Different Types Of Grass: Identifying Your Lawn's Grass Type

There are about a dozen different grasses, and most lawns contain a mixture of them. Find yours.

Although the grass may be greener on your side of the fence (if not, here’s help with that), turfgrasses are not all alike.

That, says our resident lawn and garden expert Ashton Ritchie, is why some yards are brown in winter and some are green.

One of the best examples of different grass types can be found on a golf course or playing field. Look closely and you’ll notice that the turf in some areas is markedly different in color and texture than other areas.

There are about a dozen different grasses, and most lawns contain a mixture of them. In some cases, like dichondra, your lawns may not be a grass at all. Usually, though, lawns fall into one of these two types:

  1. Warm season grasses that thrive in warm-weather regions, such as the Southern United States.
  2. Cool season grasses that do best with extreme temperature fluctuations, such as those found in the North, Northeast, and Pacific Northwest.

It’s important to know your grass type so you can take the best possible care of your lawn. For example, if you pick a Northern weed control for a Southern lawn, you could actually harm it and then, yikes, you’ve got a problem, Houston.

Scroll through these types of lawns to find yours.

Cool Season: Kentucky Bluegrass | Tall Fescue | Ryegrass | Fine Fescue | Bentgrass

Warm Season: Bermudagrass | St. Augustine/Floratam | Zoysiagrass | Centipedegrass

Other (Cool): Bluegrass/Rye/Fescue

Other (Warm): Dichondra

Cool Season Grass Types

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass is one of the most popular types in the North. It has a deep, green color and excellent texture. It grows well from seed, and is a popular choice for sod farms in the North. It grows from a very extensive system of rhizomes, underground stems that produce new plants. However, it does not grow well in deep shade.

Blade: V-shaped, pointed, 1/8" wide

Color/Texture: Darker green, soft

Growth: Aggresive, via rhizomes

Water: Average

Popularity: Northern favorite, sod farms

Tall Fescue

Typically a cool-season type, tall fescue can also be found in hotter regions due to its ability to tolerate heat. It is a bunchgrass often used in athletic fields because it can withstand heavy use and foot traffic. In some lawns, patches of tall fescue may stick out and appear as a grassy weed. It grows in bunches, and is therefore not used very often in seed mixes.

Blade: Pointed, visible veins, 3/16” wide

Color/Texture: Dark green, coarse, stiff

Growth: Clumps

Water: Frequent

Popularity: All regions

Ryegrass

Ryegrass is easy to spot in a lawn due to its shine. Also, it leaves a "whitish" cast when mowed. It is a bunchgrass, which germinates quickly and is often found in seed mixtures with Kentucky bluegrass. It is primarily found in cool-season areas of the North, but may not survive as far north as Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Canada.

Blade: Pointed, visible veins, 1/8” wide

Color/Texture: Dark green, soft

Growth: Quick, bunch type

Water: Average

Popularity: Mid- to North U.S.

Fine Fescue

The name "fine fescue" is actually a collective term for the various species of grasses in this group: red, chewings, hard, and sheep. Like the name implies, they are very fine textured with needle-like blades. Fine fescues are popular because of their shade tolerance. However, they do not tolerate heat and dry conditions.

Blade: Hair-like, fine tip, 1/16” or less

Color/Texture: Dull or gray-green, soft

Growth: Fast

Water: Above average

Popularity: Northeast to North Central U.S. (depending on species)

Bentgrass

Bentgrass can be found on most golf courses in the Northern U.S. It can be mowed as low as 1/10" and makes an ideal surface for putting greens and fairways. Even when mowed very low, it forms a dense turf with a very fine-textured feel. The costs to maintain a home lawn of bentgrass can be very costly due to the fungicides, insecticides, fertilizer, and expensive mowing equipment it requires. It also needs frequent watering - almost daily. Unlike other Northern types, it grows by an extensive production of stolons (above ground).

Blade: Narrow, flat

Color/Texture: Soft, dense

Growth: Low, 1/10"

Water: Frequently

Popularity: Northern golf courses

Warm Season Grass Types

Bermudagrass

Bermudagrass makes for a nice home lawn because it can tolerate a very low mowing height, which is also a reason it is widely used on golf courses in the South. It spreads by both stolons (above ground) and rhizomes (below ground), which helps it to form a thick, dense turf. It is usually found in the South, but may grow as far north as Kansas City. Its maintenance requirements (fertilizing, watering, mowing) are high.

Blade: Sharp, pointed, 1/8” wide

Color/Texture: Deep green, dense

Growth: Close cut, high quality

Water: Frequently

Popularity: Central U.S.

St. Augustine/Floratam

St. Augustine grass is best suited to warm-arid regions such as Florida and the Gulf Coast region. Occasionally, it will be found in areas of California. It is not at all tolerant of cold temperatures, and requires plenty of moisture for survival. It is a very coarse-textured type that grows via above-ground stolons that can reach several feet. It has very broad blades compared to other grasses, with a rounded tip. It is often referred to as "Floratam," which is a variety of St. Augustine grass.

Blade: Broad with rounded tip, 1/4” wide

Color/Texture: Dark green, coarse, spongy

Growth: Slow, from sod or plugs

Water: Frequent

Popularity: Southern favorite

Zoysiagrass

Zoysiagrass forms a lawn that feels like a thick, prickly carpet. Zoysia is found mostly in and from the middle part of the U.S. and east toward the Carolinas. It can also be found in the North, but will turn brown once the weather turns cold. It is very slow-growing—it can take more than a year to establish a lawn of zoysia grass. It has stiff leaf blades and will produce numerous seed heads if it isn't mowed.

Blade: Narrow, needle-like

Color/Texture: Prickly, stiff, carpet-like

Growth: Slow

Water: Average

Popularity: Mid U.S., East to the Carolinas

Centipedegrass

Centipedegrass spreads above the ground through stolons and forms a dense turf. Because it grows horizontally, it requires less mowing and is easy to edge around garden beds and sidewalks. It is found throughout the warm-humid areas of the South. It does not grow well in hot, dry areas and will die if not supplied with adequate moisture. However, it requires less fertilizer than other warm-season types.

Carpet grass, while a very different species, needs the same care and looks very similar in a lawn to centipede except that it produces a crabgrass-like seed head, and does not have hairs along the edges of the leaves.

Blade: Pointed with notch

Color/Texture: Light green, dense, soft

Growth: Grows low, almost horizontal to the ground

Water: Less than average; will go dormant quickly during a drought

Popularity: Southeast U.S.

Other (Cool)

Bluegrass/Rye/Fescue

The majority of Northern lawns are a combination of Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescues. Kentucky bluegrass will form the nicest lawn, but it has a very low shade tolerance. Ryegrass can tolerate heavy foot traffic, but does not tolerate extreme cold or drought conditions. Fescues (both tall and fine) are often found in mixes due to their tolerance of shade, foot traffic, cold, and drought. When combined correctly, these types will form a dense turf that is acceptable for most Northern lawns in the U.S.

Blade: Thin, tall

Color/Texture: Soft with coarse mix, dense

Growth: Average to tall, via rhizomes

Water: Average

Popularity: Most Northern lawns

Other (Warm)

Dichondra

Mainly found in California and Arizona, dichondra is often used for home lawns since it can be mowed like grass, and it forms a pleasing, dense turf. The leaves spread opposite of each other along creeping stems. It requires a constant supply of fertilizer, and is often attacked by insects and diseases.

Blade: Round leaves

Color/Texture: Pale to bright green, dense

Growth: Broadleaf species; mow like grass

Water: Frequently

Popularity: Arizona & California

For more information and related articles, visit our grass and grass seed section.

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