspalum are warm-season grasses; Kentucky Bluegrass and Creeping red fescue are cool season grasses.
Tall fescue, Hybrid Bermuda, Perennial ryegrass, and Seashore paspalum are fast growing grasses; Dwarf tall fescue, St. Augustine, and Kentucky Bluegrass grow at a moderate pace; and Double-dwarf fescue and Creeping red fescue grow at a slow pace.
Foot Traffic Tolerance
The poorest grass species to survive heavy foot traffic include Tall fescue, Dwarf tall fescue, and Double-dwarf fescue. Those grass types that have moderate tolerance to heavy foot traffic include St. Augustine and Creeping red fescue. The rest of the grass types are either good or excellent.
If your family enjoys playing sports on the lawn, then it is best for you to use grasses that are tough and have good to excellent tolerance of heavy foot traffic. These grasses include Bermuda, hybrid Bermuda, or Zoysia. These grasses are also best to fill in bare areas caused by heavy foot traffic or dog urine and thus have a higher salt tolerance. However, these grasses do not grow well in shade. In addition, these species are “tough” only during their growing seasons, which are spring, summer, and fall. They go dormant during cooler winter months. When in a dormant state, foot traffic can cause wear and a muddy path.
Proper Grasses For Specific Conditions
Warm season grasses are recommended for sunny areas where dormancy is accepted. These species include Bermuda, hybrid Bermuda, Kikuyu, and zoysias. They are great to use to fill in bare spots and also recover quickly from foot traffic. They are also salt tolerant, making them ideal if you have pets, are deep-rooted, and drought tolerant. They are also ideal for cold weather areas because they go dormant in the cold season. However, you will need to de-thatch” and keep the lawn well groomed.
For sunny locations where you want the grass to be lush all year round, it is suggested that you use hardy grasses like tall fescues and dwarf tall fescues. They are “cool season” grasses and stay green all year round in regions where the weather is temperate. They will die or go dormant in snowbound areas and perform best in low to medium foot traffic. Fescues type grasses are easier to maintain and the lawn stays in the space in which it was intended. They do not invade adjacent areas. Fescues grasses feature deep roots and are drought tolerant. However, they are not salt tolerant. So dog urine can cause burned out patches.
Bluegrass is ideal for shady areas because it has a higher shade tolerance. A cool season grass, bluegrass comes in more than 100 blends. This grass has a softer, finer blade and grows easily from sod or seed. It is ideal to fill in bare spots quickly because it spreads through an underground stem that has its own roots and shoots.
If you want a warm season grass that has high shade tolerance, then you should select St. Augustine. A runner type grass, it does well in both the sun and in the shade.
It is not uncommon to mix a variety of grasses together to enhance a lawn’s durability. For example, if you add a mixture of 15 percent Kentucky Bluegrass to a fescue, the bluegrass will not only spread but will have improved shade tolerance due to the fescue. The mixture would be ideal for filling in foot traffic and urine spots. The two different kinds of grass assist each other because the fescue is more drought tolerant and has deeper roots than bluegrass. As the roots of the different species intertwine, the deeper fescue roots bring water to the bluegrass and improve its drought tolerance, resulting in a hardier lawn.