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Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass makes a very nice lawn when managed right. If you are lucky enough to live where zoysia grows you can have a beautiful lawn that is relatively low maintenance. It has a soft, spongy texture that feels nice on bare feet. Wear and drought tolerant, has very few problems with insects and diseases, and forms a dense turf that keeps weeds out.

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This species is a native of Japan, China and Southeast Asia. Z. japonica is often called Korean or Japanese Lawngrass. A warm-season grass that will grow throughout the South and into the transition zone. It is the most cold tolerant of all warm-season grasses but not a good choice for Northern lawns.

Zoysia is a durable turfgrass that can withstand wear but is slow to recover from damage. It can be used on golf courses, soccer, baseball and softball fields - but its slow rate of recovery makes it less than ideal for football fields.

I have seen zoysia grass planted on golf courses in a buffer. Many golf courses in the Transition Zone grow bermudagrass fairways and bentgrass greens. Bermudagrass is a very aggressive spreader that will invade bentgrass greens while zoysia spreads slowly. Zoysia grass can be planted in an apron around the greens and on bunker faces to slow the spread of creeping bermudagrass onto greens and into the sand bunkers. 

zoysia grass lawn
zoysia grass illutration public domainUSDA-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.
Turfgrass Growing ZonesZoysia Grass is adapted to both the Warm-season and the Transition Zone.

Characteristics of Zoysia Grass:

  • A warm-season grass that grows best between 80 and 90 degrees.
  • Greens up early in the spring.
  • Spreads by rhizomes and stolons.
  • Performs best in full sun but will tolerate moderate shade. Will not grow in heavy shade.
  • Goes dormant and turns brown in the winter. Will stay green all year in warm climates.
  • Overseeding with perennial ryegrass in the fall will keep a zoysia lawn green over the winter.
  • Good salt tolerance making it a valuable grass in coastal areas.
  • Drought tolerant with moderate irrigation requirements.
  • Forms a very dense turf that looks beautiful when mowed low.
  • It is a slow spreader, up to 6 inches in a growing season.
  • Grows best with conservative fertilization.
  • New lawns are planted with sod or plugs. Z. japonica can be grown from seed.
  • Adapted to a wide range of soil types and optimun pH is between 5.8-6.5 (slightly acidic).

Zoysia is a very heavy thatch producer. It should be dethatched every 2 to 3 years or when the thatch layer is over a 1/2 inch deep. Zoysia grows best with moderate nitrogen fertilizer applications, too much will cause rapid thatch buildup. Proper lawn maintenance practices will keep thatch in check. Wait until it is actively growing to dethatch. 

Mowing Zoysia

A very nice feature of warm season grasses is they can be mowed short - giving them a very attractive look. Mow between 1 and 2 inches every 5 to 7 days based on the 1/3 Rule.  Short and frequent cuttings with sharp blades will yield a beautiful lawn. Reel mowers cut zoysia the cleanest but a rotary mower with sharp blades will do the job. Cutting zoysia with dull blades isn't pretty...No need to collect grass clippings.Recycling them actually improves lawn quality and they will not contribute to thatch buildup.

Raise mowing height up to 2 inches in the fall to allow the grass plants to harden off (acclimate or prepare) for the winter.

Watering

Zoysia grass is drought tolerant but will turn a brownish color and stop growing during dry periods. It needs at least 1 inch of water/rain per week to keep it growing vigorously. Infrequent, deep soakings promotes deep roots and a healthy lawn.

Fertilizing Zoysia Grass

Wait until after the last frost and at least 75% of your lawn is green before you start fertilizing, then apply 1/2 to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet.

Fertilize every 4 to 8 weeks until the end of August and apply no more than 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per growing season. Zoysia performs best with low to moderate fertilization. Use a fertilizer ratio of 4:1:2 unless soil test results indicate differently.

A helpful fertilizing tip from the N.C. State Cooperative Extension Service:

Weeds, Diseases & Insects

Weeds can be a problem when starting a new zoysia lawn because it is slow to fill in - taking up to a year. But once established, it makes such a thick lawn that weeds are not a problem.

Billbugs and white grubs are the major insect pests. It is a good idea to monitor for insects but treating with insecticides is not usually necessary.

Brown patch and rust diseases can cause problems but are usually minor and related to poor management practices.

Popular Varieties for Lawns

There are three species of and zoysia grass that are planted in quality lawns.

Zoysia japonica, Zoysia matrella and Zoysia trenuifolia are the lawn species. Several improved cultivars have been developed.

Japanese lawngrass (Z. japonica) is very cold tolerant and the only species that can be grown from seed.

Zoysia matrella has finer textured leaves and forms a denser turf than Z. japonica but is not as cold tolerant.

Zoysia tenuifolia is a very fine textured species but is a very heavy thatch producer.

Popular Cultivars:

  • Empire® is an improved variety that features improved wear tolerance, drought tolerance, less mowing, and moderate to good shade tolerance. 
  • 'Meyer' is a good cold tolerant cultivar that is popular in the transition zone.
  • 'Emerald' is shade tolerant and a very beautiful grass. It is a hybrid of Z. japonica and Z. tenuifolia.
  • 'El Toro' is faster growing than 'Meyer' and produces less thatch. It is a good choice if you use a rotary lawn mower.
  • 'Belaire' establishes quickly.
  • 'Zorro' is rated #1 by the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program. It makes a high quality golf course turf or home lawn.
  • 'Compadre' is a good companion species with tall fescue. Plant them together for a green lawn all year long.

Order Empire® Zoysia plugs from Yard Mastery.  Also check out their line of lawn fertilizer and soil optimization products.


More Grass Types:

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  • St. Augustine Grass | Grass Types for Home Lawns

    With a little care and when planted in the right area St. Augustine Grass makes a very dense lawn that feels great under bare feet.

  • Tall Fescue Lawns

    Tall Fescue Lawns: with the development of the new "turf-type" cultivars, tall fescue is a good choice for home lawns in transition zones. Helpful DIY tips and advice for planting and growing grass.

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