Zoysia vs Bermuda Grass: Difference + Choice Comparisons

Have you been thinking of changing the grass on your lawn, and you are torn between Zoysia and Bermuda grasses? Both Zoysia and Bermuda are prevalent warm weather grasses. However, the grasses have notable differences such as cold weather tolerance, growth rate, color, and injury recovery. 

Zoysia vs. Bermuda – Differences

The following are major differences between Zoysia and Bermuda grass:

Zoysia GrassBermuda Grass
Grows and spread slowerGrows and spreads faster
Need about 4 hours of full sunlight thus suitable for shade and lawns under treesNeed full sunlight to thrive thus not suitable for shade
Has low tolerance to cold soil temperaturesMore tolerant to cold soil temperatures
Less tolerant to foot traffic thus only suitable for home lawnsHighly tolerant to foot traffic thus suitable for gold courses and sport fields
Can thrive in clay soilThrives in sandy or well-draining soil

Growth Rate

Bermuda grass grows aggressively and will cover a lawn entirely within one year. Zoysia, on the other hand, grows relatively slow and will take between two to three years to cover the lawn completely. Although this might seem like a bad thing, when fully established, Zoysia’s slow growth rate will be a blessing because you won’t have to mow it very often. 

Zoysia mowing height should be 1 – 2 inches, while Bermuda’s should be 0.5 – 1.5 inches. If not mowed on time, Bermuda grass will encroach on the sidewalk and flowerbeds, which is very annoying. Zoysia also grows to a very thick turf that helps choke weeds.

Color

Both Zoysia and Bermuda grasses have many cultivars, each with a different color. When choosing the grass based on color, Zoysia vs. Bermuda comparison might not yield the best result; instead, you should compare the different cultivars of each. For example, Empire Zoysia has a dark green color, Palisades Zoysia is light green, while Celebration Bermuda has a deep blue-green color. 

Blade Size and Texture

One of the most notable differences between Zoysia and Bermuda grass is the difference in blade width. Zoysia blades are bigger and range from 5 – 7 mm, except for the matrella breed that has a blade of 2 mm. 

Bermuda blade, on the other hand, is smaller, ranging from 1.5 – 1.7 mm. Bermuda fans want a sports field kind of a lawn.  

Shade Tolerance

Bermuda grass needs full sunlight to grow. When under shade, it gets thin and is likely to suffer from diseases such as fungal infection and root rot. Bermuda grass is not a good choice for a yard with trees as it requires at least seven hours of direct sunlight in a day.

However, although Zoysia does better under full sun, it can still thrive under shade as long as it gets at least four hours of direct sunlight daily. 

Temperature

Both Bermuda and Zoysia grasses are tropical grasses that require a soil temperature of 65 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, their tolerance to cold weather differs as Bermuda can tolerate lower temperatures than Zoysia. Below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, Zoysia grass will enter dormancy and turn brown. 

According to USDA, the Hardiness Zone for Zoysia is 6 to 9, while for Bermuda is 7 to 10. The grass that suits your lawn best will depend on your region’s Hardiness Zone.

Wear Tolerance and Recovery

Bermuda grass can tolerate a lot of foot traffic and will also recover from injuries quickly. This is why it is found in golf courses and sports fields. If you have kids playing in the yard or love to hold parties, Bermuda might be the grass you are looking for.

Although Zoysia can tolerate foot traffic, its tolerance and recovery are moderate. 

Drought Tolerance

Both Bermuda and Zoysia grasses require one inch of water per week for routine maintenance and can survive for some time without water. Bermuda grass can resist and tolerate drought more than Zoysia.

Soil Type and PH

Both grasses can grow in various soils, including sand and loam. Zoysia will also do well in clay soil, but Bermuda will not because it thrives better in well-draining soil. Bermuda grows better around the coastal areas because of the sandy soil and its high salt tolerance.

Zoysia grows better in soils with a PH of 5.8 – 7, while Bermuda requires a PH of 6.5 – 8. Both grasses need nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron, etc., to thrive.

Pest and Diseases

Both grasses are prone to pests and diseases. Common diseases for Zoysia are brown spots, brown patches, and pythium. It is also prone to pests such as chinch bugs and billbugs.

Bermuda is usually affected by diseases such as dollar spots, spring dead spots, and leaf spots. Pests that affect Bermuda grass are grass mites, billbugs, grub worms, and fall armyworms. Ensure to treat the grass with the appropriate insecticide or fungicide.

Pros of Zoysia grass

  1. Water efficient – Zoysia grass needs only ½ – 1 inch of water per week to remain green. It is ideal for a homeowner with little time to water the lawn. 
  2. Durable – it can withstand moderate foot traffic. 
  3. Moderate maintenance – Zoysia grass grows relatively slow, meaning it has reduced mowing requirements. It also forms a thick mat that chokes weed out.
  4. Drought tolerant – its thick turf keeps the roots cool and helps retain moisture. The deep roots allow it to draw moisture from the soil.
  5. Shade tolerant – Although it grows best under full sun, it can still grow under shade as long as it gets at least 4 hours of direct sunlight.
  6. Available in a variety of cultivars.

Cons of Zoysia Grass

  1. Zoysia grass will enter dormancy when the temperature falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It is not ideal for a homeowner looking for all year round green grass.
  2. Hard to establish – it takes more than two years to establish.
  3. Slow injury recovery – it takes time to recover from injuries and, therefore, is not a good choice for high foot traffic areas.

Pros of Bermuda Grass

  1. Durable – The grass can tolerate high foot traffic and have a high injury recovery rate.
  2. Drought tolerant – The grass requires only one inch of water weekly and can go for some time without water. Even when it enters dormancy due to severe water shortage, it will still bounce back when watered.
  3. Quick growth rate – Bermuda grass will grow and cover a lawn within a year.

Cons of Bermuda Grass

  1. Require frequent mowing and edging due to its fast growth. It can quickly encroach the sidewalk and flowerbeds if not mowed on time.
  2. Require full sun to thrive – Bermuda grass will not do well in cold weather and under shade. It is not ideal for a lawn with trees.

Which is Better between Zoysia and Bermuda?

A turf comparison between Zoysia and Bermuda grasses will come down to what a specific homeowner wants. Zoysia has strong characteristics that beat Bermuda in some areas and vice versa. 

Before deciding on which grass is best, a homeowner needs to cross-check the characteristics against what they need. For example, a homeowner looking to hold an event in his yard within the year may find Bermuda grass more appealing as it will have established fully unlike Zoysia. However, a homeowner who travels a lot will favor Zoysia because Bermuda will mean frequent mowing, which is not convenient for him.

Also, you need to compare against the climate, soil type, PH, and the amount of foot traffic in your yard.

Conclusion

Both Zoysia and Bermuda grasses are excellent choices for a warm area. They have many cultivars, and you will be spoilt for choice. However, it is important to compare their pros and cons to see which suits you best.

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