Characteristics of Warm- and Cool-Season Grasses

Characteristics of Warm- and Cool-Season Grasses

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Research in Progress

In an effort to bring the latest in proven quality lawn grasses to the consumer, Patten Seed Company/Super-Sod, in cooperation with Universities as well as commercial and private breeders, continues to screen new turfgrasses at our farms, and selected test sites, for the southeastern US and similar climates around the world. Because of the location of our farms and their diversity of soils and climate (from the mountains of North Carolina to the sandy Plains of South Georgia) selections meeting our standards will be superior performers in home lawns and commercial landscapes. Selections of Zoysia and Centipede grasses are in the early stages of development. Look for these new and improved selections from Super-Sod in the near future.

You can see the results of these tests first-hand at our farms and stores in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

The Bermudas

Bermudagrasses are thought to be native to Africa, but have spread worldwide where there is adequate rainfall to sustain them and winters are not so severe they are winter killed.

All Bermudas thrive in hot weather. They grow rapidly and perform poorly under shade.

Hybrid Bermudas produce denser turf less subject to weed invasion, fewer seed heads, and have good disease resistance.

All Bermudas spread so rapidly that they are difficult to control in beds, walks, and borders, and if adequately fertilized require very frequent mowing.

In spite of the apparent disadvantages outlined above, Bermudas are the best answer where good turf is absolutely essential, such as on golf courses and athletic fields.

Because of the ease and economy of establishment, seeded common Bermudas are frequently used on home lawns in spite of the extremely high maintenance costs.

Since the few seed produced by hybrid Bermudas either will not grow or will not bring back a true strain of the superior plant, the hybrids must be vegetatively propagated (sprigged, plugged, or sodded). The best known and widely available hybrid Bermudas are:

Hybrid Bermudas

  • TifGrand™ Bermuda: Developed by Dr. Wayne Hanna and realeased by The University of Georgia, TifGrand has a superior fine-texture and was developed to grow in up to 60% shade. 
  • Tifway (T-419) Bermuda: Released by Dr. Glenn Burton in 1960, Tifway was an instant winner. Darker green and medium leaf texture, it produces an extremely dense turf with somewhat less fertilizer than any other bermudas. It is a slow rooter, but spreads fairly rapidly. Quality of this commodity product will vary with producer.

Seeded Bermudas

A number of improved seeded Bermuda grasses have been released over the past several years. These grasses appear similar in texture to Tifway and other hybrid Bermudas though they appear less vigorous. Seeded bermudas include varieties like Princess, Savannah, and Riviera.

The Zoysias

Families of grasses native to many parts of the Orient, Zoysias were first introduced to the United States in the early 1900's.

In description, any of several strains of Zoysia sound like excellent all-around lawn grasses. They grow slowly and close to the ground, thrive on a wide range of soils, have good shade tolerance, and produce such dense turf that weed invasion is resisted.

In past years Meyer and Emerald and some strains of Matrella have been the most widely known and available Zoysias used in this country. They must be propagated vegetatively and rooting and growth is slow. Solid sodding is recommended, as is an underground irrigation system. In 1995 the first seed producing hybrid Zoysia grass, Zenith®, was commercially marketed. Today Zenith is the largest selling seeded Zoysia in the world.

Zoysias grow slowly and require infrequent mowing, but they are so dense that a good sharp mower with adequate power should be used and cutting should be on a regular schedule. If "scalped" in mowing and subjected to other unfavorable treatment, Zoysias are slow to recover.

  • Emerald Zoysia: Emerald Zoysia is the Cadillac of lawn grasses. An artificially bred hybrid released several years after Meyer, Emerald produces an extremely dense, fine-textured turf of true emerald green color. It simply cannot be neglected for long periods of time, but if fertilized once or twice annually, watered as needed and cut regularly, it makes a lawn in sun and/or moderate shade that is the envy of any neighborhood. Emerald is cold hardy, and although all the warm season grasses turn brown after killing frosts, small plots of Emerald will maintain green color throughout most winters as far north as Atlanta in commercial areas where it is well protected and benefits from radiant heating from buildings and asphalt paving. It is especially useful where outstanding appearance is worth a premium, such as patios, around pool decks and small turf islands in shopping centers, apartments, etc. Emerald is used extensively at Disney World where it provides beautiful manicured lawn areas. Well adapted to Zones 1, 2, and 3.
  • Zenith® Zoysia: Zenith® Zoysia is the result of over 50 years of research for a Zoysia with good leaf texture and turf quality that could be propagated from seed. Zenith is a Zoysia japonica hybrid, as is Meyer, and is similar to Meyer in texture and color. Planted shallow on a newly-prepared seedbed and watered frequently, Zenith® germinates in 14 to 21 days. Like all Zoysias, it grows and spreads slowly and therefore seeding rates of one to three pounds per thousand square feet are recommended. Like Meyer, Zenith® will grow in zones 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The Centipedes

Centipede was introduced by seed from China in 1919. Medium in texture with a pale to medium green color, Centipede is a slow growing but highly aggressive grass that can be depended upon to produce a good, dense, relatively weed free turf at low maintenance levels.

In spite of its aggressiveness, Centipede is easily controlled and usually requires edging only once a year around walks and flower beds.

Although Centipede usually produces a good turf on low fertility and with little management, it responds nicely to good care. It is incapable of producing a high quality turf as the Bermudas and Zoysias, but it frequently looks better than either because the "high brow" grasses are not getting the more exacting care they need.

Where crabgrass competition is not too severe, Centipede is easily established with seed or sprigs in one growing season. Regular watering is the key to rapid establishment.

Some of Centipede's most desirable features are not readily apparent. It is one of the few lawn grasses which does not look scalped when cutting is delayed too long and excessive growth removed.

Centipede is probably the easiest of all the grasses to cut, and any type mower, if sharp, does an easy and attractive cutting job. A good rain or a good soaking enables Centipede to green up rapidly after a brief drought, but because of this asset owners often allow it to suffer severely during droughts. Don't.

Centipede is not suited to alkaline soils (high pH), and should be limed, and fertilized very sparingly. It has plenty of disease and insect enemies, but is generally more trouble-free than other grasses if watered properly and fertilized sparingly or not at all. Zones 1 and 2.

  • Common Centipede: The selection has been in commercial production for more than 50 years. It is planted on literally millions of home lawns throughout the southeastern US, from Florida to Texas.
  • TifBlair™ Centipede: TifBlair is the first improved hybrid centipedegrass released by Dr. Wayne Hanna of the University of Georgia. TifBlair was selected for its improved cold tolerance in the lower South. This cold hardiness has moved Centipede's area of adapataion to the lower half of Zone 3. This grass grows in almost any soil, in sun or moderate shade. TifBlair carries all of the characteristics of Centipede grass including low maintenance, low fertility, drought tolerance, and less mowing. TifBlair Centipede is considered one of the most Environmentally Friendly warm season grasses you can grow. TifBlair is the first and only Blue Tag Certified Centipede grass and is available in both seed and sod forms. LOOK FOR THE CERTIFICATION TAG WHEN YOU BUY TifBlair.

Tall Fescue

Tall Fescue is a medium leaf, dark green, cool season turfgrass best adapted to cooler climates in the Upper South and at sites in higher elevations.

  • Elite Tall Fescue: Super-Sod's Elite Tall Fescue, grown on our farms in the mountains of North Carolina year around and in the winter on our Georgia and South Carolina farms, is a blend of the latest tried-and-true fescue varieties. Multiple varieties are used to enhance sod vigor and provide broader genetic resistance to disease, as well as meet the Super-Sod standards of beauty and durability. Elite Tall Fescue sod can be harvested and installed year round, but is best installed in fall, winter, or spring. Avoid summer installation when possible.