Native to Asia, Zoysia turfgrasses form a dense, uniform sod that is luxurious underfoot and to the eye. Zoysia can adapt to various climates, but performs best in the hot summers of the deep south. Developing a zoysia lawn to optimum levels of beauty requires considerable maintenance; however, choosing the right variety for the conditions can increase the chances of success.
This variety of Zoysia was introduced in the United States in 1951. Zoysia japonica grows somewhat faster than other varieties and is more cold-tolerant, but its light-green, coarse-textured sod is more susceptible to pests. Zoysia japonica, however, is the only variety that can establish from seed. A improvement to Zoysia japonica known as "Meyer" offers deep-green sod and medium leaf texture. It is the most cold-tolerant of the zoysia family, but less shade-tolerant than other varieties. Meyer also boasts the earliest green-up and latest browning of all the zoysia options.
Zoysia matrella, also known as Manila grass, offers a finer and denser lawn than the Zoysia japonica cultivars, but is less cold-tolerant. This variety, which bears a resemblance to Bermuda grass, spreads slowly, but when maintained properly, provides a high-quality turf. Zoysia matrella is highly susceptible to pests such as nematodes.
Zoysia tenuifolia tolerates heavy traffic, but needs the warm temperatures of the deep South to thrive. Zoysia tenuifolia has a very fine texture, but can become thatched and take on a "puffy" appearance.
Emerald Zoysia is a hybrid of Zoysia japonica and Zoysia tenuifolia, and represents the best attributes of both varieties, with a rich color, fine texture, density and a rapid spread rate. It is adapts to more conditions than Zoysia matrella, but isn't as cold-tolerant as Meyer zoysia. Emerald, like Zoysia tenuifolia, needs occasional dethatching to avoid a "puffy" look, and can fall victim to diseases like brown patch.