Homeowners looking for a grass that tolerates drought and foot traffic without needing large amounts of fertilizer can meet these needs with a zoysia grass lawn. This dense, warm weather-loving grass came to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, and has become a dominant lawn grass in many suburbs across the lower half of the United States.
- Botanical Name: Zoysia spp.
- Common Name: Turf grass
- Plant Type: Perennial grass
- Mature Size: Six to twelve inches
- Sun Exposure: Full sun
- Soil Type: Average with good drainage
- Soil pH: Slightly acidic; 6.0-6.5
- Bloom Time: Insignificant flowers
- Hardiness Zones: USDA growing zones 5-10
- Native Area: Korea
Caring for Zoysia Grass
The dense turf of zoysia grass is often used in parks, golf courses, and other places of high foot traffic. Core aeration in the early summer can help to keep zoysia grass from forming a dense mat of thatch that prevents water and fertilizer from penetrating the soil. Mowing zoysia grass often and taking off no more than a third of the grass height is better than allowing the grass to grow tall and then scalping it.
Zoysia grass needs full sun to maintain a lush, dense carpet on your lawn. As shade increases, the grasses will become thin, which allows weeds to grow and compete, further stressing the grass.
One of the benefits of zoysia grass is the wide variety of soils it tolerates. Even acid soils are not a problem, although if the pH is below 6.0 you may need a lime application. Good drainage will help zoysia to create a deep root system that increases the drought tolerance of the grass.
Zoysia grows best on an inch of water per week, but the grass is drought tolerant. Water deeply to encourage deep root systems that endure brief droughts. If your soil is compacted or characterized by clay, adjust your irrigation appropriately to the dry side. Watering early in the morning allows grass to dry quickly, preventing fungal diseases.
Temperature and Humidity
Zoysia grass is a warm weather grass. It grows best in very warm to hot weather, above 80 degrees F. It will stop growing when the first frost hits, and remain dormant and brown throughout winter. Zoysia tolerates a wide range of humidity.
Zoysia grass requires less fertilizer than many other grasses; about one to three pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet of lawn: more for sandy soils, less for clay. Resist the urge to over-fertilize, as this will cause a dense layer of decomposing roots and stems known as thatch to build up quickly under the live grass. Raking with a tine rake in the fall helps to break up any accumulating thatch.
Varieties of Zoysia
Zoysia 'Meyer' is a variety with improved cold tolerance that was developed and released in the 1950's. Only two types of zoysia are available from seed, including 'Zenith' and 'Compadre.' 'Emerald' zoysia is for those who desire a soft lawn of thin blades, and this type is lower growing as well, needing to be mowed only a couple of times per month.
Growing From Seeds
Although zoysia lawns are most commonly established by the planting of sod or sod plugs, you can also plant zoysia seed. Do this in the spring, which is the opposite of cool weather grass planting. On bare soil, you can rake lightly to cultivate, and broadcast the seed with your spreader according to the package directions coverage rate. To over seed established lawns, aerate and verticut to expose soil surface, then broadcast seed. Water every day for at least one month, as the seedbed must stay constantly moist for germination to occur. Newly seeded zoysia lawns can take up to two seasons to produce dense turf.
Zoysia grass is seldom bothered by pests or diseases. Lawn grubs from Japanese beetles or June beetles may feed on zoysia roots in early summer. A few grubs won't cause any noticeable damage, but if you have a large outbreak, you can treat it with a preventative pesticide in the spring before they hatch.
Zoysia Grass vs Bermuda Grass
As compared to zoysia grass, which is a warm season grass, Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is a hot weather grass that grows aggressively in Southern states. Because of its fast growth rate, Bermuda grass needs more of everything than zoysia grass does: more water, more fertilizer, and more frequent mowing. Bermuda grass tolerates salt, making it a go-to choice for beach communities. The ability of Bermuda grass to bounce back from environmental stressors make it a popular choice for homeowners in growing zones 7-10.