Recommended Grasses for Regional Climates

Establishing lush, healthy, beautiful lawn grasses demands diligence. Proper maintenance, mowing and nutrition all lead to achieving your goals; but success also rests on the grass itself. Whether establishing a new lawn or maintaining an existing one, matching the best cool- or warm-season grasses to your growing region is critical. Choosing the Pennington grass seed that's suited to your location and goals will help you achieve desired results.

Cool-season grasses yield vigorous growth in northern regions with cool spring and fall seasons, and moderate summers. Warm-season grasses flourish in southern regions where seasonal summer temperatures run high. They thrive on summer heat, but can't withstand northern winters. By choosing premium lawn grasses designed specifically for regional factors such as humidity, aridity and elevation, you ensure your lawn has every advantage for success.

Northeast Region

Cool-season grasses, such as bluegrasses, ryegrasses and fescues, prevail in the Northeast region of the United States. Cold winters, cool summers and high humidity create challenging conditions for many plants, including lawn grasses. Northeast lawns need grasses that prefer cool temperatures and naturally resist diseases prevalent in this region.

Kentucky bluegrass flourishes throughout the Northeast and the entire northern tier of states. For generations of grass enthusiasts, Kentucky bluegrass has epitomized the ideal lawn. This cool-season, perennial grass delivers finely textured, deep-emerald-green blades and the hardiness needed for cold northern winters.

Kentucky bluegrass spreads aggressively, but its root system remains relatively shallow compared to many other grasses. The luxuriant color of this sun-loving grass depends on supplemental watering during periods of limited precipitation and high heat. Drought induces dormancy in Kentucky bluegrass, but the grass rebounds strong with watering. Though some are slow to green in spring, Kentucky bluegrass blends well with ryegrass for faster greening. However, perennial ryegrasses can sometimes overtake Kentucky bluegrass, so minimize mixing.

The New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University, a Pennington university partner, recommends a mix of Kentucky bluegrass varieties with other cool-season grasses for successful Northeast lawns.1 Pennington Smart Seed Northeast Mix provides this desirable combination of grasses. Innovations behind Pennington Smart Seed Kentucky Bluegrass Blend and Pennington Smart Seed Fescue/Bluegrass Mix deliver increased shade tolerance, finer texture and desirable color.


Midwest Region

The Midwest heartland is a cool-season growing region with humidity levels that vary. The Midwest's eastern states experience humidity similar to the Northeast, but in western states encounter arid conditions. Seasonal fluctuations across the region demand grasses that thrive in cool climates. Bluegrasses dominate, but ryegrasses and fescues also do well with sufficient irrigation in the region's more arid western portions. Some Turf-Type Tall Fescues do well under droughty conditions. Water Star Qualified Grass Seed by Pennington delivers water-conserving benefits, proven through stringent testing by the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance.

Perennial ryegrass flourishes in full Midwestern sun, but tolerates light shade in this central climate. Valued for versatility, fast germination and easy establishment, cool-season perennial ryegrass forms a lush, finely textured, deep-green lawn. That color stays with ryegrass into winter, and returns quickly in spring. During periods of drought, perennial ryegrass does require additional watering or it may lose color or go dormant.

Durable, traffic-tolerant ryegrass naturally resists insects and disease, and offers moderate drought tolerance suited to northern summers. Collaborative testing between the Cooperative Turfgrass Breeders Test and the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program pursues increasingly cold-tolerant varieties. Pennington Smart Seed Midwest Mix delivers cool-season grasses ideal for Midwest conditions, and Pennington Smart Seed Perennial Ryegrass Blend offers premium ryegrass varieties selected for optimal balance in Midwest lawns.


Southeast Region

Heat and humidity in the Southeast region create a warm, humid zone that stretches from the Atlantic Coast into Texas. Warm-season grasses dominate in this climate. Bermudagrass is the leading lawn grass in the Southeast and across the U.S. southern tier. Its tolerance for salt, heat and drought meet the challenging conditions of the region well.

Bermudagrass texture varies from fine to medium-coarse, depending on variety. Known for its persistent nature and aggressive spreading, Bermudagrass produces a thick, dark-green lawn. Like other warm-season grasses, Bermudagrass turns brown during winter dormancy where winter temperatures drop below 40°F. In spring, it greens up quickly as the deep-rooted grass regrows from the crown each spring. Many homeowners throughout the South overseed Bermudagrass lawns with ryegrasses for winter color. The ryegrasses die in summer heat, but not before Bermudagrass turns green.

Pennington university partners at the University of Florida pursue improved Bermudagrass varieties for Southeast conditions. Premium Southern grasses in Pennington Bermudagrass Blend thrive in challenging Southern conditions.

Deep South and Gulf Coast Region

Where high heat and humidity intensify in the Deep South and Gulf Coast, Bahiagrass and Centipede grass are common. Extremely drought and heat tolerant, these grasses stand up to the region's climate and water restrictions. Grass research at the University of Georgia, another Pennington university partner, leads research and development of new grass varieties for coastal conditions.

Bahiagrass provides homeowners in the Deep South and Coastal regions with low-maintenance, all-purpose lawns. More coarse than any cool-season grass, Bahiagrass has good disease- and pest-resistant qualities, establishes easily and offers outstanding drought and heat tolerance. Sun-loving Pennington Pensacola Bahiagrass is perfect for the Southern Coastal Plain and Gulf Coast. Lower growing and low-maintenance Pennington Argentine Bahiagrass wins favor from Florida through the Texas coast, as it teams finer texture, improved density and deeper color with durability and drought resistance.

Centipede grass earns accolades for low and slow growth, medium texture and its medium- to light-green color. Very low-maintenance, this warm-season grass out competes weeds and tolerates nutrient-poor soil, so less mowing and less fertilizer are needed. Centipede grasses, such as Pennington Centipede Grass products, prefer full sun but tolerate more shade than Bermudagrass. Centipede grasses also lack a true dormant period, so they stay green nearly year-round except in extremely cold conditions. Centipede's low growth helps it tolerate drought well, and its denseness helps it endure foot traffic.

Southwest Region

The warm, arid West/Southwest region presents extreme challenges to turf grasses in low- and high-desert climates. Beginning in Texas and stretching into Southern California, this region combines saline water and alkaline soil with intense sunlight, high temperatures and varying elevations.

Resilient Bermudagrass is widely used in the region, but sufficient watering is essential. The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension reports that Bermudagrass can require up to 40 percent less water than comparable tall fescue lawns in the desert climate.2 As across the South, overseeding Bermudagrass lawns with ryegrasses will often provide winter color.

Bermudagrass varieties such as Pennington Sahara Bermudagrass, with its fine texture and rich, dark-green color, are popular in the region. The dense grass stands up to foot traffic, flourishes under the Southwestern sun and resists drought, insects and diseases common to the region.

Pacific Northwest Region

Like the Midwest, the West/Northwest region presents diverse growing conditions. Cool, arid inland areas from Montana and Wyoming westward welcome cool-season grasses when adequately irrigated. In this area, east of the Cascade Mountain Range extending from Washington to Northern California, bluegrasses and tall fescues are preferred. West of the Cascades, cool temperatures and the humidity of the coastal Pacific Northwest create conditions similar to the Northeast. This wet, cool climate demands grasses resistant to lawn diseases the conditions encourage.

Oregon State University research shows ryegrasses are naturally resistant to cool-season diseases that strike grasses in rainy coastal winters. Fine fescues with greater cold and shade tolerance than tall fescue grasses also excel.3 Pennington Smart Seed Pacific Northwest Mix provides an optimal balance of these regionally-suited grasses.

Transition Region

One region presents special challenges for all lawn grasses. Known to lawn care professionals and enthusiasts as the transition zone, this area covers the central tier of states from the Atlantic Coast west through Kansas. Different climatic zones —cool, warm, humid and arid — collide in this region. Winters are too cold for warm-season grass survival, and summers are too hot for cool-season types. Pennington university partners at the University of Arkansas Agriculture Research and Extension lead research and development of heat-tolerant cool-season grasses and cold-tolerant warm-season grasses suitable for transition zone rigors.

Tall fescue, which is used extensively in the transition region, is a low-maintenance, heat-tolerant, cool-season grass with fine to medium blade texture. Its deep roots deliver drought and heat protection. In this zone, tall fescue can add season-long color to Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass mixes. Pennington Smart Seed Fescue/Bluegrass Mix combines fescue durability with bluegrass beauty. Tall fescue complements Bermudagrass farther south. Pennington Smart Seed Tall Fescue Blend provides improved, lower-growing tall fescue varieties that require less mowing and excel in transition conditions.

Zoysia grass is the warm-season alternative in the region. Its tolerance for cold earns it extensive use farther north. Low-growing and deep-rooted, water-wise Zoysia grass teams fine to medium texture with excellent traffic tolerance and low maintenance. It quickly forms a dense, cushiony turf that outcompetes weeds and naturally resists diseases and pests. Zoysia also stays green longer than other warm-season grasses. Its distinctive golden-beige dormant color is not unattractive, and Zoysia is among the first grasses to green in spring Pennington Zenith Zoysia Grass Seed & Mulch retains its green color even longer than other Zoysia varieties.

By matching your growing region's challenges with the grasses that suit them best, you can enjoy a beautiful lawn that complements your family activities, preferences for maintenance and appearance goals. Region-appropriate seed mixes and blends help provide every growing advantage. With improved disease, insect and drought resistance, grass seed by Pennington can help your lawn reach its full potential.

Pennington, Smart Seed, and Water Star are registered trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc. Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance is a registered trademark of Nexgen Turf Research, LLC.

Sources:

1. Rutgers University New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, "Seeding Your Lawn," February 2004.

2. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, "Maintaining Bermudagrass Lawns in the Mojave Desert," 2010.

3. Oregon State University Extension Service, "Retail Lawn Seed Mixtures for Western Oregon and Western Washington," November 2014.

Grass 101