Zoysia grass is known for its ability to stand up to heat, drought, heavy foot traffic and a variety of other challenges. In its optimal growing zones, this tough grass can deliver a beautiful, dense lawn with very little input from you. Whether Zoysia is right for you depends on where you live, your lawn care goals, and how you use your lawn. When those elements align with Zoysia's strengths, this versatile lawn grass may be the ideal choice.
Zoysia at a Glance
- warm-season grass with improved cold tolerance
- prefers sun, tolerates some light shade
- suitable for southern and transition zones
- heat- and drought-tolerant
- low water and maintenance requirements
- dense, traffic-tolerant growth
Zoysia Grass Basics
Zoysia grass is native to Asia, but it's been in the United States since at least 1895,1 around the time lawns first captured the interest of American homeowners. It is what's known as a warm-season grass, meaning its active growth starts in the warmth of late spring and peaks during hot summer weather. Zoysia is perennial, so it comes back year after year when grown in appropriate climates. It's well-suited to lawns across the southern tier of states, from the hot, humid Southeast to parts of California.
For homeowners in what lawn pros refer to as the grass transition zone, Zoysia has added value. This area of the country's midsection, stretching from the Atlantic into the Midwest, is where lawn grass zones meet their limits. Too hot and humid for cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, the transition zone is too cold for warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass. However, Zoysia's heat and cold tolerance allow it to flourish in this region where many grasses fail.
Some types of Zoysia grass can only be grown from sod or grass sprigs, but Pennington Zenith Zoysia grass seed combines the strengths of Zoysia grass with all the benefits of growing from seed. Zenith Zoysia also offers improved cold tolerance that gives lawn owners even greater advantages in this challenging region.
Characteristics to Consider
Zoysia grass establishes more slowly than some lawn grasses, but it forms a very dense carpet of grass beneath your feet. It's so dense, few lawn weeds penetrate established Zoysia lawns. The grass spreads by above-ground stems called stolons and underground stems called rhizomes. This thick, dense growth earns it favor from warm-climate sod producers and families that use their lawns heavily for lawn games and entertaining.
During its active growing season, Zoysia typically stays light to medium green. It turns brown when winter dormancy sets in, but it stays green much longer than Bermudagrass and other warm-season grasses — and Pennington Zenith Zoysia keeps its green color longer than other Zoysias do. Some homeowners choose to overseed Zoysia lawns in fall with cool-season ryegrass for green winter color, but others appreciate its straw-like natural hue. Come spring, Zoysia lawns are among the first to green up again.
Zoysia naturally develops a deep root system, and it's very efficient at conserving moisture and resisting drought. During short drought episodes, the grass remains green. If drought and heat persist, Zoysia will go dormant, but it greens up quickly when watered again. Zoysia prefers full sun, but it tolerates light shade — unlike Bermudagrass and other sun-loving, warm-season grasses.
Zoysia Lawn Care
For warm-season grasses such as Zoysia, optimal times for standard month-by-month lawn projects are opposite those for cool-season lawns. Unlike cool-season grasses that are best planted in fall, Zoysia is best planted in spring after all threat of frost passes and the grass enters its time for optimal growth. Overseeding thin lawns should be done at this same time.
Because of Zoysia's dense growth habit, it tends to develop thatch, that layer of thick organic matter that builds up at soil level. Aeration and dethatching, done in fall on cool-season lawns, should be done in early spring for Zoysia lawns. This timing allows the grass to recover during peak growth.
Zoysia lawns typically need 1 inch of rainfall or irrigation per week. Deep, infrequent watering encourages deep, drought-resistant roots. Sandy soils may need more frequent watering to retain color during summer heat and stress. Mow your slow-growing Zoysia lawn as needed to maintain a recommended grass height of 1 to 1 1/2 inches.
Compared to many other lawn grasses, Zoysia has relatively low nitrogen requirements. Soil testing will reveal your lawn's nutrient needs. Fertilize according to your test results, but spring and fall applications may be all you need. Zoysia grass prefers soil pH between 5.8 and 7.0.2 Your soil test will also confirm whether your lawn needs lime or other soil amendments to restore pH balance and optimize nutrient availability.
For many homeowners, Zoysia grass is their warm-season grass of choice. That's especially true where a drought-resistant, low-maintenance, traffic-tolerant lawn is the goal. Pennington is dedicated to producing the finest grass seed possible and helping you grow and enjoy a beautiful, lush, healthy lawn — whatever type of grass you choose to grow.
Pennington is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.
1. Duble, Richard L., “Zoysiagrass," Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.
2. Patton, Aaron, “Liming Your Lawn," University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.