Many of our spring and summer activities out in yards, parks, and sports fields are possible thanks to the warm-season grasses that make up these lawns. There are several species (and many more varieties of each) to choose from, all of them with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Growing Warm-Season Grass
Warm season grasses will sprout when temperatures are regularly above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the threat of frost has passed. Warmer days with lots of sunlight encourage dormant grass to revive and new grass seed to germinate.
Checking your lawn’s soil nutrients and pH balance with a soil test will guide you in selecting a fertilizer to apply at the beginning of the growing season.
Types of Warm-Season Grass
As the name suggests, grasses that thrive from April to September are adapted to the hot weather that comes in the summertime. They go dormant in winter, and in areas where it’s warm enough year-round, some won’t go dormant at all.
Depending on your yard’s landscape characteristics, one or another species may be the right choice for the amount of sun, foot traffic, and water the location receives.
St. Augustine is a medium green species of grass that is chosen for its shade tolerance and dense growth. This grass’ roots reach down about 6 inches, which is average length. The roots spread by stolons, above-ground root extensions that fill in empty soil near the grass.
The surface-level nature of St. Augustine grass leaves it intolerant to drought and isn’t suitable for foot traffic.
Bahia is a sun-loving grass that has a bright, light green color. This grass reproduces by stolons, and it has an above average root depth that can reach groundwater deeper in the soil than more shallow roots, making it resistant to dry conditions. Bahia is a durable turf and a good choice for areas that receive foot traffic.
Bermuda grass is known for its density and hearty growth. This dark green, sun-loving grass is a golf course favorite for the tee and putting green because it tolerates a lot of wear.
Although it has average root depth at around 6 inches, the grass is relatively drought resistant. Its extensive and dense root system can store more water than roots of similar depth, spreading by both rhizomes (underground shoots) and stolons.
Buffalo grass is a dark green grass that is an excellent choice for drought-prone areas. It has above-average root length, reaching about a foot down into the soil. Buffalo grass likes full sun, spreads evenly across the yard by rhizomes, and handles traffic well.
Carpet grass is another good choice to manage areas that get a lot of foot traffic. Known for its matted growth pattern, this grass develops a thick turf lead by stolons and low-to-the-ground growth.
Its comparatively wide blades are medium dark green, and with shallow roots, it isn’t very drought tolerant; it is, however, somewhat shade tolerant. Carpet grass is one of the only grass types that likes damp, humid, and moist (but not wet) conditions.
Centipede grass is one of the more delicate warm-season grasses. It will show wear and be damaged easily by foot traffic, so it should be planted in areas that are generally left alone.
With roots that are a little deeper than average, up to around 8 inches, it is drought tolerant and prefers lots of sun but will tolerate some shade. Spreading by stolons, centipede grass provides full and dense coverage.
Zoysia grass is another option that doesn’t hold up well in high traffic, but its strength is found in its drought and shade tolerance. Its deep roots extend up to 18 inches to withstand dry topsoil conditions. Zoysia is a light to medium color and spreads by rhizomes to fill in the yard.
What Is The Most Heat Resistant Grass?
Of the warm-season grasses, St. Augustine, Bahia, and Bermuda are particularly well-adapted to temperatures up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Bermuda, Buffalo, Centipede, and Zoysia grasses are the most drought tolerant on the list. Carpet grass is one among them that enjoys a humid environment.
What Kind Of Grass Stays Green All Year Round?
In the warmest growing zones, some types of grass can stay alive year-round and not enter dormancy since the temperatures don’t dip low enough to prompt it.
St. Augustine, Bermuda, Bahia, Centipede, and Zoysia can all withstand the highest temperatures and are known to do well in the most southern climates of the US.
What Grass Grows Best In Shade And Heat?
Even in the warmest regions, shade will make an impact on where grass can grow. St. Augustine, Centipede, Zoysia, and Bahia can be planted in areas with full or partial shade.
Cool Season Grass Vs Warm Season Grass
Cool-season grasses germinate and sprout when temperatures reach the mid 60’s, and warm-season grasses initiate dormancy soon thereafter. Warm-season grasses tend to be lighter in color than cool-season grasses, which need to store more chlorophyll for days with fewer hours of sunlight during the transitional months.
Some varieties of cool-season grass are hearty enough to maintain their green blades throughout the winter.
Like warm-season grasses, types that have longer roots are more drought tolerant. This gives them some tolerance to warmer temperatures as well, especially in fescue and rye grass. These may be able to be planted in shaded areas during warm seasons, as long as it doesn’t get too hot or humid.
Mixing Warm And Cool-Season Grasses
Grass seed is frequently sold as a blend of varieties for a robust lawn. When shade-tolerant and sun-tolerant grass types are planted together, the grasses will thrive in their respective areas and provide a smooth transition between shaded and sunny spaces in the yard.
Overseeding warm-season grass with a cool-season type at the end of summer and beginning of fall will help that cool-season grass grow with some protection from the existing grass.
With proper maintenance, it will sprout as the warm-season grass enters dormancy. For the transition from spring to summer, the reverse will provide you with the same overlap in greenery that will keep your lawn vibrant throughout the year.