Warm Season Grasses, Types, When and How to Grow

Climatic conditions of your region is an important factor in determining the type of grass to grow. If you come from the southern half of the United States, where summers are long and temperatures are high, then warm season grasses are for you. Let us look deeper into types of warm season grasses, how and when to grow them.

What are warm season grasses?

Warm season grasses actively grows during warm season when temperatures are between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. They thrive from late spring through summer into early fall.

During late fall and winter, warm-season grasses become dormant. The lawn turns brown when temperatures begin dropping, but the grasses do not die as their roots are still much alive.

Warm season grasses are also likely to go dormant in extreme hot and dry summer. However, rains and regular watering will keep them green. When the weather warms up in spring these grasses becomes alive again and they thrive all the way to summer and early fall.

Like cold season grasses, warm season grasses can also be grown in the transition zone, a middle area located between the northern and southern area of the United States. Transition zone has a blend of conditions coming from northern and southern zones respectively.

When to plant warm season grasses

The best time to plant Warm-season grasses is when the average daytime temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime soil temperature is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread seed March through September and sprigs or sod May through July.

For lawns in the transition zone, consider planting warm-season grasses from May to July. In areas where frost occurs, warm-season grasses should be grown at least 60 days before the average first frost. It is important that the roots of warm season grasses have enough time to establish before cold weather sets in.

Planting warm season grass too early can automatically lead to failure in germination or growth. Failure can also happen due to poor soil preparation, not enough watering and planting warm season grasses in shade.

For best outcome, till the soil before seeding or sodding, and provide water twice each day until the grass germinates and starts to grow. Warm season grasses are usually drought-tolerant but only after they have established. The young plants are likely to dry out if you stop or reduce watering them before they are fully established.

Types of warm season grasses

Warm season turf comes in many types and the most popular ones include the following:

Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass also known as South grass is a widely adapted species for lawns in the southern part of the United States of America. It is a beautifully dense grass you will found in homes, parks, athletic fields and more.

Bermuda grass is equally cold resistance plant that is likely to remain green throughout the year with average care and maintenance. In temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, Bermuda grass will turn brown and go into dormant stage.

Growing Bermuda grass is very easy as long as you have ideal conditions of the soil, sunlight and watering. One good thing about this plant is how it tolerate most soil types including salty coastal regions.

Before you sod or seed, prepare the soil adequately. Rake to remove large debris and mix the seeds with some sand. Broadcast the seeds by hand if you have a small lawn or use a spreader for larger fields. Move horizontally and finally perpendicularly to your initial movements so that seeds can be evenly distributed.

Watering daily will guarantee perfect germination of the grass. Once established, you may reduce the watering frequency by with more water per session as you try to maintain a one inch level of water per week.

At a height of 3 inches, you can now mow your lawn to that the grass can spread, thicken and toughen up. At week six or seven after planting, you may fertilize your grass for a green lush lawn. Weed control is also important and during fall is the right time to apply a pre-emergent weed control.

Centipede Grass

Centipede Grass
Centipede Grass

Centipede grass is a warm season type commonly found in the Southern region of the United States. The grass thrives in the warmer regions with little care and maintenance required. It is for this reason many homeowners love this turf.

Planting centipede grass begins by timing and soil preparation. While it can be grown from seed, sod or plugs, leveling the area and removing debris guarantees faster germination and establishment.

Once set, mix the grass seed with some sand for easier spreading. Broadcast the seed by hand or using a spreader depending on the size of your lawn. Start watering twice a day for 3 weeks until the seeds germinates. Keep watering till the young plants are established.

If you want to save on time and labor, using grass sod is the best option, but this will be a little costly than using seed. Before you lay sod, soil has to be tilled and organic or nitrogen rich fertilizer is added. Lay the sods as directed and water thoroughly for the next 4 weeks. This step also applies when using grass plugs.

Caring for centipede grass involves mowing when it hits 3 inches, applying nitrogen rich fertilizer one fall and next in spring. Watering can be done during drought or when the plants start showing signs of drying out such as change in color or wilting. Watering deeply once a week will revive the grass and maintain it in green state.

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia Grass
Zoysia Grass

Zoysia is the best grass to plant if you don’t have time for regular watering and fertilizing. This grass holds up well in myriad conditions including drought, shade and foot traffic among others.

Zoysia grass has a well-established deep root system that makes it to resist the toughest conditions that makes most other types of grass to die. It can be grown in most soil types including sand and clay without any problems.

The only weakness about zoysia grass is its vulnerability to cold conditions. In cold weather, this grass will go start turning brown and end up dormant until warm conditions resume.

Planting zoysia grass can either be through laying sod, inserting plugs or spreading seeds. All you need to do is prepare the soil adequately for faster germination or picking up of the young plants. Watering thoroughly without flooding is necessary until the grass germinates and establishes.

Once the grass has fully established you can mow and reduce watering. Thereafter Zoysia grass requires little care but keep an eye on diseases and thatch buildup.

St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine also known as the carpet grass is a popular turf in Florida and other warm season states located in the Southern parts of the United States. This is a salt and heat tolerant grass that thrives in subtropical humid areas of the country. The blue-green grass is also good at growing in most soil types thus loved by many lawn owners.

In cold temperatures, St. Augustine grass remains green for longer than other warm season grasses. The plant spreads by stolons and propagation is commonly done using plugs or sod.

St. Augustine grass plugs require well-drained soil and proper preparation for the grass to spread faster. After sodding, the grass needs frequent watering until it establishes.

After 3 weeks of planting, St. Augustine grass is ready for mowing. With more rainfall, your grass doesn’t need much care although you may water it frequently during drought to keep it green.

St. Augustine grass comes with some problems that you should keep an eye on. Grubs, sod worms and chinch bugs are a nightmare with this type of grass. The pests feed on the roots and stems of the grass leading to bare spots. To prevent this, embark on proper watering, mowing and fertilizing to curb the pests.

Buffalo Grass

Buffalo Grass
Buffalo Grass

This is a low maintenance warm season grass that is tolerant to drought, cold and hardy conditions. Buffalo grass is great in hot weather conditions a reason it is preferred in southern area of the U.S. due to its tolerance in dry conditions, this grass is commonly grown on areas with less water retention abilities such as slopes and terraces.

Buffalo grass can be grown from seed, plugs or sod. Watering is still important until the turf establishes. After the first mowing, this grass requires little watering and mowing as compared to other types of grasses. During hot dry summer, buffalo grass may turn brown and dormant in extremely cold seasons.

Most warm-season grasses are well adapted to warm and humid or warm and arid climates of the south and southwest. Other than they types of grass for your climate, you may also want to consider other factors such as tolerance to pests and diseases before you make a choice.

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