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Warm Season Grasses

In some ways, growing and maintaining a good-looking lawn in the South is more involved than in the North. Choosing grass varieties is trickier. Some grass varieties do much better when started as plugs or sod than from seed, as is usually done in the North.

Good soil is critically important for growing a low maintenance lawn in this region. Most all warm weather grasses will turn brown when cooler temperatures arrive. Some southern gardeners seed their existing lawns with ryegrass each fall to maintain green color during the winter months. This is called “winter overseeding.”

Maintaining ideal growing conditions for your particular grass type is critical, otherwise unwanted grass varieties will start popping up and will be extremely difficult to remove. For example, St. Augustine grass being invaded by Bermuda grass and vice versa.

There are two major types of grass used for lawns in the South: warm-season grass and evergreen grass.

Warm-Season grasses are of tropical origin and thrive during the scorching summer heat. They are tough and form a dense lawn cover that thickens as they age. The are not green during the cold spells of winter. Their leaves turn brown in late fall and don't green up again until warm weather returns. In general they are green a little over half the year. Warm-season grasses are best suited for lower and middle South regions which includes the Coastal areas from Virginia south to Georgia and west through Alabama to Texas. Zoysia grass and more cold-tolerant grasses such as Bermuda can be grown in the upper South which includes the mountainous regions from Virginia and North Carolina west through northern Tennessee and Arkansas.

Evergreen grasses grow best in the South during the fall and spring. During the winter months their growth slows, but they remain green for most of the winter. During the hot summer months they will struggle to survive and require considerable care to handle the extremes common to the heat. Evergreen grasses are best for upper and middle South regions. In most situations, evergreen grasses should not be considered as a general-purpose lawn grass for the lower South and Coastal areas.