Because lawns add so much value to a home, and are somewhat expensive to install, it makes sense to plan before you plant so that you choose the right lawn for your home. Cool season grasses are those that withstand cold winters, but don't do well in hot, dry summers. Subtropical grasses, on the other hand, thrive in hot weather and go dormant and turn brown in cold weather, returning to green again in the spring.
Cool Season Grasses
Bent grasses make the picture-perfect lawns you see in magazines. They have fine leaves that are more or less bent, with colonial bents more erect and creeping bents, which requiring less maintenance, less bent. Both types of bent grasses require high maintenance, with careful attention to mowing, feeding, watering and pest and disease control.
Fine fescues, with their rolled leaves resembling tiny needles, are somewhat more tolerant of dry soil conditions and shade than bent or bluegrass grasses. Fescues will become clumpy without the addition of other seeds. Coarse fescues have wide leaves, are very tough and durable and are used primarily on football fields and lawns requiring maximum hardiness.
Bluegrass is actually a mix of different unnamed seeds. They have dark green leaves and grow best in cooler weather. All bluegrass are susceptible to insects and disease, but are hardier than bent grasses. In hot summer areas, bluegrass can tolerate some shade.
Rye grasses look a lot like bluegrass, but with pointed tips on the leaves. You'll find perennial rye in large percentages in most grass lawn blends. It's easy to grow but can be clumpy and is not cold hardy.
Though slow to become established, zoysia grasses are a fine textured grass that has few weeds and is very resistant to insects and disease. They generally have a long dormant season.
St. Augustine grass is a coarse textured grass with dark green, wide leaves. It is hardy, durable and virtually pest free. It has a shorter dormant season than zoysia and will tolerate shade.
Bermuda grass spreads easily, so it can cover your lawn quickly. However, that same spreading habit is a nightmare if Bermuda finds its way into your flower beds, as its deep roots make it very difficult to remove. Like all subtropical grasses, Bermuda does require sun and does turn brown in the winter. A build up of thatch is sometimes a problem.
New hybrid Bermuda grasses appear periodically. They are finer in texture than regular Bermuda and have a brighter green color. With fertilizing, some will stay green throughout the winter.
Dichondra can be planted as plugs for sod or from seed. It grows best where winters stay about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Dichondra will grow in sun or shade and is durable in heavily used areas. It is naturally low growing, but will reach 6 inches with fertilizing.