How To Grow Zoysia Grass

Zoysia Grass is a warm-season grass that grows best in temperatures of 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  Depending upon the species of Zoysia, the grass has either a broad, coarse leaf, or a medium-sized leaf.  The texture of the grass is, overall, less fine than other types of warm season grasses.  It is the most cold-tolerant of all warm season grasses, and has an attractive look during the winter, even as it goes dormant and turns brown.

Preferred Growing Conditions of Zoysia

Zoysia grass grows best under specific conditions.  The grass prefers sun, but is fairly shade tolerant-only St. Augustine grass is more tolerant to shade.  It is one of the most cold-tolerant warm season grasses, but it also tolerates extreme heat and sun.  It grows well in poor, sandy or rocky soils, and can tolerate almost any pH within neutral range (5.8-7.5).  It can survive in a variety of conditions, making it a most flexible turf for homeowners in areas with long, warm summers.  It is also salt tolerant, which makes it a good choice for the beach.  This grass grows best in zones 6-10, in temperate areas, i.e. not to dry, but not too wet. The southeastern US is its favored habitat.

How to Plant and Establish a Zoysia Grass Lawn

Although the grass is slow to establish, that should not discourage anyone from planting a Zoysia lawn.  The grass is naturally a slow, clumping grass with rhizomes and stolons.  It does not establish well from zoysia grass seed or plugs, and can take almost a year to establish via those two methods.  It is much better to establish a zoysia lawn with sod.  A benefit of the dense growth habit of Zoysia is that it forms such a dense mat of turf that once it is established, it out-competes weeds well.  That is good, because it is not tolerant to post-emergence herbicide.  For best establishment, plant new Zoysia during its growing season.  Sod can be laid at any time, even while dormant.

Zoysia Lawn Maintenance Requirements

Maintaining a Zoysia Grass lawn is fairly simple.  Once established, the grass needs little water.  The best watering technique is to wait until the grass blades are slightly wilted and then give the lawn ¾ inch of water.  This helps the grass develop deep roots, further developing drought resistance.   Because of its dense growth habit, Zoysia can develop thatch problems.  In order to maintain healthy turf, it is important to aerate in the spring and fall, and top-dress with a light sandy, compost-rich mixture.  The aeration helps prevent compaction and rids the lawn of thatch problems.  Thatch can also be removed with a vertical mower that cuts into the ground vertically and brings up the thatch, which can be removed with a rake.  Nitrogen needs for Zoysia lawns are between 2-5 lbs per year.  It is important to avoid excessive nitrogen, as that can cause thatch buildup to reach damaging levels.  Because it is slow-growing, Zoysia does not recover quickly from damage.  It does tolerate close mowing, but it is always a good idea to remove no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at one time.  Keeping mower blades sharp helps avoid a whitish sheen on the lawn after mowing from dead, ripped tips of grass leaves.

Zoysia Grass Cultivars

There are several different cultivars of Zoysia grass for homeowners to choose from.  Depending upon where you live, the following cultivars will be available for planting.
  • Zoysia japonica is the only straight species type that can be grown from seed.
  • Meyer zoysia, also called "Z-52," is a further developed strain of Z. japonica. An advantage of this grass is that it spreads quickly.
  • Belaire is a highly cold-tolerant variety of Zoysia, but is susceptible to brown patch fungus.
  • Emerald zoysia is one of the most popular hybrids. It has a fine-textured leaf, which makes it generally more attractive. It is not as cold-tolerant, but is shade-tolerant.
  • El Toro is can tolerate rotary mowing and has good shoot density.
  • Zenith is another good choice for those who want to plant zoysia grass seed. It can be planted at 1-2 pounds per 1,000 feet in May-June. It must be kept moist for establishment.
Its characteristics of dense growth, drought and shade tolerance make Zoysia grass a good choice for homeowners in warm weather areas.
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