Most of North Carolina gets wet, seasonal weather, so both warm and cool-season grasses will grow at different times of the year. When deciding on which grass to plant for your lawn, the best choice and easiest to grow is going to be different based on where you live in the state.
What Is The Best Grass Seed To Grow In North Carolina?
North Carolina has a few different climates within its borders, and the easiest grass to grow on any one property will depend on your location within the state. Other variables will affect your decision on which grass type to plant as well:
- Location – While the whole of North Carolina experiences cool weather in fall and winter, the intensity of the cold will increase as you go inland, from the eastern ocean coast, towards the mountainous western region of the state. Snow will regularly fall throughout the state in winter, although in much lower amounts along the coast. Across the state, however, summers are warm and wet. When it comes to the type of ground, the coast and coastal plains have sandier soil than the clay interior of the state. The best grass to grow in any area will be able to deal with both the soil and the weather there.
- Use – The way you use your lawn will also help define the best choice for you. Some grass can take a lot of wear, while others will get damaged by too much foot traffic.
- Landscape – The amount of shade you have in your yard from trees and buildings has an effect on which grass can grow. Often, yards with some shade and some areas of full sun are best planted with a mix of grass types since not all grass can grow in even partial shade.
- Germination period – Some grass grows faster than others, and certain types will repair themselves when damaged, either slowly or quickly. If you’re pressed for time to get your lawn in, or you need a type that can repair itself rather than wait to be overseeded, a faster growing grass might be best for you.
- Seasonality – When you’re constrained by temperature changes, be sure that grass is planted at the right time of the season and with enough time for it to mature before the weather changes and dormancy sets in. A healthy lawn will survive through dormancy and revive when its preferred temperatures return.
Summers in North Carolina are long, warm, humid, and wetter the closer to the coast you are. The state of North Carolina is in the transitional zone, where both cool and warm seasons occur, but summers are particularly warm.
The coastal area is sometimes considered in the warm zone of the southern US, as winters tend to be very mild there, but it still receives a little snow in the coldest part of the year. The warm-season grasses that grow easily in North Carolina include:
- St. Augustine
Bermuda is one of the easiest grasses you can grow in North Carolina. It creates a dense turf of rhizomes (below-ground root extensions) and stolons (above-ground root extensions) that makes Bermuda one of the most durable grasses out there. The roots can grow in either clay or sandy soil, so any yard across North Carolina can host a Bermuda lawn in late spring and throughout summer.
Bermuda has high watering requirements, but it also has a high drought tolerance due to its ability to store lots of moisture in its dense root system. While Bermuda won’t grow in shady areas, it is a great choice for backyards or sports fields that get lots of wear over the summer months. Bermuda grass needs a lot of fertilizer in comparison to other grasses to support its vigorous growth.
Zoysia has lots of features in common with Bermuda, in particular, that it will grow in either clay or sandy soil, creating a robust turf of both rhizomes and stolons. Zoysia grows more slowly than Bermuda and St. Augustine, but this allows it to have a tighter coverage, suppressing weeds better than faster spreading grasses.
In comparison to other warm-season grass, Zoysia has a higher tolerance for cool weather, which allows it to grow in areas that receive partial shade. This makes it a great choice for the transition zone, as it’s more likely to survive cold snaps on either end of the warm season than the other summer grass.
St. Augustine is a sand-loving grass that will do best along the coast and on the coastal plains of North Carolina. This grass is a fast spreader, moving across the yard with stolons; it’s above-ground root extensions that help this grass reach around quickly. This makes it a good cover for lawns that don’t get much foot traffic. While it likes the warm summer sun, St. Augustine has some shade tolerance and will do well in out-of-the-way areas like along fences and under trees.
St. Augustine like the humid and moist environment that North Carolina offers since it helps keep the grass’ above-ground roots from drying out. St. Augustine also will appreciate the high amount of rainfall, as it has a high water requirement to keep it from dehydrating. A healthy St. Augustine lawn is relatively low-maintenance and has a much lower mowing requirement than other grasses, preferring not to be cut below 4 inches.
Centipede grass is similar to St. Augustine in many ways, including its appreciation of moist environments. It has stolons and some shade tolerance, although not as much as St. Augustine or Zoysia. For lawns that don’t need much mowing or maintenance and don’t get much wear, Centipede might be the right choice for your North Carolina property.
Bordering the subtropical climate of the south, North Carolina’s winters get a bit cooler than its southern neighbors, and snow isn’t unusual during the otherwise rainy season. The cool-season grasses that will do best in the fall, winter, and spring include:
- Kentucky Bluegrass
- Perennial Ryegrass
A hearty, cool-season grass, Kentucky bluegrass is a favorite for fall and winter turf. It spreads with rhizomes and can take more wear than many other grasses. Bluegrass also will fill in any open spots if it gets damaged. It’s a good choice for backyards and fields, not only because it’s tough, but because it grows best in full sun.
Bluegrass has a high water requirement, so the wet Carolina environment should keep it happy. A bluegrass lawn goes dormant quickly when temperatures start to heat up, so be sure to keep the lawn hydrated to extend its life.
Grasses from the fescue family grow well in sandy soil, making fescue a great choice for the coast or coastal plains of North Carolina. Fescue has deep roots that make it a highly drought tolerant grass, which also allows it to deal with heat much better than other cool-season grass.
Fescue can grow in partial shade and is often mixed with Kentucky bluegrass for this reason. As a bunch grass, it grows from individual seeds and doesn’t spread with runners, and when planted with Kentucky bluegrass, the bluegrass rhizomes will grow around the bunches and fill in any open space.
Perennial rye is another good cool-season grass choice, especially for coastal or southern North Carolina. This bunch type grass does best in middling temperatures in the 40s, 50’s, and 60s. It doesn’t deal with either heat or cold very well, but it’s a fast grower and does fine in wet weather (although, on the other hand, it doesn’t have very good drought tolerance).
Like fescue, rye is a good grass to be blended with Kentucky bluegrass for tight coverage that has some shade tolerance. When planted on its own, it won’t regrow if damaged, but it’s a fast grower that can be overseeded more than once during the growing season.
When Should I Plant Grass Seed In North Carolina?
North Carolina’s mild climate constrains the planting periods for warm and cool-season grasses. Warm season grass should be planted at the end of spring when daily temperatures are above 65 degrees. This helps the grass grow in and mature before the hottest parts of summer when some warm-season grass will go dormant from the heat.
Cool-season grass should be planted at the beginning of spring and the beginning of fall, several weeks before the first frost is expected. A hearty and mature cool-season grass will be able to deal with frost when it arrives.