Bermudagrass is valued for its exceptional heat and drought tolerance and a capacity to withstand heavy use and recuperate quickly. This combination of qualities leads many lawn owners in the United States to rely on Bermudagrass for its toughness and resilience. But Bermuda's climate requirements do limit its use. Depending on where you live and how you use your lawn, Bermudagrass may be a leading choice for you.
Bermuda at a Glance
- warm-season grass
- requires full sun and good drainage
- suitable for southern lawns from coast to coast
- heat, drought, traffic and salt tolerant
- high maintenance and nutrient requirements
Bermudagrass is native to tropical and subtropical countries worldwide. Exactly when it arrived in the U.S. is unclear, but documents dating back to 1807 show it was already established as one of the primary grasses in southern states.1 Bermudagrass is a perennial warm-season grass, meaning it comes back every year and grows most actively from late spring through hot summer months.
Bermudagrass is more sensitive to cold temperatures than warm-season Zoysia grass or cool-season grasses, such as turf-type tall fescue. This lack of cold tolerance prevents its wide spread use north of the grass-growing region lawn pros refer to as the “transition zone." South of that region, from the Atlantic across southern states into California, Bermudagrass is a leading lawn choice.
Bermuda grass flourishes in sites with full, direct sun and good drainage. It has superior heat, salt and humidity tolerance and, unlike Centipede grass, is very drought tolerant, too. Though the majority of Bermuda's roots stay within 6 inches of the surface, they can reach 6 feet or more in depth.1
This extensive root system provides more resilience against environmental stresses than other warm-season grasses.
Additional Characteristics to Consider
Bermudagrass has the fastest growth rate of any of the warm-season grasses.1 It spreads by both above-ground stems known as stolons and below-ground stems called rhizomes. While its aggressive growth rate can make Bermudagrass difficult to contain, it enables the grass to endure heavy use. It recuperates from damage far more quickly than most grasses, and, as a result, is the preferred grass for athletic fields and golf course tee areas and fairways throughout southern regions.
In frost-free climates, Bermudagrass stays green all winter. However, it typically goes dormant and turns brown during winter through much of its growing region. Dormancy generally starts earlier and lasts longer than warm-season alternatives such as Zoysia and Bahiagrass. Southern lawn owners often overseed Bermudagrass lawns with cool-season ryegrass for winter color.
Unlike some warm-season choices, Bermudagrass lawns can be started from seed, giving you added options and advantages. Pennington Bermudagrass offers improved cold tolerance in a wear-resistant, self-repairing, self-spreading lawn. Pennington Bermudagrass Blend yields a dense, fine-bladed, self-repairing lawn with excellent heat, drought, disease and insect resistance.Pennington Texas Bermuda stands up to the climate and weather of the Lone Star state, with low growth and deep, drought-tolerant roots. For bare spot repairs, Pennington One Step Complete Bermudagrass combines premium grass seed with professional-grade fertilizer and mulch for fast, effective results.
Bermudagrass Lawn Care
With warm-season grasses, month-by-month lawn care occurs on a different timetable than cool-season, northern grasses that peak during fall. Bermuda is best planted in spring, after the final frost, as warm-season grasses come out of dormancy and enter prime growth. Overseeding existing Bermudagrass lawns with additional Bermudagrass can also be done at this time.
Because of its aggressive growth rate, Bermudagrass can require more maintenance than other grasses. Monthly fertilization might be needed during peak growth. Similarly, it might be necessary to mow twice a week during this period to keep Bermuda at its recommended height of 1 to 1 1/2 inches for home lawns. Though the grass is drought tolerant, Bermuda will go dormant during periods of extended drought. Give it 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water from rainfall or supplemental irrigation to avoid summer dormancy.2
Bermuda grass grows best when soil pH is between 5.8 and 7.0, but it will tolerate more alkaline conditions.2 In areas with overly acidic soil, regular applications of lime may be needed to keep pH at optimal levels for nutrient availability. Centipede grass may be a good alternative in those areas. Soil testing will reveal if your Bermudagrass lawns needs lime or other soil amendments to thrive.
When your plans call for a tough, durable and wear-resistant warm-season lawn that withstands heat and drought, Bermudagrass may be the perfect solution. Pennington is dedicated to producing the finest grass seed and premium lawn care products possible, and helping you learn, grow and enjoy a healthy, lush, attractive lawn.
Pennington and One Step Complete are registered trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc.
1. Duble, R.L., “Bermudagrass – The Sports Turf of the South," Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.
2. Patton, A. and Boyd, J., “Choosing a Grass for Arkansas Lawns," University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension.