The best type of grass seed for your lawn depends on your climate, soil type, and the amount of sun and shade your yard receives. For instance, warm season grasses such as Bermuda, Zoysia, and Centipede are best suited for Southern states and areas with mild winters. Cool season grasses such as tall fescue, rye, and bluegrass are better suited for northern states and areas with cold winters. When selecting a grass seed, it is important to choose a variety that is adapted to your specific climate and soil type.

The first thing to consider when choosing the best type of grass seed is the climate you live. Grass varieties fall under one of two categories: warm and cool seasons. Warm season grasses begin growing again in the late spring and go dormant in mid-autumn. They will thrive in warmer climates like the southern or southwestern United States. Unlike cool-season grasses, they become tan or brown when dormant.

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Cool-season Grasses

Cool-season grasses will have a longer growing season from early spring to late autumn and will stay green throughout the winter. They, however, usually require more water than warm-season grasses. These cool-season grasses are less heat tolerant and will go dormant in the summer if not watered enough. Cool-season grasses will thrive in both temperate and cool climates. Cool season grasses are also overseeded during the autumn in warm or hot climates. This will provide a cool-season grass with the ideal temperature to germinate and grow, which in turn will keep a lawn green all winter long. Perennial or Annual Ryegrass is popular for overseeding because of its ability to germinate and grow quickly.

Choosing a Warm-Season Grass Seed Type

Bahiagrass

  • Grows well in sandy soil
  • Thrives in dry, warm to hot climates
  • Requires full sun

Pros

  • Extremely heat and drought tolerant
  • Pest resistant
  • Heavy traffic resistant

Cons

  • Slow germination
  • Turns brown when dormant

Bermuda Grass

  • Thrives in warm to hot climates
  • Requires full sun

Pros

  • Heat and drought tolerant
  • Speedy growth
  • Resistant to wear

Cons

  • Prone to thatch buildup
  • Turns brown when dormant

Buffalograss

  • Thrives in most warmer climates
  • Tolerates some shade

Pros

  • Heat, drought, and cold tolerant
  • Requires less frequent mowing

Cons

  • Slow to establish
  • Does not tolerate high traffic
  • Turns brown when dormant

Centipedegrass

  • Thrives in warm, moist climates
  • Tolerates some shade

Pros

  • Heat resistant
  • Requires minimal upkeep
  • Chokes out weeds

Cons

  • Does not tolerate high traffic
  • Doesn’t overseed well

St. Augustine Grass

  • Thrives in warm, moist climates
  • Tolerates some shade

Pros

  • Heat and drought resistant
  • Grows well in sandy or salty soil
  • Grows quickly

Cons

  • Prone to thatch buildup
  • Prone to disease
  • Turns brown when dormant

Zoysia Grass

  • Grows well in warm to hot climates
  • Tolerates some shade

Pros

  • Heat and drought resistant
  • Stands up to high traffic

Cons

  • Prone to thatch buildup
  • Turns brown when dormant

Written by

Erica Infanger

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Choosing a Cool-Season Grass Seed Type

Creeping Bentgrass

  • Thrives in temperate, moist climates
  • Tolerates some shade

Pros

  • Drought tolerant
  • Works with low mowing heights
  • Traffic resistant

Cons

  • Doesn’t tolerate extreme heat or cold
  • Does not mix well with other grasses

Kentucky Bluegrass

  • Thrives in temperate and cool climates
  • Tolerates some shade

Pros

  • Heat and cold tolerant
  • Ability to self-repair

Cons

  • Prone to thatch buildup
  • Not great for high traffic areas

Fine Fescue

  • Thrives in cool climates
  • Tolerates shade

Pros

  • Drought and cold tolerant
  • Grows well in poor soil
  • Low watering needs

Cons

  • Does not tolerate high traffic or heat

Perennial Ryegrass

  • Thrives in temperate climates
  • Tolerates some shade

Pros

  • Germinates quickly
  • Resistant to high traffic

Cons

  • Does not tolerate extreme heat or cold
  • Requires frequent watering

Tall Fescue

  • Thrives in temperate and cool climates
  • Tolerates some shade

Pros

  • Heat, drought, and cold resistant
  • Requires little water
  • Stands up to high traffic

Cons

  • Prone to thatch buildup
  • Prone to disease

Sun and Shade Grass

Certain species of grass are more shade-friendly than others. To help you pick a grass type, assess how much sun different parts of your yard get in a day. Most warm-season grasses do not like shade, but some will tolerate moderate amounts.  Bahia grass will require full sun, but some variants of St. Augustine will only need four hours of direct sunlight a day. Similarly, most varieties of Fescue tolerate shade very well while Kentucky Bluegrass will likely require six or more hours of sun a day.

How Much Water Does Your Grass Seed Need?

Different species of grass have different water needs. Generally speaking, cool-season grasses need more water than their warm-season counterparts, but there are still some that are drought tolerant. When choosing a grass, take into account the amount of rainfall you get and how often you plan on watering. For example, if you live in a cool but dry climate, choose a cool-season grass that is drought tolerant, such as Fescue.

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Grass Seed For High Traffic Areas

If you have children and/or pets, choosing a grass type may rely on how much wear and tear it can handle and the level of care it needs. Some grasses are able to repair themselves more efficiently than others. Bermuda is a warm-season grass that is often praised for its ability to repair small patches. Some other grasses may need reseeding if patches develop. Consider how much time you are willing to spend on lawn care. Fine Fescue, for example, is a low-maintenance grass that can thrive in very poor soil, but it is rather delicate and cannot handle heavy foot traffic or frequent mowing. If your yard gets very little foot traffic, this may not be an issue. However, if it is, consider Tall Fescue instead.

How to Care for New Grass Seed

Whether you are just establishing a lawn or overseeding, it will need frequent watering in the beginning. This is the most important factor when encouraging the seeds to germinate. It is recommended to wet the soil about six inches down while seeds are germinating. Do note that too much water will cause rot. Once the seeds begin to sprout, you will not need to water as much. When your grass is new, do little to your yard besides water it. Because the seedlings are very vulnerable during these early stages, do not spread fertilizer, aerate, or spray herbicides.

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