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Buffalo Grass

Buffalo Grass
(Buchloe dactyloides)

Buffalo Grass is native to North American prairies and plains - it was a primary food source for the American buffalo and the only native grass species widely used in lawns. A tough warm season grass that is well suited for lawns in semiarid climates - it's a very heat and drought tolerant species. A sod-forming turfgrass that spreads by above-ground runners called stolons - the early settlers used the sod to build their homes.

Buffalo grass is best used in low maintenance areas that are not irrigated and it is a good choice for native landscapes. It grows best in full sun and is adapted to a wide range of soils.

Characteristics:

  • Native to North America
  • Warm-season perennial grass
  • Spreads by stolons and seed
  • Fine-textured leaves
  • Grayish-green color
  • Adapted to semiarid climates
  • Low maintenance lawn grass
  • Good choice for lawns that are not irrigated
  • Plant in full-sun not shade tolerant

Buffalo Grass Establishment and Maintenance

Planting: A very good choice for xeriscape and native landscapes that conserve water. It can be planted by seeding, plugging, sprigging or sodding. The best time to plant is in the spring or early summer - giving the grass time to develop a strong root system before winter.

Improved cultivars that make nice lawns include: Bison, Bowie, Cody, Plains and Topgun.

Maintenance: Very low maintenance - buffalo grass grows just fine with little mowing, watering or fertilizing.

Mowing: It can be mowed from 1 ½ to 4 inches tall - depending on level of maintenance desired. When used in lawns - short frequent mowings will give you a better looking turfgrass. On no-mow sites - it will not grow much longer than 3-6 inches. It is not necessary to remove clippings...mulch them instead.

On lawns - buffalo grass should be mowed weekly in the 1 ½ to 3 inch range. In low maintenance areas - it can be mowed monthly at 3 to 4 inches. When used on no-mow sites - it should be mowed once a year in the spring to remove old top growth.

Watering: Buffalo grass will go dormant to avoid drought stress during dry periods but will continue growing after it rains. Watering will prevent it from going dormant and losing color. A deep soaking once a week during dry periods will be plenty - over-watering will encourage weed invasion and disease development.

Fertilizing: Too much fertilizer will also encourage weed invasion. Use a slow release nitrogen fertilizer and apply ½ to 2 lb N/1000ft2 per year in 1 to 2 applications.

Start fertilizing in June - after it is actively growing - and make a second application in late July or August. As with all warm-season grasses - avoid adding nitrogen fertilizers in the fall - late fertilizing will prevent the grass from naturally hardening off in preparation for winter.


buffalo grass -- Use on low maintenance or no mow sites. Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

Use on low maintenance or no mow sites.
Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

Buffalograss spreads by stolons

Buffalograss spreads by stolons
Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Hitchcock, A.S. (rev. A. Chase). 1950. Manual of the grasses of the United States. USDA Miscellaneous Publication No. 200. Washington, DC.

Buffalo Grass


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