What Types of Lawn Grasses Are There to Choose From?

Warm-Season, Cool-Season Kinds

Picture of tall fescue grass. This coarse plant is often considered a grassy weed.
Tall fescue grass is a cool-season grass that can be grown in shade. David Beaulieu

You are starting a new lawn for the first time in your life, and it dawns on you that you have never really considered what types of lawn grasses there are to choose from? Well, your choice depends, in part, on what the climate is like where you live. Accordingly, the two broad classes discussed below are the "warm-season" and "cool-season" grasses. This article restricts its specific advice to homeowners in North America, but it would be easy enough to apply the information therein to other locations that have corresponding climate conditions.

List of Warm-Season Grasses

While we sometimes think of this topic mainly in terms of two disparate regions (namely, the North and the Deep South), there is also what's called the "Transition Zone" between those two, stretching roughly from southern Pennsylvania to northern Georgia. So what should you grow in this in-between region? Tall fescue is a particularly tough cool-season grass to survive in the Transition Zone. Meanwhile, among the warm-season types, Bermudagrass, centipedegrass, and zoysiagrass are cold-tolerant enough to be grown there.

In the southern United States, warm-season grasses are generally grown. These types of lawn grasses grow actively from mid-April to mid-October. As their name implies, they like the warm weather. In order to still have a lawn in winter, Southerners will sometimes overseed with annual ryegrass. Below is a list of some of the most popular kinds of warm-season grasses:

  1. Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum)
  2. Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon)
  3. Buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides)
  4. Centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides)
  5. St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)
  6. Zoysiagrass (Zoysia japonica, etc.)

Out of these kinds of warm-season grasses, St. Augustinegrass and zoysiagrass are the best kinds to grow in a location that has shade (in fact, St.

Augustinegrass profits from a spot that offers dappled shade).

Note that each of these categories can be broken down further by listing the different cultivars that are available. Take zoysiagrass, for example; cultivars of just one of the various types of zoysiagrass (namely, Zoysia japonica) include:

  1. Belaire
  2. Compadre
  3. El Toro
  4. Innovation
  5. JaMur
  6. Meyer
  7. Palisades
  8. Zenith

Despite their name, warm-season grasses are also sometimes grown in regions that must endure cold winters. Just remember that, once the frosts of fall arrive, their blades will turn a color ranging from brown to light tan.

List of Cool-Season Grasses

In the central United States, the northern United States, and the most southerly provinces of Canada, you are more likely to see people growing "cool-season" grasses. These kinds often grow the most in the moderately cool temperatures of late spring and early fall -- the heat of summer slows them down and can even cause them to go dormant. Here are some examples of cool-season types of grass:

  1. Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum)
  2. Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis palustris)
  3. Creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra var. rubra)
  4. Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis)
  5. Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne)
  6. Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea)

    For problematic shady areas, tall fescue is one of the best choices from among the plants listed above.

    Do not forget that, in addition to lawn grasses, there are also "ornamental" grasses. Ornamental grasses can also be classified according to warm-season and cool-season kinds.