Lawn grasses are categorized into three different groups, including cool season, warm season and transition. The grass types contained in each group have their own climate preferences and growing abilities according to temperatures. The U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the United States into 11 different climatic zones, based on each zone's minimum annual temperatures. The zones range from the coldest regions to the hottest.
Zones 1 and 2
USDA Hardiness zones 1 and 2 comprise of the southern reaches of Canada, Alaska and a small part of northern Minnesota. These are the coldest zones in the United States, with minimum winter temperatures falling below -45 degrees Fahrenheit. The most appropriate grass type for zones 1 and 2 are bluegrasses. No other common lawn grasses will survive in these extremely cold regions. Bluegrass seeds are best planted in February through May, or September through November to create a low-maintenance, medium- to fine-textured lawn.
USDA Zone 3 (minimum temperatures of -30 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit) includes small northernmost portions of Maine, Vermont, New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Montana, as well as most of North Dakota and small, high-elevation parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho. The best grass types for Zone 3 are bluegrasses, perennial ryegrass and creeping red fescue. Perennial ryegrass creates a medium-textured, low-maintenance lawn, while creeping red fescue is a fine-textured grass with moderate maintenance demands.
USDA Hardiness Zone 4 (-20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit) encompasses the middle regions of Maine and New York, most of New Hampshire, Vermont, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin, the northern half of Iowa and Nebraska, the northernmost tip of Michigan, large parts of Colorado and Idaho, as well as small mountainous areas of New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon. Grass types that grow well in Zone 4 include the cool-season grasses bent grass, bluegrasses, tall fescue, creeping red fescue and perennial ryegrass. Bent grass is fine-textured, but high-maintenance, and it is mostly used for golf courses. Tall fescue is a medium-textured grass with moderate care needs.
Zones 5 and 6
USDA zones 5 and 6 (0 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit) include the southern parts of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska, the lower-elevation portions of Colorado, most of inland Washington and Oregon, most of Nevada and Utah, northern Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as all of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The best grasses for zones 5 and 6 include bent grass, bluegrass, tall fescue, creeping red fescue, buffalo grass, perennial ryegrass and zoysia grass. The only caveat is that zoysia grasses aren't appropriate for the northernmost parts of Zone 5. Unlike the other grasses, zoysia is a warm-season grass that is medium- to fine-textured and high-maintenance.
Zone 7 (0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit) includes most of Virginia and North Carolina, southern parts of Tennessee, Oklahoma and New Mexico, northern South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas, as well as small areas of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. The best grass types for Zone 7 include zoysia grass, buffalo grass, creeping red fescue, tall fescue, centipede grass, Pensacola Bahia grass and Bermuda grass. Centipede and Pensacola Bahia grasses create medium-textured, low-maintenance lawns, while Bermuda grass is fine-textured with a moderate maintenance level. Buffalo grass is fine-textured and low-maintenance.
USDA Hardiness Zone 8 (10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit) includes coastal North Carolina, South Carolina, New Mexico, Washington and Oregon, southern Nevada, Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Texas, most of Louisiana, northern Florida, as well as many parts of California. Grasses that grow well in Zone 8 are Pensacola and Argentine Bahia grasses, Bermuda grass, carpet grass, centipede grass, buffalo grass, St. Augustine grass and zoysia grass. Argentine Bahia grass is coarse- to medium-textured and low-maintenance, while Bermuda grass is fine-textured with a moderate care level. Carpet grass is medium-textured, low-maintenance and best for wetter lawn areas. St. Augustine grass is coarse with a moderate care level, and it is usually only grown from sod, not seed.
Zones 9 and 10
Zones 9 and 10 (20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit) include most of California, southern Arizona, the southernmost parts of Texas and Louisiana, most of Florida, as well as parts of Hawaii. The best grasses for these zones are Pensacola and Argentine Bahia grasses, Bermuda grass, carpet grass (Zone 9 only), centipede grass, St. Augustine grass and zoysia grass.
Zone 11 (40 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer) includes nearly all parts of the Hawaiian islands. The best grass choices for Zone 11 are the Pensacola and Argentine Bahia grasses.