Native to the Orient, zoysiagrass produces a beautiful, dense turf for home lawns and golf courses. Zoysiagrass is a warm-season grass, which means it grows best during peak summer temperatures. A few varieties of zoysiagrass establish by seed, but most start vegetatively by plugs or sprigs, and so require two to three years to cover a lawn, according to the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service. The grass spreads by stems called rhizomes and stolens and frequently develops thatch, which requires renovation if not managed.
Zoysia japonica, also called Japanese or Korean lawn grass, develops a coarse, light green turf. Zoysia japonica grows fast, demonstrates cold tolerance and is the only species that establishes from seed. The species is susceptible to billbug and nematode damage and does not produce the same quality lawn as improved selections.
Meyer zoysia, also known as Amazoy, represents the improved variety of Zoysia japonica released in 1951. Heavy advertisement in magazines and newspapers billed Meyer as a "miracle grass." Meyer's deep green color and medium leaf texture still set the standard for zoysiagrasses. It is the first zoysiagrass to propagate vegetatively, the first to turn green in spring and the most cold tolerant.
Zoysia matrella, or Manilagrass, produces a dark green turf that resembles Bermuda grass. Zoysia matrella requires more maintenance and establishes slowly. The grass is not as cold hardy as Zoysia japonica, but it forms a dense lawn with a finer leaf texture. It is highly susceptible to nematode damage.
Zoysia tenuifolia produces a dense, medium-green grass considered the finest-textured of all zoysiagrasses. The grass spreads slowly and so requires less frequent mowing. The Zoysia tenuifolia species develops excessive thatch and emerges in mounds, which gives a puffy appearance to a lawn. For this reason, the species is not recommended for lawn turf, but it serves as a garden groundcover.
The hybrid Emerald zoysiagrass combines the cold hardiness and rapid establishment of Zosia japonica with the fine texture and density of Zoysia tenuifolia. Emerald zoysiagrass replicates the dark-green color of Manilagrass, but it spreads faster and demonstrates greater adaptation. The Emerald variety tends to be susceptible to dollar and leaf spot and brown patch diseases.
El Toro zoysiagrass is an improved selection of Zoysia japonica that looks like the Meyer variety. El Toro possesses a coarse texture and grows two to three times faster than other zoysiagrass varieties. It retains color longer in cooler temperatures and develops less thatch. It turns green early in spring and resists rust diseases.