Popular for home lawns, athletic fields and golf courses, zoysia grass is a drought-tolerant, soil-adaptable, finely textured grass grown across the southern half of the United States. Spreading slowly with deep roots, zoysia grass turns beige in winter when dormant but is a pleasant jade to seafoam green in summer. Plant plugs, sod, sprigs or stolons to establish the lawn, and mow it consistently at a height of 1 to 2 inches to keep it looking its best.
So called because it was introduced into the United States in 1911 from the Philippines, Manila grass (Zoysia matrella) is a species native to seashore dunes in southeastern Asia. According to Texas A&M University, Manila grass is slow to establish and is planted from plant sprigs. This species is among the most tolerant of shade of all zoysia grasses and in full sun creates a thick carpet of fine blades.
Japanese Lawn Grass
The only species of zoysia that can be grown from seed according to Texas A&M University, Japanese lawn grass (Zoysia japonica) is the most cold-tolerant and most coarsely textured type. It was introduced into the U.S. in 1895. It is among the first to turn tan in the chill of autumn and the last to green-up in late spring. An improved variety named "Meyer" was developed in the 1940s and it widely used in regions where summers are too hot for cool-season turf grasses but too cold in winter for popular warm-season turf species. Meyer zoysia grass is not grown from seed but from plugs, sprigs and sod rolls.
The least tolerant of cold of all zoysia grasses, Korean grass (Zoysia tenuifolia) forms a low, fluffy-textured ground cover that looks nice even if never mowed. "Sunset Western Garden Book" mentions it looks like a bumpy moss carpet and good to plant in areas that are difficult to use a mower on or provide irrigation. This species is also extremely slow to spread, making it particularly important to have soil-free from competitive weed seedlings.
Emerald Zoysia Grass
In 1955, the genetic cross of Japanese lawn grass with Korean grass yielded a hybrid developed in Georgia named "Emerald." This grass displays the finely textured and dense foliage blades of Korean grass and carries the winter cold tolerance and faster growth rate of Japanese lawn grass. "Emerald" is similar to Manila grass and the cool-season turf bluegrass in appearance, according to "Sunset Western Garden Book." Generally speaking, variety "Emerald" is much more frost-tolerant than other zoysia grasses.