Homeowners who want a lush warm-season turf grass that tolerates drought and foot traffic without needing large amounts of fertilizer can meet these needs with a zoysia grass (Zoysia spp.) lawn. Plant this low, sod-forming grass from late spring to early summer for best results. Zoysia spreads by strong branching rhizomes and stolons, and is slower to establish itself than other turf grasses. Once matured, zoysia's narrow and sharply pointed blades will grow light to emerald green, turning straw-like and brown in cooler winter months.
|Common Name||Zoysia grass|
|Botanical Name||Zoysia spp,|
|Plant Type||Perennial turf grass|
|Mature Size||4-6 in. tall|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Hardiness Zones||5-10 (USDA)|
Zoysia Grass Care
This dense, warm-weather-loving grass was introduced to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century and has become a dominant lawn grass in many suburbs across the southern half of the United States.
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 plush, dense carpet on your lawn. As shade increases, the grass 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 acidic soils are not a problem, although, if the soil pH is below 6.0, you might need to apply lime. Good drainage will help zoysia to create a deep root system that increases its drought tolerance.
Zoysia grows best with one inch of water per week, but it is drought tolerant. Water deeply to encourage a deep root system that can endure brief droughts. If your soil is compacted or is predominately clay, adjust water irrigation appropriately to the dry side. Watering early in the morning allows grass to dry quickly and potentially prevent fungal diseases.
Temperature and Humidity
Zoysia grass is a warm-weather grass. It grows best in very warm to hot weather, above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It will stop growing when the first frost hits and remain dormant and brown throughout winter. Zoysia tolerates a wide range of humidity levels.
In cooler climates, zoysia turf grass is the last turf grass to turn green in the spring, and it is the first turf grass to turn brown and go dormant in the fall.
Before applying fertilizer, have a soil test performed so you know precisely what nutrients your soil requires. Soil test results can help to reduce overfertilizing. Soil testing labs provide more complete and accurate results than do-it-yourself home methods. Soil testing labs provide a complete analysis of soil composition including percent of organic matter and major and minor nutrients as well as pH level. Your local cooperative extension office usually provides soil testing services.
Zoysia grass requires two to four pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet of lawn, more for sandy soils, and 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.
The two zoysia species used for lawns are:
- Zoysia japonica (Japanese or Korean lawn grass), the only species of zoysia grass that is commercially available as seed. It has a coarse texture. Varieties include Z. japonica 'Meyer', commonly known as Meyer zoysia grass, or Z-52, which was developed and released in the 1950s. It has improved cold tolerance. Z. japonica ‘Zenith’ is a variety with medium-coarse blades,. Z. japonica ‘Compadre’ is a popular choice for athletic fields because it is wear-tolerant.
- Zoysia matrella (Manila grass), has a finer texture than Z. japonica, it is less cold tolerant and grows more slowly so it does not need frequent mowing. 'Emerald' is a high-quality lawn of soft, thin blades.
How to Grow Zoysia From Seed
Although zoysia lawns are most commonly established by strip sodding, sprigging, or plugs, you can also sow zoysia seed. Do this in the spring, which is the opposite of cool-weather-grass planting. Newly seeded zoysia lawns can take up to two seasons to produce dense turf.
- Rake bare soil lightly to cultivate.
- Broadcast the seed with your spreader according to the seed package directions.
- To overseed established lawns, aerate and vertically cut it to expose the soil surface, and then broadcast seed.
- Water several times every day for at least one month as the seedbed must stay constantly moist for germination to occur.
Common Pests & Diseases
Zoysia grass is seldom bothered by pests or diseases. Lawn grubs from Japanese beetles or June beetles might 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 apply treatments before they turn into adults.
Large patch is a fungal disease that affects warm-season grasses, including zoysia grass. It can be brought on my excessive nitrogen, thatch, and overwatering or poor drainage.
Which grass is better, Bermuda or zoysia?
It depends on the location. Zoysia is a warm-season grass and 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 makes it a popular choice for homeowners in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 10.
What are the downsides of zoysia grass?
The vigorous lateral growth of zoysia grass leads to heavy thatch which, if thicker than three quarters of an inch, won't let water and fertilizer through. Another downside is that it can spread vigorously into other areas of the landscape where it's not wanted, even onto your neighbor's property.
Will zoysia take over other grasses?
Zoysia grass is a slow grower but it can be an aggressive spreader that takes over other turf grasses as well as other plants, including weeds.
Hale, Trent C., et al. “Zoysiagrass Yearly Maintenance Program.” Home & Garden Information Center | Clemson University, South Carolina, 2 Nov. 2018, https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/zoysiagrass-maintenance-calendar/
Ifas, Blogs. “Q: What Is Vertical Mowing? - UF/IFAS Extension Nassau County.” UF/IFAS Extension Nassau County, 2 July 2017, https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/nassauco/2017/07/02/q-vertical-mowing/
Butler, Lee, and Jim Kerns. “Large Patch in Turf.” Ncsu.edu, https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/large-patch-in-turf