California’s southern region has different climates within it that will affect your choice of grass type. Certain grasses will do better on the sandy Pacific coast than those than can tolerate the hot, clay interior of the state.
Wherever you’re located within southern California, there’s a grass that will give you exactly the lawn you’re looking for!
What Is The Easiest Grass To Grow In California?
Since different types of grass thrive in different environments and can take different amounts of wear, your property’s location and intended use will guide your choice of lawn. The variables you’ll need to consider when choosing a grass include:
- Location – Your location within southern California will be the first determinant of which grass is right for you. The soil along the coastal region is sandier than the soil further east, and temperatures on the coast are more moderate and wet than the interior. The southern portion of California is still very big, and it gets warmer the further south you get. The majority of southern California is actually the transitional growing zone, meaning both cool and warm season grasses will grow there in their respective seasons.
- Use – A lawn that gets lots of foot traffic needs a grass that won’t get damaged from regular use. Some yards, on the other hand, are planted with more sensitive grasses for infrequent use or to protect against erosion.
- Landscape – Some grasses can’t grow in shade, while others need fewer hours of direct sunlight and can tolerate the cooler temperatures. The features of your yard, like the trees and buildings, should be considered when deciding on which grass, or which mix of grasses, is right for you.
- Germination period – Some grasses grow faster than others, and if you’re planting a yard that needs to grow in quickly, or repair itself if damaged, certain grasses are better than that are slow growers and/or can’t self-repair.
- Seasonality – Since much of California is in the transitional zone, cool-season grasses can be planted when temperatures are in the 60s. Warm-season grasses can be grown when daytime temperatures are consistently above 65 degrees.
Southern California’s warm, sunny climate is hospitable to many warm season grasses. The top choices among them include:
- St. Augustine
Buffalo grass is a great choice for lawns in summer in the eastern portions of the state. Eastern California is as far west as Buffalo grass will grow: its native region is the great plains, so it’s used to the hot, dry weather of inner California, as well as the clay-heavy soils.
Buffalo grass has deep roots and spreads with stolons, or above-ground root extensions, that give this grass a very high drought tolerance and low watering needs. The grass is slow to establish itself, but its stolons will reach around quickly to spread and repair itself if damaged. Although it’s a robust ground cover, buffalo grass isn’t a good choice for lawns that get a lot of foot traffic.
Like many other warm-season grasses, Buffalo likes full sun and doesn’t do well in shade or in cool temperatures. With proper irrigation, it can stand the heat of summer, but once cool temperatures set in, it will quickly go dormant.
Bermuda grass is another top choice for yards in southern California and can be planted almost anywhere during the summer as long as it gets enough water. The robust grass has both rhizomes (below-ground root extensions) and stolons (above-ground root extensions) that can work into either clay or sandy soil.
They also give the grass considerable drought tolerance, although not as much as buffalo grass. Like buffalo, Bermuda grass loves full sun and won’t grow in shade.
Unlike buffalo grass, however, Bermuda can be cut very low and has good tolerance to foot traffic. It’s a vigorous grower and will quickly spread to repair itself if damaged. This makes Bermuda a top choice for yards and fields that get lots of wear throughout the warm months of the year.
Zoysia is one of the few warm-season grasses that has tolerance to partial shade, and it’s often planted as a compliment to Bermuda lawns that won’t tolerate any shade at all. Zoysia has a high tolerance to heat and drought, but it can handle slightly cooler temperatures than Bermuda can, and is more likely to survive a cold snap or low nighttime temperatures in late summer.
Like Bermuda, Zoysia has both rhizomes and stolons, which give it the ability to withstand a fair amount of foot traffic.
Zoysia has some flexibility in how low or high it should be cut: it can be cut low, like Bermuda, or left high, like Buffalo or St. Agustine. Although it’s a slow grower, Zoysia provides tight coverage that chokes out weeds better than other, faster-growing types of grass. It will grow in either clay or well-draining sandy soil.
St. Augustine is a coastal grass, and it grows best in sandy soil like that found near the pacific coast. This grass is a good ground cover, and it spreads around rapidly with stolons (above-ground root extensions). This means it doesn’t create as dense a turf as other summer grasses, and the stolons can be easily damaged by foot traffic.
As a grass that does best in coastal areas, St. Augustine likes some humidity and has a higher than average watering requirement. While it can deal with some drought conditions, St. Augustine will die rather than go into dormancy if it gets too dehydrated for too long. St. Augustine likes to have its blades kept long to maintain moisture and protect its root system. It’s an easy grass to grow, but it doesn’t produce usable seeds and must be installed as sod.
Although southern California has a reputation for being very hot, most of this portion of the state is in the transitional zone, where cool-season grasses will grow during spring and fall. Your choices for a cool-season ground cover include:
- Perennial Rye
- Kentucky Bluegrass
Like St. Augustine grass, fescue does best in sandy soil, but it can also handle clay soil that has been amended with some sand and organic matter. Fescue grasses have very deep roots that allow them to reach deep into the ground and tolerate heat and drought better than other cool-season grasses. On the other hand, it has the highest shade tolerance of turf grasses.
Except for some specialized varieties, all fescue grasses, including fine and tall fescue, are bunch-type grasses that grow in individual groups from individual seeds.
The bunching pattern of fescue makes it a good ground cover for lawns, or sections in a yard, that don’t get much foot traffic. It’s a slow-growing grass, and it doesn’t spread to fill spaces, so it must be reseeded every season to maintain a full cover.
Perennial ryegrass is another bunch-type grass that is a good choice for cool-season lawns. It has hearty roots that will grow in clay-heavy, sandy, or loam soil. Unlike Fescue, rye doesn’t do well in hot or dry conditions, but it also doesn’t tolerate too cold of weather.
It’s a true transitional season grass that is a fast grower during its season. It has a high shade tolerance, however, so it’s a good choice to mix in with another cool-season grass for a dense lawn.
Kentucky bluegrass is a hearty cool-season grass that can tolerate low temperatures, frost, and snow over the winter. Although it can’t do well in areas of southern California that don’t get too far below 65 degrees in the coldest parts of the year, it’s a robust ground cover when planted along the coast and in northern locales. Unlike other cool-season grasses, bluegrass has rhizomes (below-ground root extensions) that build up a dense turf that can tolerate wear and use, and repair itself quickly as necessary.
Despite its dense roots, bluegrass doesn’t have a lot of drought tolerance and has a high water requirement. When dehydrated, the grass will go dormant and can revive quickly when rehydrated. Kentucky bluegrass loves to be in full sun and is a good option for fields and backyards. It’s a fast grower, and fescue and rye may be overseeded in a bluegrass lawn for full, tight coverage.
When Should I Plant Grass Seed In Southern California?
Depending on your location within southern California, your planting season will be a little shorter the further north you go. In the southernmost interior parts of the state, warm-season grass can be planted from late winter and into summer, while a cool-season grass may be planted in mid to late fall for winter greenery.
Further north, the cool seasons are longer and those grasses should be planted in early fall and early spring, with warm-season grass being planted from early spring to early summer.