Major Grasses and Their Features
Now that you know the basics of grass anatomy, you're ready to learn about the different varieties of grass plants. This section identifies the main grass plants that we find (or hope we find among the weeds) on our lawns. Each of these plants is botanically described and then the key growing features are outlined.
If you're starting a lawn from scratch, this should help you decide on the kinds of grass you'll need for the lawn area you have in mind. Be sure to check the below map to see whether you need northern or southern grasses. We'll cover specific details for growing these grasses later on.
SPECIES VERSUS CULTIVAR
In general, a species is a form of plant that has come from nature, just the way Mother Nature allowed it to develop without human interference. Cultivars are forms of the plant that are different from the species in some way as a result of horticultural breeding or hybridization. In other words, a cultivated variety.
Most grass varieties can be divided into two larger groups: northern lawn grasses and southern lawn grasses. Each is best equipped for the respective climate and environment found in either area. More detail on each, including specific varieties, are to follow, but first let's get a basic overview of some of the characteristics of the main types of each grass.
MAP OF GRASS GROWING ZONES
|Tall fescue||Short rhizomes or tillers||Grows almost anywhere||Excellent shade tolerance||High water needs, can die out in very cold or hot areas|
|Creeping red fescue||Short rhizomes||Cool, moist turf areas||Tolerates shade and moist soils, winter hardy||Susceptible to heat and drought|
|Chewings fescue||Seed||Shady turf areas||Tolerates shade||Susceptible to heat and drought|
|Kentucky bluegrass||Rhizomes and tillers||General turf use||Fast recovery from wear or abuse, dense turf||Poor shade tolerance, requires regular watering|
|Rough bluegrass||Stolons||Lawns, golf courses||Winter hardy, low mowing tolerance||Poor wear tolerance, dense patchy growth|
|Annual bluegrass||Seed||Weed grass||Aggressive||Dies in winter, leaving brown patches|
|Canada bluegrass||Short rhizomes||Parks, low-maintenance areas||Tolerates wet or dry soils, some shade tolerance||No wear tolerance|
|Bent grass||Stolons||Weed or putting greens||Takes short mowing, reasonable wear||Very invasive, needs high maintenance to grow well|
|Red top||Rhizomes||Rough conditions||Tolerates wet soils||Short lived, does not withstand high temperatures or shade|
|Annual ryegrass||Seed||Temporary nurse crops||Fast germination||Short lived, does not mow|
|Perennial ryegrass||Seed||General turf areas||Fast establishment, good wear tolerance||Doesn't like poor drainage|
|Bermuda Grass||Vigorous rhizomes and stolons||General turf areas||Tolerant of low mowing and wear and tear||Poor shade tolerance|
|St. Augustine Grass||Stolons||General lawn grass, especially in moist coastal areas||Shade, heat, and moist soil tolerant||No cold tolerance, not drought tolerant|
|Zoysia Grass||Stolons and rhizomes||General turf grass||Tolerates moderate shade and salt, very wear tolerant, extremely drought tolerant||Slow recovery from excessive wear, not tolerant of wet soils|
|Bahia Grass||Rhizomes and seed||Low maintenance and slope stabilization||Salt tolerant, very aggressive, tolerates moist soils||Not cold tolerant, forms thatch very easily|
|Centipede Grass||Stolons and seed||Good turf on sandy, acidic soils||Slow growing, easy to establish||Cold weather kills it easily|
|Carpet Grass||Stolons||Low-maintenance areas and roadsides||Tolerates shade and moist soils||Thin turf, not drought tolerant, forms ugly seedheads right after mowing|
|Kikuyu Grass||Rhizomes and stolons||Weed grass||Can take short mowing, aggressive spreader||Needs intensive management to make good turf|
|Buffalo Grass||Stolons and seed||Dry areas, for naturalizing wildflowers||Drought tolerant||Doesn't wear well, can't tolerate shade|
|Bluegrama||Rhizomes||Low maintenance for dry areas||Tolerates dry conditions||Not a dense turf|