Choose The Right Grass

Warm season turfgrass performance is far superior to cool season species such as fescue, bluegrass and perennial ryegrass under the relentless heat of West Texas.

You’re probably familiar with varieties of Bermuda and St. Augustine grasses which have successfully blanketed many of our lawns for years. Buffalo grass has also gained some popularity for its ability to survive heat and extremely low amounts of supplemental irrigation even under the most extreme conditions. However, you may not be as familiar with zoysia grasses.

The erratic weather patterns of the last few years have been responsible for a slight increase in the number of lawns that have turned to the less familiar varieties of zoysia as an alternative West Texas turfgrass.

So how has zoysia held up? Generally, Zoysia has performed well in situations where maintenance practices are adjusted to accommodate some of its important differences from other warm-season species.

I’ve seen empire zoysia look great when irrigated with low quality well water in both sun and dappled shade conditions. My good friend Gloria has been growing zoysia under the deep shade of her live oaks in Midland for decades.

Empire appears to be much more shade tolerant than celebration bermuda grass, which has been reported to tolerate up to 30% less sun than common bermuda. But be warned, not all zoysias are the same.

A study done by researchers at Texas Tech University examined zoysia’s ability to grow in shade. Of the six varieties tested, scientists identified two — shadow turf and diamond — that continued to grow under 90% shade while the others declined.

One weakness with zoysia is its slow growth rate. It’s not a perfect turf for high traffic locations such as athletic fields, city parks or active little feet in back yards.

Under heavy shade it will require some extra fertilizer and should be allowed to grow slightly taller than its recommended mowing height as its leaf blades can capture more sunlight. Another drawback is zoysia’s tendency to green up later in the spring and go into dormancy a little earlier in the fall than most other warm season turfgrasses.

However, in shade, the benefits of zoysia outweigh its shortcomings and it will be easier to maintain and keep alive than cool season turfgrass under most West Texas conditions. Local nurseries have been ordering enough zoysia sod to meet recent demand. Its growth in popularity, although sluggish, may mean that we’ll see it in stores this spring as well.

 

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