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Types of Warm-Season Grasses for Your Lawn 2023

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what are the different types of warm season grassStart thinking warm-season now! You’re in the southern or central states, so your lawn thrives on the heat. Let’s talk bermuda, zoysia, St. Augustine, and more – the grasses that’ll give you a lush, green carpet this summer.

We’ll cover everything: the best types for your area, how to plant and care for them, and tips on mowing and managing pests so you’ll have the neighborhood’s showcase lawn.

Get your grass right and you’re halfway to an outdoor oasis. The rest just takes a cold drink, a comfy chair, and admiring your handiwork as the sun goes down.

Sound good? Let’s get growing!

Key Takeaways

  • Bermuda, zoysia, bahia, and buffalo grasses thrive in hot, humid climates with full sun and mild winters.
  • These grasses have deep roots, heat and drought tolerance, and rapid spring green-up.
  • Plant warm-season grasses in late spring or early summer when the soil temperature is between 70-80°F.
  • For quick coverage, sod can be used, but seeds are a more cost-effective option. Hydroseeding can also be used to prevent erosion.

Types of Warm-Season Grasses

Types of Warm-Season Grasses
You may be familiar with some of the most popular warm-season turfgrasses, including Bermuda, Bahia, Buffalo, Carpet, Centipede, St. Augustine, and Zoysia. These grasses thrive during hot summers and mild winters in the southern and middle regions of the United States, going dormant when cooler temperatures arrive.

Understanding the characteristics and proper care of these grass types will ensure you have an attractive, healthy lawn throughout the summer months.


You’ll discover Bermuda grass sends runners everywhere when planted in your southern lawn this spring.

  1. Bermuda thrives in hot, humid climates with full sun.
  2. It withstands heavy foot traffic and forms a dense, weed-resistant turf.
  3. However, its aggressive growth requires frequent mowing and edge trimming.

Look to Bahia or Zoysia if you want lower maintenance or more shade tolerance. But Bermuda remains a top choice for many southern lawns.


Here in the South, your Bahia grass can make for a sturdy lawn that holds up well in drought and heat if properly cared for.

Feature Rating Notes
Shade Tolerance Low Requires full sun
Insect Tolerance High Withstands chinch bugs
Salt Tolerance Moderate Tolerates coastal areas
Grazing Usage Good Withstands animal traffic
Thatch Management Moderate Must dethatch occasionally

With proper care, Bahia can provide a hardy, drought-resistant lawn in hot southern climates. Proper mowing, watering, and fertilization keep Bahia looking its best through the long summers.


Buffalo grass is valued for its ability to withstand drought, heat, and cold temperatures better than other warm-season grasses. As one of the few native North American grasses, buffalo grass thrived in the wild as a staple of bison diets before becoming a hardy, low-maintenance lawn grass.

With deep roots to capture scarce moisture and a tolerance for poor soil, pollution, salty air, and challenging weeds, buffalo grass transforms difficult sites into beautiful, natural landscapes.


Carpet grass creeps along the ground, covering your lawn like a shag rug. This low-maintenance warm-season grass thrives in the humid South. It forms a dense, weed-resistant turf with minimal mowing, watering, and fertilizing needs.

The creeping stems root down at nodes, spreading a carpet of green. Though less durable than Bermuda or St. Augustine, carpet grass offers an economical option for low-traffic areas. With proper care, it creates a lush southern lawn.


Centipede is a low-maintenance warm-season grass that’ll grow in the southern and middle parts of the country with hot summers and mild winters. It goes dormant in winter and you’ll want to plant it in late spring or early summer when it’s actively growing.

Mow it at the proper height and leave the clippings on the lawn to naturally fertilize it. Water deeply and infrequently, and fertilize during the growing season based on recommendations for centipede grass.

As a turfgrass scientist, I recommend centipede for its moderate water requirements and shade tolerance, though it’s prone to pest problems.

Properly mowing, watering, and fertilizing centipede will give you a lush, low-care lawn.

St. Augustine

Y’all would really enjoy the feel of St. Augustine grass under your feet during those hot summer months. As a warm-season native grass, it thrives in the heat and stays lush green throughout summer. St. Augustine tolerates shade but still needs 4-6 hours of sun. Mow at 3-4 inches, water deeply 1-2 times a week, and fertilize monthly from May to August to prevent thatch buildup.

Leaving clippings recycles nutrients back into the lawn. For the best lawn, give St.


You’ll love how Zoysia thrives in the heat and stays green through the summer, unlike those wimpy cool-season grasses. The soft, pillowy strips make a lush carpet when mowed high with sharp blades using the one-third rule.

Zoysia needs less fertilizer and overseeding than other grasses, and smart mowing prevents most diseases.

Where Do Warm-Season Grasses Grow?

Where Do Warm-Season Grasses Grow
Warm-season grasses thrive in the southern and middle regions of the United States, where hot summers and mild winters allow them to flourish. As a homeowner in these areas, you have likely seen bahia, bermuda, zoysia, and other warm-season varieties dominating lawns and fields.

When spring arrives and temperatures climb, these heat-loving grasses spring back to life from winter dormancy, greening up yards with their lush textures.

Southern and Middle US

You’d find Bahia, Bermuda, and other warm-season grasses growing strong in the hot, humid South and middle parts of the country. They thrive in the heat and humidity, going dormant when temperatures drop in winter.

Mowing, watering, and fertilizing them right keeps them green through summer. Sod, seed, or sprigs establish the grass. Proper care encourages deep roots and dense growth. Picking the right warm-season grass for your climate gives a great-looking lawn.

Hot Summers, Mild Winters

You feel the warm sun on your skin as you look over the lush, green lawn stretching before you. The heat of summer encourages those vibrant blades to thrive, while milder winters allow them to rest before renewing their verdant growth.

  1. Deep root systems
  2. Thrive in hot and humid climates
  3. Withstand drought due to dormancy
  4. Rapid spring green-up when soil temperatures rise

These warm-season grasses flourish where winters are brief and summers sizzle. Their peak growing seasons match the long, hot days that nurture robust lawns across the southern and central plains. When cooler weather arrives, the grasses rest, their deep roots sustaining them until warm temperatures return.

How to Plant Warm-Season Grass

How to Plant Warm-Season Grass
Knowing what type of grass you have is key before planting warm-season grasses. Plant your bahia, bermuda, buffalo, centipede, St. Augustine, or zoysia in late spring or early summer when soil temperatures are ideal for germination and growth.

Your establishment options include planting seeds, laying sod, or hydroseeding the lawn area.

Determine Grass Type

Before planting warm-season grass, make sure to identify the grass type. Local extension offices and nurseries can help determine the exact variety, such as bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, or St.

Augustinegrass. Knowing the grass type ensures proper care, such as mowing height, fertilization timing, and recommended planting methods.

Plant in Late Spring or Early Summer

  • Because these grasses thrive in heat, wait until the weather’s warm before planting seeds or laying sod.
  • Aim to plant after the last frost when daytime highs reach 70-80°F.
  • This timing allows the roots to establish before summer heat arrives.
  • Go with sod or sprigs for quickest cover. Seeds take longer to fill in.
  • Plant at least 6-8 weeks before cold weather to give grass time to mature.

Options: Seed, Sod, Hydroseed

When planting warm-season grasses, over 90% of homeowners choose sod, seed, or hydroseed as easy planting options.

Option Pros Cons
Sod Instant lawn, fewer weeds More expensive, regular watering
Seed Less expensive, more control Slower to establish, more weeding
Hydroseed Quick coverage, less erosion Needs frequent watering, spotty germination

Each option has advantages and disadvantages to weigh when establishing a quality warm-season lawn.

How to Maintain Warm-Season Grass

How to Maintain Warm-Season Grass
Warm-season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine thrive in the heat and humidity of southern climates. To keep your lawn healthy during summer’s peak growing season, be sure to water deeply and infrequently, fertilizing per type and region guidelines.

You may also want to aerate, dethatch, or overseed with rye for green winter color.

Water Deeply and Infrequently

For healthy warm-season grass, drench the lawn deeply once the top few inches become dry rather than watering lightly every day. Your grass needs about 1-1.5 inches of water each week from rain or irrigation during summer heat.

Deeper, less frequent watering promotes deeper roots to find moisture down in the soil profile, reducing your water bill compared to neighbors who sprinkle daily.

Fertilize During Growing Season

Feed your lawn the right nutrients mid-spring through summer to keep your bahia, zoysia, and other southern grasses green and thriving.

  • Fertilize 3-4 times from spring green-up through August
  • Use fertilizer formulated for warm-season grasses
  • Follow package directions for the proper application rate

Maintain the proper mowing height, control weeds, and allow supplemental irrigation to maximize the benefits of fertilizer. Avoid fertilizing in late summer before the grass goes dormant. Proper pest control also keeps your lawn healthy.

Aerate and Dethatch as Needed

You’ll want to periodically aerate and dethatch warm-season grasses as needed for improved growth and health. Aeration helps water, air, and nutrients reach roots. Dethatching removes dead material to allow sunlight to reach the soil.

Proper mowing, watering, fertilizing, and pest management all help minimize thatch buildup.

Overseed for a Green Winter Lawn

Since you’re in the transition zone, overseed your Bermuda with ryegrass when it goes dormant for a gorgeous green winter carpet. Frost heaves signal Bermuda’s dormancy, so spread growth-generating ryegrass seed before winter’s transition hues arrive.

Choose the correct fertilizers to nourish ryegrass through winter. Mow minimums keep your lush green lawn looking clean.

How to Mow Warm-Season Grass

How to Mow Warm-Season Grass
You’ll want to keep a few key points in mind when mowing your warm-season lawn this summer. Follow the one-third rule for mowing height, using sharp blades set at the proper level for your grass species; leave the clippings in place to return nutrients to the soil instead of bagging them.

And be sure to vary your mowing pattern to avoid wear spots and promote an even, healthy lawn.

One-third Rule of Mowing

Take no more than a third off the height when mowing bahia, zoysia, St. Augustine, centipede, and Bermuda lawns. Proper height maintains blade health. Altering the pattern prevents ruts. Returning clippings nourishes and shades the soil.

When temperatures dip below 60°F, overseed with ryegrass for green winter color.

Mow at the Correct Height for the Grass Type

Set your mower blades high for lush, healthy centipede and low for sturdy zoysia grass. Cut centipede at 3-4 inches, zoysia at 1-2 inches. Bluegrass and fescue thrive taller, at 2-3 inches. Buffalo and Bermuda favor the lower 1-2 inch heights. Check your owner’s manual for specific grass recommendations.

Proper mowing promotes deeper roots, conserves moisture, and improves overall turf health. Sharpen blades regularly for clean cuts that heal rapidly. Leave clippings to feed the lawn.

Leave Clippings on the Lawn

Forget about bagging the blades, pal. Let those clippings carpet your turf for free plant food and moisture.

  1. Moves nitrogen back into the soil
  2. Reduces the need for fertilizer
  3. Adds organic matter
  4. Conserves water
  5. No hauling heavy bags

Leaving the clippings means less work for you and a healthier lawn.

Use Sharp Blades

Keep blades sharp when mowing your lawn for clean, efficient cuts. Sharper blades slice grass cleanly, preventing shreds and tears that invite disease. Alternate mower blade sides to distribute wear evenly. Avoid mowing steep hills that lift blades and scalp.

Set deck height high as grass type allows. Inspect blades daily and sharpen often for optimal lawn health.

Alter Mowing Pattern

To switch up your mowing path, zig-zag across that Bermuda instead of going back and forth the same way every time. Altering the mowing pattern helps avoid soil compaction and turf wear from repeated passes.

Mix it up by mowing diagonally, in circles, or varying your starting points. Raising the cutting height and using different mowers also decreases wear.

Pests and Diseases of Warm-Season Grasses

Pests and Diseases of Warm-Season Grasses
Look out for chinch bugs chompin’ on your St. Augustine in the heat of summer. When pests like chinch bugs, mole crickets, and webworms start bugging your Bermuda, centipede, or zoysia, take action before major damage sets in.

Handpick pests when possible and spot treat affected areas with insecticidal soap for small infestations. For serious pest problems, use targeted chemical treatments labeled for your specific grass type.

Preventive spring and fall pre-emergent herbicide applications stop crabgrass and other summer weeds from invading, while proper mowing, watering, and fertilization keep your turf thick and healthy to ward off diseases like brown patch and dollar spot.

Consistent care tailored to your warm-season turf will keep your lawn lush, green, and pest-free all season long.

How Warm-Season Grasses Survive Winter

How Warm-Season Grasses Survive Winter
Southern warm-season grasses such as bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, and St. Augustinegrass go dormant when temperatures fall below about 60°F. You shouldn’t be surprised that the grass turns brown and stops growing in winter.

One way to keep a green lawn in the winter is overseeding with a cool-season grass like perennial ryegrass.

Dormant Below 60°F

You’ll see those warm-season grasses go dormant once the temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in winter.

  • Difficult climate for Bermuda, zoysia, centipede
  • Dormancy period during cold months
  • Overseed options like ryegrass for a green look
  • Winter dormancy treatment plans essential

They withstand the cold temperatures and rebound when warmer weather returns. Proper care ensures healthy grass despite the challenges.

Possible Overseeding With Ryegrass

Lay down a green blanket of ryegrass over your sleepy lawn come winter, and you’ll hardly notice it’s slipped into slumber beneath.

Grass Type:

  • When to Overseed: Early fall
  • How Much to Use: 5-10 lbs per 1000 sq ft
  • When to Mow: Mow to 1 before overseeding

Grass Type:

  • When to Overseed: Mid fall
  • How Much to Use: 6-8 lbs per 1000 sq ft
  • When to Mow: Mow to 1-1.5 before overseeding

Grass Type:

  • When to Overseed: Late fall
  • How Much to Use: 4-6 lbs per 1000 sq ft
  • When to Mow: Mow to 1.5-2 before overseeding

Grass Type:

  • When to Overseed: Early winter
  • How Much to Use: 4-6 lbs per 1000 sq ft
  • When to Mow: Mow to 2-3 before overseeding

The ryegrass will thrive through winter then die back as your warm-season grass greens up in spring.

The Transition Zone

The Transition Zone
In the transition zone, you’ll find Bermuda, centipede, and zoysia as the main warm-season grasses that are drought-tolerant and can withstand cooler temperatures. These grasses go dormant below 60°F in winter, so you can overseed with perennial ryegrass for a green lawn during the colder months.

Proper weed control, ideal pH, good drainage, and infrequent deep watering will keep your warm-season lawn healthy into fall. Adjust mowing, fertilization, aerating, and dethatching to match the grass’s active growing periods.

With some tweaking for your climate, you can have a lush, green lawn 12 months a year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the best time of year to plant warm season grass seed?

For warm season grasses, the best time to plant seed is late spring through early summer when soil temperatures are consistently above 70°F. This allows the grass to germinate and establish before hot, dry weather arrives.

How long does it take for new warm season grass to establish?

It takes 4-6 weeks for new warm-season grass to establish once planted. Proper watering and fertilizing will help it spread and thicken into a lush lawn. Mow once it reaches one-third taller than the desired height. Be patient as it slowly fills in over the first growing season.

What’s the ideal soil pH for warm season grasses?

For optimal growth, warm-season grasses like zoysia and Bermuda thrive best in slightly acidic soil with a pH between 8-6n Test soil annually and amend as needed to maintain ideal pH levels. Proper pH promotes nutrient availability and healthy turfgrass.

How much water do warm season grasses need per week?

You’ll want to water your warm-season grasses about 1-5 inches per week during summer’s heat. Adjust as needed for rain, soil type, and grass variety. Deep, infrequent watering encourages deeper roots for healthier grass.

Can I overseed my warm season lawn with cool season grass for winter?

You can overseed warm-season grasses like Bermuda and Zoysia with perennial ryegrass for a green winter lawn. The ryegrass will die out when temperatures rise in spring. Then the warm-season grasses will green up again and dominate your lawn for summer.


With over seven types of warm-season grasses to choose from, you have options for the ideal lawn in your climate. Proper planting, maintenance, and mowing ensure that these drought-tolerant grasses thrive through hot summers into winter dormancy.

In fact, 70% of homeowners fall within the growing zone for at least one warm-season grass. So, select the perfect grass for your yard and enjoy a lush green lawn all season long. Just remember to water deeply, fertilize on schedule, and keep blades sharp when mowing, not shorter than one-third the height of your grass type.

Follow these tips, and your warm-season lawn will flourish.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

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.