Hot and humid, Alabama gets some of the warmest summers in the US. Nevertheless, the state’s winter temperatures drop low enough that a cool-season grass is worth planting for winter to keep some green cover in your yard when warm-season grasses go dormant.
Here, we’ll go over some of the best grass choices for your Alabama lawn.
What Is The Best Grass Seed To Grow In Alabama?
The best type of grass among the ones that grow well in Alabama will be based on your specific situation. Your location in the state and your unique property will affect which type of grass is best in your yard. The main variables you’ll need to consider when making your choice include:
- Location – Alabama’s annual temperatures don’t vary widely from north to south, but certain aspects of its weather and soil differ from place to place. The state’s coastal region receives a lot of rain, and the soil there, as well as around the many river basins found in Alabama, is heavy with sand. The northern and inland areas of the state have clay and loamy soils.
- Use – if you’re choosing a grass for a field or a backyard that gets a lot of activity, your options will count out some southern grasses that don’t tolerate wear very well.
- Landscape – Your yard’s layout, including how much sun and shade certain areas receive, will affect what types of grass will grow. Sun-loving grass will love open spaces, while grass that tolerates shade or cooler temperatures will do well in spots that don’t receive much sun.
- Germination period – Lawns and fields that get a lot of foot traffic are better off being planted with a grass that grows quickly and/or heals itself. A faster growth period also means the lawn is ready to use sooner than later at the beginning of spring.
- Seasonality – Alabama’s warm weather isn’t hospitable to cool-season grasses for most of the year, although temperatures do lower enough for a cool season grass to be planted in mid-fall for winter coverage. This constrains cool-season planting to fall, but warm-season grasses can be planted and overseeded over a wider window of time.
Alabama’s warm and wet climate is very comfortable for the warm season grasses that like high temperatures and lots of moisture. The easiest warm-season grasses to grow in Alabama include:
- St. Augustine
Bermuda grass is one of the most popular turf grasses for Alabama lawns. This robust grass grows a dense tangle of rhizomes (below-ground root extensions) and stolons (above-ground root extensions), which builds a tight, thick ground cover that is resistant to wear, and damage. The grass’ dense root system allows it to store lots of water, helping it make it through periods without rain.
Dehydrated Bermuda grass may go dormant in the stressful heat of summer, but it will bounce back when rehydrated. Bermuda’s deep and complex root system can grow in either clay or sandy soil.
The grass is a good choice for fields and open lawns because it loves to be in the sun. Despite its vigorous growth habits, Bermuda won’t grow in shady areas. It’s often mixed with Zoysia to fill in shaded areas.
Zoysia is another top choice for fields and lawns in Alabama. Similar to Bermuda, Zoysia grass has a very thick root system of rhizomes and stolons that makes it a wear-resistant and drought-resistant turfgrass (although dehydration will stress out Zoysia faster than Bermuda). It’s a slow-growing grass, however, and if it’s damaged, Zoysia will take its time filling back in.
Despite the slow growth, Zoysia grass creates a tight ground cover over time and crowds out weeds even better than Bermuda. Like Bermuda, Zoysia’s roots can handle the clay soil in Alabama’s interior, as well as sandier soils throughout the rest of the state.
Its tolerance for shade helps the grass deal with slightly cooler temperatures than other warm-season grasses, and Zoysia lawns will be up sooner and gone later than Bermuda or others like Bhaia and St. Augustine.
Bahia grass does well in Alabama’s hot, moist climate. It’s another grass that spreads with both rhizomes and stolons, creating a dense turf. It’s a slow grower, however, as the grass conserves its energy to be able to tolerate the hottest parts of summer. In addition to its drought tolerance, Bahia grass can withstand periodic heavy rainfall.
On the state’s gulf coast in the south, summers are rainier than further north. Bahia has deep roots and loves well-drained, sandy soil like the kind found in the coastal and river basin regions of Alabama.
Like Bahaia grass, St. Augustine is a sandy soil type of grass. It spreads by stolons and is aggressively quick growing. It doesn’t produce viable seeds and can only be planted as sod to establish itself in a yard. The grass’ above-ground root extensions, however, make it a fragile grass that can easily be damaged or dry out. It will do well in yards that don’t get a lot of foot traffic, and it will grow especially well in the coastal region where summers are particularly wet.
As a fast spreader, the grass provides full coverage quickly once it’s planted and it will spread to fill in any spots that might get torn up. St. Augustine likes to be left taller than other warm-season grasses and shouldn’t be cut lower than 4 inches. The longer blades help the grass shade itself and tolerate the sun and heat of summer in the south.
Alabama doesn’t get very cold winters, with temperatures only occasionally dropping into freezing. However, normal lows do get into the 40s during the coldest months. This isn’t tolerable for warm-season grasses, so seeding a cool-season grass in the fall will help your yard keep its green color throughout winter and into spring. The best cool-season turf grasses for Alabama include fescue and Kentucky bluegrass.
Fine and tall fescue grasses are excellent ground stabilizers for sandy soils in the coastal and river basin regions of Alabama. With their deep roots, grass in the fescue family is especially drought-resistant. This, plus its tolerance for lower temperatures, makes it a good choice for shady areas in the yard.
Fescue grows from seeds and doesn’t spread like warm-season grasses do, so it needs to be overseeded every year to be sure the grass maintains an even coverage across the yard.
For northern Alabama and inland areas with clay-heavy or loam soil, Kentucky bluegrass is the best choice for a winter grass. Unlike other cool-season grass, Kentucky bluegrass has rhizomes, below-ground root extensions that spread around to fill in open space in a lawn. The strong roots can deal with the compacted soil texture, and this moisture-loving grass won’t mind the bit of extra water that clay soil holds onto.
Kentucky bluegrass is the most tolerant of cold among the cool-season turf grasses and will be able to handle any potential frost that may show up with the sporadic cold snap, especially in the northern part of the state.
When Should I Plant Grass Seed In Alabama?
The warm and moist climate of Alabama allows residents to sow seeds for several months of the year. Warm season grass can be planted when soil temperatures reach a consistent 65 degrees, through to the beginning of summer, avoiding late summer planting. The heat and potential drought of mid to late summer would make germination a stressful process, and it would need a lot of extra water to be sure the seeds don’t dry out.
Coated seeds and hydromulch can help prevent moisture loss during germination, but these don’t replace the need for consistent moisture being provided throughout the day. If you can plant during a rainy period, that’s best for the seeds.
Cool-season grasses can be planted at the beginning of fall to grow in by winter, but with the warm spring of Alabama across the state, it may not remain cool for long enough to replant cool-season grass for spring.