Georgia has a reputation for being hot and humid, with long summers and short, mild winters. Logically, the best grasses for the state will be warm-season types, but a couple of cool-season grasses can be planted in certain conditions and locations within Georgia as well.
That’s because the inland regions, the coastal region, and the northernmost parts of the state all have distinct soil types and weather patterns that make some locations more hospitable to one type of grass than another.
What Is The Easiest Grass To Grow In Georgia?
The best grass for a Georgia lawn will be one of several warm-season grasses that like a humid and moist environment, or one of the cool-season grasses that can do well in the state’s coastal or mountainous areas. When choosing a grass for your yard or field, the criteria you should consider include:
- Location – your location within the state will affect which grass will do best on your property. While the whole state gets long, hot summers, winters in the north, where the elevation is higher, more easily reach freezing in the coldest part of the year. The soil types vary within the state as well: the coastal region has sandy soil, while the interior of the state has clay-heavy soil, and the northwest has a mix of loamy clay. Certain grasses do better in certain soils, while each grass has its particular tolerances to drought, shade, and cold or hot temperatures.
- Use – Yards and fields in Georgia that get a lot of foot traffic are best off being planted with a turf grass that can not only withstand lots of wear but also repair itself when damaged. In other areas that get less use, other types of grass might be more appropriate.
- Landscape – The trees, buildings, and open spaces in your yard all make a difference in what kind of grass will do well in one or another area. Sometimes a mix of grasses within the same yard is the best way to get full green coverage across the lawn.
- Germination period – Certain grasses establish themselves and grow quickly, while some are slow but efficient, growers. Fast-growing grasses may need more frequent mowing than slow-growing ones, but they also tend to be ones that like to be cut short and can repair themselves when damaged.
- Seasonality – Even though parts of Georgia are warm year-round, there are certain times of the year that should be avoided when planting warm-season grasses in the deep south. The hottest parts of the year should be avoided when planting seeds to keep them from drying out in the summer sun. In the areas that get chilly enough for cool-season grasses, they can only be planted in late winter, early spring, and early fall so that they are able to grow and mature in time to go dormant when the heat returns.
For much of the year, Georgia’s climate is warm, with average summer highs in the upper 90s. Most of the state is humid or wet throughout each season, with the northern regions getting a bit more rain than even the coastal plains. The warm-season grasses that do best in Georgia’s climate are:
- St. Augustine
Bermuda grass is one of the easiest to plant as a Georgia lawn. The grass has a deep, dense root system with both rhizomes (below-ground root extensions) and stolons (above-ground root extensions). These complex roots are better able to handle clay soil than those with fewer anchors, and they can store a lot of moisture, making the grass more drought tolerant than many others. When the middle of summer hits, Bermuda may dip into a dormant state if it isn’t receiving enough water, but it will recover quickly once rehydrated.
The dense turf that Bermuda grass creates is a good ground cover for backyards and fields that get lots of use. It’s a quick grower and likes to be cut short, and if it gets damaged, Bermuda will spread to fill in the open space. Bermuda grass loves to grow in open sun and will avoid reaching into spaces that receive any shade.
Like Bermuda grass, a Zoysia lawn builds up a dense turf of thatch, rhizomes, and stolons that can take a lot of foot traffic. Unlike Bermuda, however, Zoysia is a little more tolerant of the cooler side of warm, and it’s a grass that will tolerate partial shade. Although it’s a spreading grass, Zoysia is a slow grower that will take its time to creep around the yard. For its slowness, Zoysia creates a tighter cover than other grasses that spread around more quickly. This tight coverage prevents weeds from finding open space to pop up through.
This grass can be cut short or allowed to grow a couple of inches tall. In the cooler temperatures, longer blades will help insulate Zoysia grass and keep it around in early spring and late fall. Zoysia has some drought tolerance, but not as much as Bermuda.
Centipede grass is another choice that will appreciate the humidity and moisture of a Georgia summer. It grows best in sandy and loamy soil and can grow in clay as long as the ground is aerated and has a fair amount of topsoil. Centipede spreads by stolons, the above-ground root extensions that help it fill in open spaces and repair itself when damaged. However, it’s the slowest grower among all other warm season grasses, so it’s best planted in areas that don’t get much foot traffic. The stolons can get easily damaged since they sit on the surface of the ground.
A centipede lawn is drought tolerant, but its above-ground stolons will appreciate the moist conditions to not dry out. This grass has a higher shade tolerance than Bermuda and will tolerate a little shifting shade throughout the day. Like all grasses, however, it does best with lots of sun.
St. Augustine is another grass that spreads around with stolons, but unlike centipede grass, St. Augustine is a fast grower. Since it’s an above-ground spreader, this grass shouldn’t be used for yards or fields that get lots of wear. It’s made for sandy soils and will do best in the coastal and plains region of the state. It’s another shade-tolerant grass, but it doesn’t do well in cool temperatures.
Compared to other grasses, St. Augustine likes to be left tall, at least 4 inches, another reason it’s a good lawn for ground cover rather than turf. Unlike other grasses, St. Augustine doesn’t produce viable seeds and must be planted as sod.
Although Georgia is in the subtropical region of the US, certain areas get quite cool in the winter. The northernmost part of the state is high elevation and mountainous, where temperatures can easily reach freezing in the coldest parts of the year. In these areas, planting a cool season grass for a few months is worth it if you want to have a green lawn over the winter. The best candidates for the northern parts of the state are fescue and Kentucky bluegrass.
Tall fescue and turf-type fescue love the sandy soil found in Georgia’s coastal plains, which get mild winters that fescue can comfortably live in. Fescue grasses have deep roots and can tolerate heat and drought. The grass also can tolerate the moisture that comes with the cool seasons and has a good shade tolerance, especially fine fescues.
All types of fescue grow in bunches, each from a seed. This means a fescue lawn can’t repair itself if it’s damaged, but it makes good ground cover in the winter when the weather is mild.
Kentucky bluegrass can be planted in northern Georgia for green coverage over the coolest months of the year. It’s a robust turf grass that spreads with rhizomes, making for a wear-tolerant and drought-tolerant lawn that can work with the region’s clay-heavy loam soil. It has a high water requirement and will appreciate northern Georgia’s wet environment in fall and winter.
This grass is frost tolerant and will be able to deal with some snow if it comes. Kentucky bluegrass doesn’t do well once temperatures start to warm up again, and it will need regular moisture to keep it going into spring.
When Should I Plant Grass Seed In Georgia?
In Georgia, warm-season grass can be planted and overseeded between spring and the beginning of fall in the warmest parts of Georgia (avoiding the hottest parts of summer). Cool season grasses, where they can be planted in the northern part of the state, should be planted in late winter, early spring, and mid-fall.
Clay is common in the soil throughout the state, even in the coastal plains. Soil with a lot of clay needs to be prepared before planting seeds. This includes aerating the ground, amending it with topsoil, fertilizer, compost, or worm castings to build the organic matter and nutrient profile so the seeds have a supportive environment to grow in. Using seeds that are coated, or using a hydroseed method, can help the seeds retain moisture and increase germination rates in the heat of the spring or summer.