Cool Season Grasses, Types, When and Where to Plant

Choosing the right type of grass for your climatic zone will give you a breathtaking green yard year round. If you live in cool weather regions or looking for grass that can withstand a little shade, then cool season grasses are the type for you. Let us look deeper into types, when and where to plant cool season grass.

What are cool season grasses?

Cool season grasses are a type that beautifully thrives in cool weather. The versatile grasses grows exceptionally well in fall and spring. Cool season grasses will provide a lush green lawn in very cold temperatures of winter and in moderate summers as well.

In a temperature range between 65 and 80°F, cool season grasses experience optimum growth and thus the best for northern half of the United States with cool climates. The grasses also does well in transition zone, an area that stretches across the middle section of the country dividing cool and warm zones.

Even though known to do best during fall and spring time, cool season grass should not be planted during the spring. This will not give the plant enough time to establish before scorching summer arrives. The ideal time to plant is in the fall when the soil temperature is around 45 to 55°F.

If you stay in the transition zone, you can comfortably plant a mix of cool and warm season grass seeds to end up with an evergreen lawn all year long. Most common types of cool season grasses include:

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass
Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass is a widely adapted species of cool season grass popular in the northern part of the United States. It is fine textured and dark green in color. Kentucky blue grass grows and spread aggressively by underground rhizomes growing from the main plant to form a new plant.

The grass holds up well in high traffic areas, in moderate shade and in sunny hot areas. This puts it in best place to use in sporting fields and home lawns. Medium to high maintenance of this grass type provides a jaw dropping turf.

Perennial Ryegrass

cool season grasses

Perennial ryegrass is a non-spreading bunch type that germinates and establish quickly after seeding. The dark green fine texture grass has a good mowing characteristics. It scores low to medium in tolerance to drought, foot traffic, cold, shade and heat.

Perennial ryegrass can effectively be seeded in mixture with other species. In southern U. S. it is commonly used to overseed dormant lawns of warm season grasses to have a green lush lawn during cold winter months.

Tall Fescue


Tall fescue is also a bunch type cool season grass that holds up well in the warmer areas found in the cool season zone. Its deep root system makes it to adapt well in hot dry climates. Although naturally gray-green in color, breeders have come up with improved species which are dark green in color with fine textured leaves.

To get the best appearance of this grass, mow at a height of 1.5 – 3 inches respectively. Compared to other species, Tall fescue requires less water and nitrogen fertilizer for a high quality turf. This grass has high tolerance levels to drought, foot traffic, cold and heat.

Fine Fescue


Fine fescue comes in several types that include red fescue, sheep fescue, chewings fescue and hard fescues among others. Of all, creeping red fescue and fine fescue are the most adapted in the northern part of the country.

All fescues have fine leaf texture and they adapt well to dry, shady conditions. Fine fescue is commonly used in mixture with other cool season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass to provide a highly versatile lawn.

Fine fescue grass will still do well in areas with low maintenance. Other than high tolerance to drought and shade, this species also scores well against cold, heat and foot traffic.

Other available cool season grasses include; Annual ryegrass, Bentgrass, Rough Bluegrass and more. When choosing, always go for a species that has improved disease, pests and drought resistance.

How to plant cool season grasses

After planning and clearing your planting calendar, spread the seed of your favorite grass as directed on the packaging. If seeding a small area, a simple, hand-held rotary seed spreader will do the job. For large lawns, walk-behind spreader becomes a great investment.

To use either techniques, simply fill the hopper and walk back and forth across the lawn as you evenly spreading the seeds. To create a grid across your lawn, walk the area again perpendicular to your first movements. This will also provide great seed coverage for a thick, full and lush lawn.

Water the seeds daily until the seeds germinate into small plants. While watering, do not flood the soil, this will wash the seeds into clumps and you will end up with bare spots in your lawn. Simply moisten the seeds preferably using a timer sprinkler.

Young grass plants should also be provided with consistent moisture to prevent the plants and soil from getting dried out by the sun or winds. Continue watering until the grass reaches 3 inches in height.

Now, mow your lawn correctly and keep watering. After mowing 3 three times you can be sure that your cool season grasses are fully established and you can water less frequently but do it for longer duration. This will enhance deep growth of grass roots and you will have the healthiest lawn around.

What to do during summer

During the pick of summer, temperatures are high and plants lose a lot of water. It is thus normal to see your cool season grass struggling and even going dormant. To keep them looking better, establish a watering schedule of 1 inch of water per week. Ensure each watering provides a moisture depth of 6 to 8 inches for your lawn to remain green.

If you decide to go to a vacation or conserve the limited water during summer, you may opt to have your grass go dormant. Your lawn will turn brown but the grass roots will remain alive. To be sure that your dormant grasses are fine for the next season, do not completely stop watering.

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