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How Fast Does Zoysia Grass Spread? Your Complete Guide (2023)

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how fast does zoysia grass spreadYou’re probably familiar with zoysia grass – that lush, dense carpet you see on golf courses and sports fields.

Zoysia can spread at a rate of 1⁄2 to 2 inches per month during peak growing season.

That might not seem fast, but let me put it into perspective for you. If you started with just a small 2×2 foot patch of zoysia sod this spring, you could have a contiguous lawn by fall.

The secret lies in zoysia’s aggressive underground stems and runners known as rhizomes and stolons. Once established, the dense mat of zoysia stems and roots will slowly annex nearby turf until your entire lawn is a velvety green carpet.

The good news is you won’t need to meticulously spread plugs or sod across your entire yard. Just start with a small patch and let the zoysia work its magic. Before you know it, you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood with a golf course quality lawn.

Now grab a cold drink, put your feet up, and let the zoysia do the work!

Key Takeaways

  • Zoysia is a warm season grass that spreads slowly, 1⁄2-2 inches per month during peak growing season (April-October).
  • Planted zoysia plugs spread 1-2 inches per month when planted in spring/summer.
  • More and closer planted plugs will fill in faster than sparser plugs.
  • Mature zoysia forms a dense, thick mat as rhizomes annex nearby turf at a rate of 1-2 inches per month.

What is Zoysia Grass?

What is Zoysia Grass
As a warm season grass, zoysia takes its sweet time to establish and fill in your lawn. But once established, this tough grass will deliver years of lush, weed-free turf with little effort on your part.

Zoysia’s fine-bladed, emerald green leaves form a thick, dense carpet that chokes out crabgrass, dandelions and other weeds. Its extensive root system makes zoysia highly drought tolerant and pest resistant compared to other grasses.

The grass spreads steadily through its rhizomes and stolons, but nowhere near as aggressively as bermuda. Expect zoysia plugs planted in spring or early summer to spread 1-2 inches per month. The more plugs you plant, the faster you’ll achieve a seamless lawn. But zoysia’s glacial germination makes seeding large areas impractical.

Plugs are clearly the best method for establishing zoysia outside its ideal climate. Just be patient with your plugs. With attentive watering and fertilization those first two seasons, your zoysia will deliver years of lush, verdant turf nearly free of weeds, pests or diseases.

How Does Zoysia Grass Spread?

How Does Zoysia Grass Spread
Zoysia is a warm-season turfgrass that spreads primarily through its underground rhizomes and aboveground stolons. These aggressive yet slow-growing horizontal stems allow the grass to gradually form a dense, wear-resistant mat.

Although zoysia seed is available, germination can be challenging. Seeding zoysia is typically only practical when establishing large areas of turf from scratch, as the grass spreads slowly via rhizomes and stolons once established.


After planting the tough plugs, impatiently watch your zoysia’s underground rhizomes slowly creep 1-2 inches each month as they tenaciously spread across your lawn.

Identify rhizomes by their thick, white stems and closely spaced nodes that initiate roots and shoots. Though rhizomes emerge just below the surface, don’t disturb their lateral growth.

Simply mow zoysia’s dense carpet as usual, being careful not to scalp its shallow roots.

Zoysia’s relentless rhizomes continually expand the grass’s durable root system. Trust their steady creep to fill in bare spots for a flawless, verdant lawn by season’s end.


Don’t fret over zoysia’s sluggish spread. Simply admire its scaly stolons creeping just aboveground, tenaciously expanding its footprint at a snail’s pace. These disease resistant, winter dormant stolons ensure zoysia’s dense growth. The summer green stolons grow mowing height roots in their nodes for deeper root growth.

Zoysia’s stolons form a transitional growth zone, steadily filling bare spots by the end of the season.


Give zoysia’s grass seeds a 3-4 week germination timeframe before you see any green.

  1. Prepare the soil before scattering zoysia seeds. Remove debris and loosen top 2-3 inches for good seed-to-soil contact.
  2. Use recommended seeding rates for your zone. Thick stands prevent weeds. Overseed bare spots in spring or fall.
  3. Lightly water seeded areas to keep top 1/2 inch moist for 3-4 weeks. Seeds need consistent moisture to germinate and spread.

Zoysia seeds slowly expand, spreading foliage. Once established, this wear-tolerant grass withstands foot traffic. But don’t wait for quick results. Zoysia’s seeds take time and care to form a lush lawn.

Zoysia Grass Growth Rate

Zoysia Grass Growth Rate
You’re in for a slow, tedious slog as that miserly zoysia crawls across your lawn at a torturous pace. Don’t expect quick results with this temperamental warm-season grass that thrives in heat yet sulks come winter.

Zoysia’s pernicious rhizomes creep ahead less than an inch or two each month. You’ll be watering, feeding, mowing that patchy lawn through scorching summers and chilly winters waiting for it to fill in.

The fine-bladed, emerald zoysia boasts admirable traits like drought resistance, shade tolerance, and texture ideal for lawns. But its glacier-paced spread rate tries your patience. With proper care, however, zoysia will gradually form a lush, emerald carpet resisting weeds, pests and foot traffic.

Generous watering and fertilizing accelerates growth somewhat. But no amount of care will make zoysia zip across your lawn.

Realize zoysia’s limitations before installing plugs or sprigs. Accept its tortoise-paced spread and dormancy in cooler climates. With realistic expectations, you can still enjoy zoysia’s soft texture, graceful shade tolerance, and durability.

Just don’t expect instant gratification from this sloth-paced grass. With persistence and care, zoysia will eventually reward you with a tough, beautiful lawn.

Planting Zoysia Grass

Planting Zoysia Grass
Before installing zoysia grass, you must thoroughly prepare the area by removing existing turf or vegetation, tilling the soil, leveling, and applying starter fertilizer. Zoysia can be planted as plugs, sprigs, or sod; plugs being the most economical choice that fill in over 1-2 growing seasons.

Sod establishes quickly but is the most expensive option. Carefully weigh the higher upfront cost of zoysia sod against the slower fill-in time of plugs or sprigs when deciding which planting method best fits your budget and timeline.

Prepping the Area

Prep the area thoroughly before planting those stubborn zoysia plugs. Clear away any debris and completely remove existing grass like bermudagrass and St. Augustine. Till the soil to a depth of 6-10 inches, working in any necessary amendments.

Rake repeatedly to level the surface. Plan your irrigation layout and install any drains if puddling occurs. Realize zoysia’s slow growth rate means baring soil longer than fast-spreading grasses.

  • Remove all debris
  • Till soil deeply – add amendments
  • Level surface thoroughly

With realistic expectations of zoysia’s glacial spread, you can prep properly and reap an eventual reward of lush, durable grass. Just brace yourself during the months or years it takes this finicky, heat-loving zoysia to establish and fill in.

Plugs Vs. Sod

When choosing between plugs and sod, plugs establish quicker although fill in slower over 1-2 seasons. If budget’s no issue, roll out lush, instant zoysia sod. But its higher cost for material and installation may not fit your wallet.

More affordable zoysia plugs planted 6-12 inches apart give you plenty to start a plot. They establish roots rapidly when receiving your attentive watering and care. Yet large bare areas remain as aggressive zoysia spreads outward just 1-2 inches monthly.

Mow high, fertilize properly, and give it time to fill in. By season’s end you’ll see tangible progress. With continued TLC during its years-long journey, your zoysia plugs will someday knit into a soft, durable lawn.

Just set realistic expectations, preparing for a waiting game that ends in zoysia success.

Caring for Your Zoysia Lawn

Caring for Your Zoysia Lawn
Mowing, watering, and fertilizing are essential to properly caring for your zoysia lawn once it is established. The proper mowing height and frequency, irrigation based on weather and soil conditions, and a consistent fertility plan tailored to your grass type and location will ensure your zoysia thrives for years to come.

Let’s explore these key maintenance practices in more detail to help you keep your zoysia lawn looking its best throughout the seasons.


After planting zoysia grass, keep the soil consistently moist while avoiding overwatering to encourage spreading and establishment without soggy conditions. Water deeply 2-3 times per week during the growing season when warm temperatures promote growth.

Adjust the frequency based on rainfall to maintain moist soil without saturation, which can lead to root rot. Consider using wetting agent products to enhance water penetration. Transition to occasional deep watering 1-2 times per month after the grass is established to promote deeper rooting and drought resistance.

Proper irrigation strategies are key to healthy zoysia grass, especially when transplanting plugs or sprigs.


You’ll want to fertilize regularly to keep your zoysia lush, but be careful not to overdo it. Apply a starter fertilizer containing phosphorus after planting to stimulate root growth. Follow up monthly with a balanced fertilizer to feed the grass what it needs for establishment and spread.

Switch to 2-3 applications yearly once established. Time nitrogen for spring green-up and summer stress relief. Pair with a pre-emergent herbicide to control weeds without harming the turf. Consider foliar feeds, vertical cutting, and aerating for problem areas.

Proper nutrition keeps zoysia looking its best in warm climates across home lawns.


Your lawn’ll sport a manicured look as the blades steadily creep to fill bare patches. Mowing zoysia frequently when actively growing keeps the turf dense and healthy. Set mower height to 2-3 inches, cutting no more than 1/3 of the blade at a time.

Mow in different directions to avoid ruts. Leave grass clippings, which decompose and feed the lawn.

Adjust mowing to growth rate, scaling back when grass slows. Raise height going into winter dormancy and avoid mowing frozen zoysia.

Proper mowing practices enhance the beauty of this lush, soft grass.

Maximizing Spread

Maximizing Spread
To maximize how fast zoysia grass will spread across your lawn, focus on proper spacing when planting plugs and fostering ideal growing conditions. The experts recommend spacing zoysia plugs no more than 12 inches apart in a staggered pattern to encourage rapid lateral growth, and maintaining a consistent watering, mowing, and fertilization regimen tailored to zoysia’s needs.

Follow these best practices for proper plug spacing and cultivating healthy growth conditions, and you will achieve a full, thick zoysia lawn faster than you might have thought possible.

Proper Spacing

Let’s get your zoysia established quickly by planting the plugs close enough to accelerate the spread yet far enough apart for adequate growth.

  1. Space plugs 6-12 inches apart in a staggered row pattern to promote rapid fill-in.
  2. Plant in spring or early summer when soil temps reach 65°F for best root establishment.
  3. Consider your site’s growing conditions and adjust spacing – closer for full sun, farther apart in shade.

Proper plug spacing allows each plant room to grow while still spreading to connect with neighboring plugs. Monitor growth and fill in gaps with additional plugs as needed. Adjusting planting density for sunlight, soil type, and watering will ensure your zoysia fills in completely within a season or two to create a lush, resilient lawn.

Good Growing Conditions

Fertilize regularly and mow low, ya lazy bum, or that zoysia will take forever to spread. Keep the mowing height around 2 inches and fertilize every 4-6 weeks during the growing season with a balanced turf fertilizer.

This feeds those hungry zoysia roots and blades so they establish fast and spread quicker.

Prep the soil before planting by tilling in compost to improve drainage and nutrients. Give those plugs ample water 1-2 times a week, avoiding saturated soil that can rot roots. Plant in full sun, allowing at least 6 hours daily, so they photosynthesize energy and fill in your sparse lawn.

Don’t fret if growth seems slow at first, transplant shock is normal but soon your established zoysia plugs will creep steadily across your yard. Just be patient through the process and you’ll have a lush, weed-free lawn before you know it.

How Long Until Fully Established?

How Long Until Fully Established
It’ll take 2-3 years for zoysia to fully establish itself and fill in your lawn. This warm season grass is known for being extremely slow to grow and spread. But with proper care and patience, you can achieve a lush, full zoysia lawn over time.

Prepare the soil thoroughly before planting, removing debris and tilling amendments like compost into the top 4-6 inches.

Plant zoysia plugs during the peak growing season, mid spring through summer when soil temperatures are above 70°F.

Space plugs no more than 12 inches apart in a staggered pattern to accelerate spread.

During the first year, concentrate on fostering healthy plug growth by watering 1-2 times per week and mowing at 2 inches when the grass reaches 3 inches tall. Expect the plugs to spread out 1-2 inches per month, slowly knitting together. In year two, you’ll notice thicker growth and faster lateral spread as the zoysia becomes established.

By year three, you should have complete coverage barring any bare spots, which can be plugged.

Proper mowing, fertilization, and foot traffic control will ensure your zoysia thrives season after season. Don’t be discouraged by its slow start – with attentive care, zoysia will reward you with a lush, soft, resilient lawn for years to come.

Just be patient and keep fostering ideal growing conditions, and your zoysia will fill in before you know it.

Pros and Cons of Zoysia Grass

Pros and Cons of Zoysia Grass
You’d be amazed – it takes over 3 years for zoysia to fully establish itself in your yard. That long wait can really test your patience! Still, this warm season grass offers some nice benefits if you give it time.

For starters, zoysia forms a dense carpet of soft, resilient blades that stand up well to foot traffic. The thick mat squeezes out weeds and resists pests and diseases. Maintenance becomes easy once established since the grass stays green with less mowing, watering and care.

However, there are downsides to consider. Zoysia turns brown and goes dormant much of the year, leaving you with a straw-like lawn for months. It demands full sun to thrive and won’t tolerate heavy shade. Zoysia also requires more fertilizer to maintain its health and color.

And that lush growth can lead to excessive thatch buildup needing yearly dethatching.

Ultimately, zoysia works best for warm climates in the southern U.S. where the grass can sustain active growth over a longer season. If you have the patience to slowly establish zoysia and keep it actively growing with proper care like mowing, watering, and fertilization, it will reward you with a low-maintenance, drought-hardy lawn.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does zoysia grass spread in shady areas compared to full sun?

You’ll find zoysia spreads much more slowly in shady areas compared to full sun. The grass needs several hours of direct sunlight daily to spread via rhizomes and stolons. With less light, it grows more upright and produces fewer of the horizontal stems that allow it to fill in an area.

But with patience over 2-3 growing seasons, you can still achieve decent coverage in partial shade.

Does the speed of zoysia grass growth vary by cultivar or type?

Yes, zoysia grass cultivars have varying growth and spread rates. Meyer zoysia is one of the fastest spreading zoysias, while Emerald zoysia has a slower growth rate. Dense-bladed zoysias like Zeon and Geo spread more slowly than finer-textured types such as Empire.

Proper lawn care encourages healthy zoysia growth and spread, regardless of cultivar.

How much faster does zoysia fill in if you use sod instead of plugs or seed?

Installing zoysia sod offers the fastest fill compared to plugs or seed. A sodded lawn will establish full coverage in one growing season versus the 1-3 years it takes for seeded or plugged zoysia to spread and fill in completely.

What tricks can you use to accelerate the spread of zoysia grass?

Plant plugs close together, every 4-6 inches, to accelerate spread. Overseeding each spring also helps fill in bare spots faster. Fertilizing regularly during the growing season boosts lateral growth. Be patient though, as zoysia is slow-growing at first.

Mowing high, watering deeply, and promoting root development will help speed things up.

How soon after planting zoysia plugs can you walk on the lawn or allow pets on it?

Allow 4 weeks before walking lightly on your zoysia lawn. Impatient feet will crush the tender shoots before their roots establish. Waiting at least another month will keep Fido from tearing up your zoysia as it knits into a lush green carpet.


Zoysia grass can offer a beautiful, low-maintenance lawn when properly cared for and given time to establish. With the right conditions, zoysia plugs and sprigs will spread steadily to cover bare areas at a rate of 1-2 inches per month.

But a full lawn can take 1-3 growing seasons to fill in completely, depending on your climate.

Proper spacing, watering, fertilization, and mowing will ensure your zoysia plugs spread successfully. While zoysia has advantages like durability and weed resistance, the cons of slow growth, dormancy, and shade intolerance should be weighed.

With realistic expectations about establishment time, zoysia can make an attractive, resilient home lawn.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.