Grasses Part 3 – Warm Season Grasses

Warm season grasses are obviously the opposite of the cool grasses. Several of the warm season grasses adapt favorably to the warm summers of the Atlanta area. These are grasses that grow well when the temperature ranges between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Warm season grasses are perennial, so they don’t have to be planted every year, and thrive in the dry, hot summer months, when cool season grasses dry up and go dormant. Certain warm season grass species also are more tolerant of poorly drained soils or soils with poor water holding capacity. But they are slow to establish, taking as long as two years to get a good start. They don’t work well as a quick cover for erosion control.

Establishing a stand of warm season grass takes at least two years and often longer, especially if weeds aren’t well managed. Thus warm season grasses often frustrate gardeners during their first year. Many warm season grasses fare better when started from sprigging, plugs or sod than from seed.

Warm season grasses are also known for their ability to spread by the production of rhizomes and stolons. Rhizomes are stems that grow horizontally just below the soil surface while stolons are horizontal stems that grow on top of the soil. Stems from common Bermuda grass can grow to be several feet long. The most common warm season grasses used in our area include Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, Centipede grass and Zoysia grass


Bermuda grass originally came from Africa. It is found on many lawns, sports parks and yards around Atlanta. It is a creeping grass and roots penetrate deep into the ground. Bermuda can grow in poor soil but it requires heavy rainfall to grow. Common Bermuda grass is drought resistant, grows on many soils, and makes a good turf if fertilized and mowed right.

Hybrid Bermuda Grasses: Compared with common Bermuda, these grasses have more disease resistance, greater turf density, better weed resistance, fewer seedheads, finer and softer texture and a more favorable color. They also produce no viable seed and must be planted by vegetative means (sprigs, sod).

The hybrids also require more intensive maintenance for best appearance. Frequent fertilization and close mowing, edging, and dethatching are needed to keep them attractive.

  • Tifway (419)- dark green, fine texture, dense
  • Tifway II- dark green, fine texture, dense, tolerates colder temperatures
  • Tifgreen (328)- medium green, fine texture, very dense
  • Midway- dark green, medium texture, dense, tolerates colder temperatures

St. Augustine:

St. Augustine is warm season, perennial grass that is also used in the Atlanta area. St. Augustine originated from the gulf coastal areas, Caribbean Islands and parts of Africa. It has spread nearly every where, especially coastal areas. Now due to irrigation and land treatments it is in much demand as a lawn coverage.

St. Augustine grass has been grown only from vegetative propagation (sod, plugs) means until recently. This grass is rarely sprigged for home lawn establishment, but this method is used on nursery farms to grow sod and can be used for home lawns.

St. Augustine grows quite well with a starter fertilizer added into the soil at the time of planting and fertilization monthly until fully established. St Augustine requires plenty of water on well draining soils with seasonal rains or watering systems for full establishment. Once it is fully developed in areas of consistent rainfall it grows rather well on its own, but further inland and in drought conditions it will have to be watered and fertilized to maintain a lush stand.

Centipede Grass:

Centipede Grass is a low, medium textured, slow growing, but aggressive grass that can produce a dense, attractive, weed-free turf. It is more shade tolerant than Bermuda grass but less shade tolerant than St. Augustine and Zoysia grass. Since centipede produces only surface runners, it is easily controlled around borders of flower beds and walks. Centipede grass is native to China and southeast Asia and ranks between Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass in leaf width, shoot density, and stem size.

Centipede grass is slightly more cold tolerant than St. Augustine grass, but extended periods of cold can kill both Centipede grass and St. Augustine grass.


The term “zoysia grass” encompasses a particular collection of grasses that originated in the temperate locales of Asia. Zoysia grasses are warm season grasses native to China, Japan, and other parts of Southeast Asia. In 1911, zoysia matrella grass was introduced to U.S. shores from Manila by a U.S. botanist named C.V. Piper. This is, no doubt, why zoysia grass is also called Manila grass.

There are several species and cultivars of zoysia grass used for home lawns. Some of these are:

  • Japanese or Korean lawn grass
  • Meyer zoysia grass
  • Emerald zoysia grass
  • Zenith zoysia grass
  • El Toro zoysia grass
  • Compadre zoysia grass

Although these species and cultivars do vary somewhat in their appearance, color, growth rate, and texture, zoysia grasses are cross-compatible and can safely be considered as one species, zoysia grass, to those of us that aren’t botanists and just want a good looking, warm season lawn.

Zoysia is a warm season grass that can be grown further north than many of the other warm season grasses. It makes one of the most beautiful, carpeted lawns when fully established.

Zoysia is slow to establish but aggressive and competes with weeds for its own space. Zoysia holds up well to wear, is tolerant to various soil types, is drought tolerant and requires less fertilizer than St. Augustine or Bermuda grass. Zoysia does have a slow rate of growth, can’t tolerate over-watering and is not good for cold weather

Need help in determining the best type of grass for your lawn. Click here or call us at (770) 979-5171

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