Lawns have been coming under attack as of late — after all, they are high-maintenance, chemically dependent thirst mongers, right? Yes and no. Much depends on what type of grass you choose, and if you choose the “wrong” type for your area, you’re in for high water bills, lots of mowing and possibly an unhealthy landscape environment. And while many people want to reduce the size of or even eliminate their lawns, some live in neighborhoods where taking out the front lawn is prohibited. One solution to the lawn issue lies in selecting the best type of lawn for your area.
1. St. Augustine
Stenotaphrum secundatum, USDA zones 8 to 10. This grass has a coarse texture and is adapted to moist, coastal areas with mild winter temperatures. It’s also adapted to a wide range of soil types, does fairly well in moderate shade and provides good coverage with minimal mowing. St. Augustine is a “carpet” grass that creates a great low-profile lawn with high heat tolerance. It’s native to the Gulf Coast regions, West Indies and Western Africa.St. Augustine does not handle high foot traffic well and is not recommended for areas with drought issues.
2. Buffalo Grass
Bouteloua dactyloides, zones 4 to 9 and up. If you live in an area with extreme heat and prolonged drought, take a look at buffalo grass. This warm-season perennial grass thrives in the absence of high irrigation and fertilization, needs little mowing and is perfect for those wanting a more low-maintenance native or meadow look. It will grow up to 10 feet tall if left unmowed, but can be kept at a height of 2 to 3 inches. Buffalo grass is native to the Great Plains and adapts widely to other warm climates. It does not stand up well in shady areas or to excessive foot traffic.
Zoysia spp, zones 6 to 9. This warm-season perennial grass can have either coarse or fine texture, and is adapted to a wide range of soils. In southern climates it performs fairly well in semi-shaded areas, but the farther north you go, it’ll need more sun. It’s an extremely drought-tolerant grass, and although it will turn straw colored during severe drought conditions, it will respond very favorably to subsequent irrigation. This grass has excellent wear tolerance, making it perfect for lawns, golf courses and play areas. Because of the slow growth rate, zoysia has poor recuperative potential when it’s been damaged or overused. It’s best to resod damaged spots.
4. Tall Fescue
Festuca arundinacea, zones 2 to 7. Although it grows best in moist environments, tall fescue actually has good drought tolerance. It grows quite well in those “transition” areas of the United States, where it’s too hot and humid for cool-season grasses, yet too cool for warm-season grasses. It is adapted to many soil types but prefers well-drained clay soils, and it does fairly well in more shaded conditions. Although not native to the United States, it is well adapted and widely found in low-lying pasture areas of the Pacific Northwest and South. Tall fescue should not be used in areas that require grass to be mowed to less than 1½ inches during the summer.
5. Kentucky Bluegrass
Poa pratensis, zones 2 to 7). Bluegrass is a cool-season grass that grows well in the fall, winter and spring but will go dormant in the hot summer. This grass is native to North America, Asia and Europe, and it has moderate wear tolerance and shade tolerance; it can take some light abuse and rebound fairly quickly. It should be noted, however, that there are a number of different varieties of bluegrass with varying levels of drought tolerance and mowing requirements. One of the main features that makes bluegrass such a popular choice is that it is adapted to a very wide variety of uses: lawns, play areas, golf courses, sports fields etc. Kentucky bluegrass will not perform in areas of deeper shade, and will need regular fertilizing to look its best.