Whether you are starting a new lawn from seed or overseeding an existing lawn to keep it looking green through the winter, it's crucial to understand your climate and the particular qualities of your yard before choosing the best grass seed. Otherwise, you could end up with disappointing results.
Brian Feldman, TruGreen’s Senior Director of Technical Operations, says, "Many homeowners dream of a lush, green lawn. But for most, it seems like an insurmountable task. Often, homeowners assume that the only way to get a great-looking lawn is to invest in costly sod and spend every weekend carefully maintaining it. The fact is, though, that with the right preparation, planting procedures, and follow-up care, anyone can enjoy a beautiful lawn. Knowing how to grow grass isn’t rocket science, but there is science involved, which requires following a few important steps."
He adds, "You can have the best soil in the world, but if you don’t start with the right seed, your lawn is not going to be as healthy and green as you want it to be. Apart from choosing the best species of grass to grow, you need to carefully select the best cultivars that will perform well for your lawn's conditions. And timing is everything. The next step to growing a healthy green lawn is to know when to plant. As with any plant, that depends largely on where you live and the type of grass you plan to grow."
Along with Feldman's insights, we researched dozens of grass seed varieties and evaluated them on climate suitability, rate of germination, water and maintenance needs, growth rate, and overall value.
Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Sun & Shade Mix
Thrives in sun and shade
Holds up in droughts and cold winters
Not suited for southern lawns
Can take a while to become thick
If you live in the northern half of the U.S., including Northern California, North Carolina, and Colorado, this blend bluegrass, fine fescue, and perennial ryegrass can give you the green, healthy lawn of your dreams. It may survive in southern areas as well, but it might not thrive the way you would like. Each seed in the mix is coated with Scott's WaterSmart PLUS Coating, which provides nutrients, absorbs two times more water than uncoated seed, and protects against disease. It gives the seed a jump-start on growing healthy roots and strong, green blades of grass. You'll generally start to see the first signs of new grass within five to 10 days, but do not mow until the grass is established and at least 3 inches tall.
You can use this to start a new lawn or to overseed a patchy existing lawn, but either way, proper preparation is crucial to get the best results. That means raking the soil to loosen it and removing any dead grass or other debris, applying the seed evenly (ideally with a spreader, not by merely tossing out handfuls of seed), gently raking the seed into the soil, and watering daily to keep the soil moist—not soggy—until the seedlings are at least 2 inches high. Ideally, you should plant this seed in either the spring or the fall, when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees F.
Once established, you'll have a lawn that's tough; in the right climate, these grasses can tolerate high heat, shade, and drought. Some buyers have found that it takes a while for the lawn to get very thick, however. These are fine-bladed varieties of grass that feel soft against your skin, making it a good choice for yards where kids or pets play. A 7-pound bag will cover up to 920 square feet when seeding a new lawn, and up to 2,800 square feet when overseeding an existing lawn. The seed is sold in different amounts, so you can find one that matches the size of your lawn.
Price at time of publish: $45 for a 7-pound bag
Type: Bluegrass, fine fescue, perennial ryegrass | Climate: Northern | Sun Exposure: Full sun to shade | Lawn Size: Up to 2,800 square feet
Vigoro Tall Fescue Blend
Does well in most parts of the U.S.
Tolerates heavy foot traffic
Grows in sun or shade
Grass seed can be expensive, especially if you need to cover a large stretch of ground. This blend of tall fescue is fairly reasonably priced, and a 7-pound bag will cover up to 1,750 square feet when used to overseed an existing lawn. Vigoro does not state the coverage for a new lawn, but as a rough guideline, this amount of fescue seed should cover up to 1,000 square feet of bare soil.
Whether overseeding or starting a new lawn, you'll appreciate Vigoro's seed coating, which helps retain moisture and prevent disease during the germination period. You can expect to see new green shoots appear within a week or so of sowing the seed. Fescue tolerates both full sun and light shade, and grows well in just about every part of the U.S. except for the deep South. However, it will tend to go somewhat brown during the summer in areas where temperatures remain high.
This seed blend produces a lawn that tolerates foot traffic very well, but on the downside, it is not drought-resistant, so you'll need to water regularly if there isn't adequate rain. Plant it in the spring or fall when daytime temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees F. As long as you take the time to prepare the soil thoroughly, you'll soon have a thick, green lawn.
Price at time of publish: $25 for a 7-pound bag
Type: Tall fescue | Climate: All | Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade | Lawn Size: Up to 1,750 square feet
Jonathan Green Black Beauty Ultra
Grows in sun or part shade
Tolerant of foot traffic
Somewhat disease and drought resistant
Won't grow in dense shade
Goes dormant in temperature extremes
Cool-season grasses are those varieties that do best in the northern half of the U.S. They include popular grasses such as fescue, bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass, all three of which are in this mix. Gardeners anywhere above the southernmost states can generally grow this grass successfully as long as it's planted in a spot that receives full sun to partial shade; dense shade won't give you the thick, green growth you desire. Once established, it's tolerant of high foot traffic and heat, and it's fairly disease-resistant and drought-resistant, as well. But like other cool-season grasses, this mix can go dormant in the highest summer temperatures, as well as the lowest temperatures of winter.
You can use this seed to start a new lawn or overseed an existing lawn that's patchy. Prepare the soil by raking and removing debris, sow the seed and top it with a seed-starting fertilizer, and then water daily until the seedlings are at least two inches tall. You'll start to see the grass sprout within one to two weeks, but don't mow until the grass is at least three inches tall. The best time to sow this seed is mid-August through October, but you can plant it in the spring if necessary. A 7-pound bag will overseed a lawn up to 2,800 square feet or start a new lawn up to 1,400 square feet. It's also sold in smaller bags.
Price at time of publish: $51 for a 7-pound bag
Type: Bluegrass, fescue, perennial ryegrass | Climate: Northern | Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade | Lawn Size: Up to 2,800 square feet
Scotts Turf Builder Bermudagrass
Tolerates intense heat
Goes dormant in winter
Cannot tolerate shade
Warm-season grasses are those that do best in the southern half of the U.S. Bermudagrass is one of the hardiest varieties of these heat-tolerant grasses. (Other warm-season grasses include St. Augustine, zoysia, and centipede grass.) A healthy Bermudagrass lawn is drought-resistant, tolerant of even three-digit temperatures, thick enough to choke out weeds, and resilient enough to spring right back after being walked or played on. However, Bermudagrass often goes dormant in the winter, turning brown or yellow until the temperatures warm up again the following spring. You can overseed it with annual ryegrass for winter color if desired.
This grass seed from Scotts is treated with a water-absorbing coating to help seed germinate better, as well as protect against disease and provide nutrients. You can use it to start a new lawn or overseed an existing lawn. Either way, you'll need to prepare by loosening the soil, removing dead grass or other debris, and gently raking in the seed, followed by regular watering for at least the first three weeks. Expect to see the grass start sprouting in just five to 12 days. Bermudagrass spreads rapidly, so you won't have to wait long to have a lush, green lawn. Be sure to plant your Bermudagrass in a full-sun location where the soil drains well, though, or else it won't thrive. Ideally, it should be planted in late spring through early summer when temperatures are between 70 and 90 degrees. A 1-pound bag covers up to 1,000 square feet when overseeding an existing lawn, or up to 300 square feet when starting a new lawn.
Price at time of publish: $87 for a 10-pound bag
Type: Bermudagrass | Climate: Southern | Sun Exposure: Full sun | Lawn Size: Up to 1,000 square feet
Best for Heavy Foot Traffic
Jonathan Green Black Beauty Heavy Traffic Premium Grass Seed Mixture
Stands up to heavy foot traffic
Withstands heat and full sun
Not suited for southernmost states
Tolerates light shade but not dense shade
This mix of perennial rye grass and tall fescue thrives in most of the U.S., but it might not do well in the southernmost states, including Florida. When grown in areas with colder winters and more mild summers, it is an ideal choice for play areas, backyards, or lawns that receive heavy foot traffic, thanks to the blend of strongly rooted, vigorous grasses that bounce right back after being stepped on, and resist abrasion or tearing from shoes, paws, sporting equipment, or weather. You'll get a lawn that can withstand full, hot sun, but also tolerate partial shade. It's quite drought-resistant once established, so you can put your hose away.
You can use this seed mix to start a new lawn from scratch or overseed a lawn that's seen better days, but either way, proper preparation is crucial if you want your grass to grow. That means mowing an existing lawn as short as possible and then raking with a dethatching rake before sowing the seed. New lawns need to have smoothly raked soil with rocks or debris removed. Autumn is the best season for planting the seed, but you can also plant in the spring if necessary.
Applying a light topdressing of fertilizer is recommended before lightly raking it into the ground. Then keep the area moist for several weeks until the new grass is at least two inches tall. You should see the first signs of germination within two weeks, but don't mow until the new lawn is at least three inches tall. A 7-pound bag of seed will cover new lawns up to 1,750 square feet or overseed an existing lawn up to 2,800 square feet, but there are several sizes to choose from.
Price at time of publish: $51 for a 7-pound bag
Type: Tall fescue, perennial ryegrass | Climate: Northern | Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade | Lawn Size: Up to 2,800 square feet
Best for Shade
Pennington One Step Complete for Dense Shade Areas
Formulated with mulch and fertilizer
Grows with as little as two hours of sun per day
Will turn brown in intense summer heat
Not for establishing new lawns
Doesn't cover a large area
Growing a green, thick, healthy lawn in the shade is not easy. You tend to end up with a thin, patchy lawn that isn't as green as you'd like. The solution is this mix of fescue varieties that survive and even thrive in dense shade, just as long as the lawn receives sunlight for at least a couple of hours per day. Note that this isn't a grass seed for establishing an entire new lawn but rather is used for filling in the patchy spots on a lawn that's doing poorly due to shade. It can be used in any part of the U.S., but will tend to turn brown or yellowish during the intense summer heat, although it will green up again once cooler temperatures arrive.
Along with the seed, the mixture contains fertilizer that continues to feed the new grass for up to eight weeks and wood mulch to help maintain moisture around the seedlings. It's best to sow this seed in spring or fall when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees. Application is easy: Just rake the thin spot to loosen the soil and remove debris, spread the seed by hand or with a handheld spreader, and then water once or twice daily to keep the soil moist until the seedlings, which should appear within 10 days, are at least three inches tall. Once established, the grass is fairly drought-resistant and tolerates foot traffic well. An 8-pound bag will cover up to 125 square feet, which is less than many other grass seed mixes, but it can be worth it if you need truly shade-resistant grass.
Price at time of publish: $32 per 8-pound bag
Type: Fescue | Climate: All | Sun Exposure: Shade | Lawn Size: Up to 125 square feet
Best for the Midwest
Scotts Turf Builder Midwest Mix
Tolerates sun or partial shade
Good for foot traffic
Goes dormant in temperature extremes
Not suited to Southern lawns
Marked by hot summers and very cold winters, the Midwestern states can be a tough zone for growing grass. But this grass seed is mostly Kentucky bluegrass, along with some perennial ryegrass and fescue varieties that withstand the tough conditions of the midwest. You can plant this seed in full sun to partial shade, making it ideal for most gardens. Each seed has a protective coating that holds in water, provides nutrients, and wards off disease to help promote germination. Once established, it's a thick lawn that can crowd out weeds, including crabgrass and dandelions, but like most cool-season grasses, it won't look its best during the peak of summer or the depths of winter.
Plant this seed in fall or spring when daytime temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees. You can use it to overseed an existing lawn or start a new one. Either way, you'll see new grass sprout within five to 10 days, as long as you prepared the soil beforehand. You'll need to keep the soil moist until the seedlings are at least two inches high. After that, as these grasses are only moderately drought-resistant, you'll need to water if there's a long stretch without rain. They do hold up well to foot traffic, however, and are very green and lush. A 7-pound bag will overseed an existing lawn up to 3,030 square feet or seed a new lawn up to 1,010 square feet. The seed is available in bags of other sizes as well.
Price at time of publish: $26 for a 3-pound bag
Type: Bluegrass, fescue, perennial ryegrass | Climate: Midwest | Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade | Lawn Size: Up to 3,030 square feet
Scotts Turf Builder Tall Fescue Mix
Good tolerance of drought and foot traffic
Grows well in full sun to part shade
Will go dormant in temperature extremes
Not for the deep South or far North
While there's no such thing as a truly maintenance-free lawn, this one comes fairly close. A blend of tall fescues, this seed does well in most of the U.S. other than the southernmost and northernmost states. It thrives in full sun to partial shade and it stands up to heat, foot traffic, and drought. It's quite resistant to common lawn diseases and insect pests, as well. You'll still need to water, mow, and fertilize on a regular schedule, but you'll find that this lawn is a little more easygoing than many others. Like other Scott Turf Builder products, each seed is treated with a moisture-absorbing coating that holds in water, provides nutrients, and wards off fungal disease while the seeds sprout and become established. It germinates in one to two weeks.
Like all fescue lawns, this one will go dormant when temperatures remain above 90 degrees or below 40 degrees for more than a few days. In between those times, it's a very lush green with medium-coarse blades of grass. Use it to overseed an existing lawn or start a new lawn. Plant it in the spring or fall when temperatures are between 65 and 85 degrees and keep the soil moist until the seedlings are over two inches tall. A 5.6-pound bag will overseed lawns up to 1,400 square feet or start a new lawn up to 465 square feet.
Price at time of publish: $38 for a 7-pound bag
Type: Tall fescue | Climate: All | Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade | Lawn Size: Up to 1,400 square feet
Vigoro Fast Grass Seed Mix
Great for spot treatments
Tolerates foot traffic well
Intended as a temporary ground cover
Will turn brown or yellow in high heat
Not drought resistant
If you need grass in a hurry for erosion control or to fill in patchy or bare spots on an existing lawn, then this blend of annual and perennial rye grasses can do the trick. You'll see new grass sprouting in just three to five days after sowing the seed, and the grass will quickly become established enough to tolerate quite a bit of foot traffic. It is not drought-tolerant, however, so be prepared to water regularly if nature doesn't provide enough rain to keep the grass green. While you can use this seed anywhere in the U.S., areas that regularly see triple-digit temperatures in the summer will find that the grass goes brown or yellowish.
The seed is coated with fertilizer and moisture-retaining compounds to help promote good germination, but adding extra fertilizer will increase the health of the grass. It's easy to sow the seed: Just remove dead grass and debris from the area where you'll be planting it, spread it evenly over the area, and water regularly to keep the soil moist for the first few weeks. Wait until the grass is at least three inches high before you mow it. Be aware that while the seed sprouts quickly and fills in bare spots very well, this mix isn't intended as a permanent, full lawn but rather more of a temporary lawn while other grasses become established. A 3-pound bag covers up to 750 square feet. For best results, sow the seed in early spring or fall.
Price at time of publish: $11 for a 3-pound bag
Type: Annual and perennial rye grass | Climate: All | Sun Exposure: Partial to full sun | Lawn Size: Up to 750 square feet
Best for Overseeding
Pennington Grass Seed Annual Ryegrass
Germinates very quickly
Resists disease and holds up very well to foot traffic
Good for temporary erosion control
Will die off once temperatures rise into the 80s
For temporary lawns only
In the southern half of the U.S., warm-season grasses like Bermudagrass and zoysia are common, but they tend to go brown and dormant in the winter. Unlike Northern states, where blankets of snow often cover dormant lawns, it's fairly common in the South to overseed a dormant lawn to keep it looking green all year round. And the best grass seed for doing so is annual ryegrass, which sprouts in as little as three days, quickly grows to provide lush, green cover and then dies off just as the underlying permanent lawn is greening up again as the weather turns warm in the spring. This is also a good temporary lawn for erosion control or to use as a filler while more permanent lawn or other groundcover becomes established. You can also use it as a pasture crop for livestock.
Annual ryegrass needs at least six hours of full sun each day for growth, but will tolerate partial shade. During its brief lifespan, it's quite tolerant of drought and disease, and it withstands foot traffic very well. If you are using it to overseed a warm-season lawn, it's best to plant the ryegrass in the fall. In northern climates, it can also be planted in the spring. But once temperatures start to rise into the 80s, expect to see the ryegrass begin to yellow and die off. It will also die if temperatures fall below freezing for more than a few days.
You can toss annual ryegrass over a small lawn by hand, or use a spreader if sowing it over a large lawn. Water it daily until it becomes established, which is generally within just a few weeks. A 10-pound bag will overseed up to 2,000 square feet of lawn.
Price at time of publish: $30 for a 10-pound bag
Type: Annual ryegrass | Climate: All | Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade | Lawn Size: Up to 2,000 square feet
Best for Full Sun
JB Instant Lawn Signature Sunny Premium Lawn Seed
Tolerates foot traffic well
Not good for permanent lawns in the South
While this mix of perennial ryegrass varieties does best in areas with moderate summers and cool winters, especially the Pacific Northwest, it can do well in other northern parts of the U.S. It is also often used in the south for temporary green color during the winter, when the grasses that are hardier in the South, such as Bermudagrass or Zoysia, tend to go brown and dormant. Perennial ryegrass loves the sun; this isn't the seed to choose for a shaded area or for use under thick trees. And it germinates very quickly, generally within a week. The resulting lawn is thick, deep green, and able to withstand considerable foot traffic, making it a good choice for yards where kids or pets play.
You can use this seed to establish a new lawn or overseed an existing one, but either way, it does best when sown in April through October. Prepare for overseeding by mowing existing lawn as short as possible and raking gently before applying the seed. Soil for a new lawn should be thoroughly tilled before sowing the seed. You'll need to keep the area moist for several weeks after planting. Even once established, perennial ryegrass prefers regular water and will not thrive without it. A 3-pound bag will overseed up to 2,000 square feet or cover up to 600 square feet when used to establish a new lawn.
Price at time of publish: $23 for a 3-pound bag
Type: Perennial rye grass | Climate: Northern | Sun Exposure: Full sun | Lawn Size: Up to 2,000 square feet
Our top choice, Scotts Turf Builder Sun & Shade Mix, is a blend of bluegrass, fine fescue, and perennial ryegrass that stands up to high heat, thrives in both sun and shade, and tolerates drought. It’s a great choice for gardeners in the northern half of the U.S. But if you live in the southern half of the country, consider Scotts Turf Builder Bermudagrass, which is a grass seed that does well in the hot summers and mild winters of the South.
What to Look for in Grass Seed
Noah James, a professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance says, "Sowing seeds that thrive in specific climates and conditions means an early start for a lush, healthy lawn. From arid to temperate to tropical climates, there are grasses that can thrive, no matter where you call home. Sun or shade? Sandy or clay soil? Warm temperature or cold? These are all important questions, and knowing your environment is the first step in finding the best grass seed for your needs."
Noah James explains, “There's a dizzying array of grass seeds available, so it pays to understand the nuances of each type. Short-blade seed types are useful for creating deep root systems and denser lawns in low-maintenance areas. Creeping red fescue and annual ryegrass seeds make tough-textured lawns that don't require regular mowing or fertilizing.
"For thicker turf, opt for perennial ryegrass, a fast-growing flowering species with good wear tolerance. High-traffic areas need rough bluegrass seeds for deeper roots and higher drought resistance. Turf-type tall fescues are best suited to humid climates, producing wide blades that reach up to 3 inches tall.
"When planting in shady regions, choose fine fescues and bentgrasses for their short height and narrower blades. For sunnier sites, look for seeded varieties like colonial bentgrass, which withstand intense heat and humidity well.
"Consider overseeding existing grass with hardy rye cultures, which quickly germinate despite cold temperatures or heavy rainfall.”
We recommend Pennington Grass Seed Annual Ryegrass for overseeding your lawn in the winter.
For grass that thrives, you need to consider the amount of sun exposure the lawn will receive each day and throughout the year. Some types of grasses, such as bluegrass and Bermudagrass, require several hours of direct sunshine each day to look their best. Bermudagrass is especially good for areas that are not only sunny, but also hot and dry. If that's your scenario, then Scotts Turf Builder Bermudagrass is a strong contender.
On the other hand, if your lawn is shady or only receives a few hours of direct sun each day, Brian Feldman, senior director of technical operations at TruGreen makes these recommendations: "If you are planting grass in a shaded area, choose a grass seed mixture that is designed specifically for those conditions. The best lawn grass mixtures for shade in cool areas should contain tall fescue, fine fescue, and a small amount of perennial ryegrass. In warmer climates, St. Augustine or Zoysia are good choices."
Keep in mind, however, that all types of grass require at least a couple of hours of sun each day; there is no type of grass that will survive a very heavily shaded area that doesn’t receive some sun for at least two hours each day. We especially like Pennington One Step Complete for lawns that don't receive much sun.
Region and Climate
When it comes to choosing the right grass seed for your lawn, Noah James recommends: “Consider the amount of sun and water exposure that your lawn receives each day and seasonally. Once you factor in average temperatures in summer and winter months, discover what type of soil composition you have as well as whether it retains moisture well or if it drains quickly.
"Analyzing these key environmental factors will help identify which species of grass grows best in your region. For instance, warm-season grasses such as Bermuda, Centipede, and St. Augustine are perfect for regions south of North Carolina, while cool-season varieties like Kentucky Bluegrass work better up north.
"Last but not least, never be discouraged by trial and error when planting new grass seeds. Growing lush greenery doesn’t have to be daunting with the right knowledge and effort. Get your hands dirty, and you'll discover what type of blend works best for you.”
We find that Scotts Turf Builder Sun & Shade Mix is a reliable grass seed for gardeners living in the northern half of the U.S.
If your lawn is used for play by kids or pets, serves as the footpath to your home, or surrounds an outdoor entertainment area or swimming pool, then you need grass that can tolerate a lot of foot traffic. Some types of grass are better for this than others, notably Bermudagrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass. We like Jonathan Green Heavy Traffic Grass Seed for lawns that see a lot of foot traffic or play.
Mowing your lawn regularly doesn’t just keep it looking good; it also helps improve the health of the grass, as overly long blades of grass shade their own roots and prevent nutrients and water from effectively reaching them. It’s important to mow your lawn to the appropriate height for that type of grass, as going too short is also detrimental to the lawn’s health. Overly short grass doesn’t have enough foliage to create nutrients through photosynthesis or choke out weeds.
As a very rough guideline. cool-season grasses like bluegrass and fescue grow to heights between 2.5 inches and 4 inches if left unmowed, while warm-season grasses like Bermudagrass and zoysia will grow to lengths of 1 to 3 inches.
Ideally, you should never mow more than one-third of the height of the grass in any one session, as that can lead to a straggly, unhealthy lawn. You’ll need to adjust your mowing schedule throughout the year to avoid going beyond that, mowing more in the active growing season of spring and summer, and less, if at all, during the dormant seasons of late fall and winter.
If you'd like to spend less time mowing and fussing with your lawn, then a low-maintenance blend of seed like Scotts Turf Builder Tall Fescue Mix is your best choice.
Different types of grass have different rates of spread, meaning, for example, that 1 pound of Bermudagrass will quickly cover more area than 1 pound of fescue. Vigoro Fast Grass is an especially quickly growing choice.
Before buying any type of grass seed, you need to know the size of your lawn in square feet. Then, check the bag of grass seed for its coverage rate. Normally, you’ll find two such rates on a bag of grass seed: One is the coverage rate if using the seed to overseed an existing lawn, and the other is the rate of coverage for seeding a new lawn. Because most brands offer their bags of seed in a few different sizes, you should be able to find the appropriate amount of your desired seed for your needs.
What are the different types of grass seed?
There are many different types of grass seed, and within those types, many different hybrid varieties that have been bred for various strengths, such as drought resistance, disease resistance, or heat resistance. Generally, when you buy a bag of grass seed, it will contain a mix of more than one type of grass. A lawn that’s made up of more than one grass type generally can withstand disease and other rough conditions more successfully than a lawn that’s only one kind of grass. When choosing your bag of seed, it helps to know the various types of grass that it includes. Here are some of the most common grass types:
- Bluegrass, as the name implies, has a bluish-green color when established, and it is a soft, fine-bladed lawn that withstands cold and foot traffic.
- Fescue is another grass that does well with foot traffic. There are several types of fescue often used in grass mixes, including tall fescue and fine fescue. Generally, this is a drought-resistant and hardy type of grass.
- Perennial ryegrass is a hardy grass that sprouts and fills in quickly and stands up well to drought and foot traffic.
- Annual ryegrass, unlike its perennial cousin, only survives for one season, but it is often used to overseed other types of grass during their dormancy in the winter.
- Centipede grass is a slowly growing grass that is very heat resistant and low-maintenance, but it does not tolerate foot traffic and will die in very low temperatures. Unlike most grasses, it does best in acidic soil.
- Bermudagrass is a very popular lawn grass in the south, thanks to its heat resistance and drought resistance, fast growth, and ability to tolerate even heavy foot traffic.
- Zoysia grows slowly, but it tolerates shade, heat, and drought.
- St. Augustine is one of the few lawn grasses that can grow even in sandy soil. It’s also drought- and heat-tolerant.
What are cold-season and warm-season grasses?
Common types of grasses grown as lawns are often divided into cold-season and warm-season categories based on their optimal growing areas.
As a general rule, cold-season grasses, which include bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue, do best in the northern half of the U.S. and are at their peak during the spring and summer when temperatures aren’t too hot. They will go dormant in the highest summer temperatures or the lowest winter temperatures. Brian Feldman notes, "The best time to plant cool-weather grasses is usually either mid to late spring or late summer through early fall, when temperatures are around 55 degrees. This allows enough rain to keep the soil moist and aid germination, and provides enough daylight to ensure that the grass can out-compete weeds and diseases."
Warm-season grasses, which include Bermudagrass, centipede grass, zoysia, and St. Augustine, do best in the hot summer/mild winter areas of the southern U.S. These grasses go dormant over the winter, but they look good spring through fall. For these grasses, Brian Feldman recommends planting in late spring or early summer, when temperatures average about 80 degrees.
What month do you put out grass seed?
We asked Noah James the best time of year for planting grass seed. He replied: "Sowing grass seed at the right time of year is essential for ensuring the health and vitality of your lawn. A successful grass seed planting requires ideal conditions that are particular to the region's climate and growing season.
"Soil temperature, moisture, air temperature, day length, and weather all play important roles in how well a grass seed will germinate, so familiarity with these factors is needed before sowing.
"In general, the best time to sow grass seeds is from late summer to early autumn, when both soil and air temperatures are warm and moist. This provides the perfect balance for quick germination and begins the process of establishing robust root systems during cooler months—giving your grass top-notch endurance over its growing season.
"Additionally, adequate soil prep should be completed first by applying fertilizer if necessary or layers of mulch or compost depending on your desired thickness. After loosening any hard soil beneath it helps keep the air in the dirt making it easier for roots to travel throughout.
"Finally, proper watering while encouraging healthy root growth plays a key role in how quickly grass takes off. Too little water can leave dry patches, while too much saturates soil, preventing necessary breathability."
How do you maintain grass seed?
While it might be tempting to just toss handfuls of grass seed onto the ground and hope for the best, you are unlikely to get good results using this method. Instead, you need to take the time to rake the soil to break up clods of dirt. You should remove dead grass, rocks, and other debris from the area. Once you’ve sown the grass seed, following the instructions printed on the package as to coverage, you’ll usually want to lay down a light topping of seed-starting fertilizer (unless the seed has fertilizer built in), followed by a gentle raking of the soil to work the seeds just slightly below the soil surface.
Keeping freshly sown grass seed watered is crucial for germination, even if you’ve planted a variety of grass seed that tolerates drought once established. As a general rule, you’ll want to water at least once a day to keep the soil moist for several weeks until the seedlings are 2 or 3 inches tall.
Wait to mow your new grass until it’s at least 3 inches tall. Mowing too soon can pull the delicate new grass right out of the soil.
Once your new lawn is fully established, which can take a few weeks to a couple of months, you can cut back on watering and begin to mow it on your regular schedule.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Michelle Ullman is the home improvement/tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs around the house and yard.
For this roundup, she considered dozens of brands and types of grass seed, evaluating each for climate suitability, rate of germination, water and maintenance needs, growth rate, and overall value. She also considered feedback from customers, both positive and negative. Noah James, a professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance and Brian Feldman, senior director of technical operations at TruGreen also provided helpful expert input.