The Types of Turfgrass

Many different species of perennial grasses are used for yard lawns, golf courses or athletic fields. Soil, climate and availability of water combine to help determine which turfgrass is the best choice for any tract of land. Cool-season grasses grow well and remain greenest in cool weather months, and warm-season grasses often go tan and dormant in the chilly to cold winter months. Warm-season grasses are usually only grown in the Southern half of the continental United States.


Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) displays a fine to medium leaf texture and is dark green in color. It prospers in moist, fertile soils and in abundant sunshine. It is tolerant of winter cold and tends to brown and stop growing when there is drought or excessive heat. It is a cool-season grass best grown in the Northern United States or Canada and montane regions.


Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) are both cool-season, finely textured grasses; only perennial ryegrass returns each year as a consistent foliage carpet. Annual ryegrass is often seeded into warm-season lawns to provide winter green color while the dormant lawn naturally turns tan. All ryegrasses are best in moist soils and cool temperatures but in bright sunlight. Hot temperatures lead to diseases, and too much shade makes plants scrawny.


Both "tall type" and "creeping" fescues (Festuca spp.) make good cool-season lawns. More shade tolerant than bluegrass or ryegrass, fescues can become weak and brown if soil moisture is limited. Excessive summertime heat and drought can kill plants, requiring reseeding in autumn. Often fescue seed is blended with those of bluegrass and ryegrass to make a more resilient lawn composition.

Bermuda Grass

Fast growing, Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) can be grown from seed and spreads via running stems and underground rhizome roots. It is extremely drought tolerant, appreciates hot summers, tolerates lots of foot traffic and even coastal sea spray. It is so tenacious that it is sometimes a weedy intruder into flower beds, when it is called wiregrass or devilgrass. This turfgrass is grown in the Southern United States.

Centipede Grass

Low growing and often presentable even if never mowed, centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) has a light green color and grows more slowly but with similar means like the Bermuda grass. Centipede grass is not regarded as a weed, though. It is a low-maintenance turfgrass for Southern landscapes, but if you incorrectly water, fertilize or mow (mismanage) this type of lawn, it definitely will look awful.

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass (Zoysia spp.) grows slowly, and all but one species of it cannot be started from seed. It forms a dense lawn and is drought and heat tolerant, best for the American South and Inter-mountain West. If over-fertilized or mowed at too tall of a height, it produces a thatch mat that can deteriorate the look and health of the lawn. Varieties "Meyer" and "Emerald" are widely grown in the United States.

St. Augustine Grass

Also called Charleston grass, St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is a coarse-textured warm-season turfgrass that tolerates sea salt spray. It spreads into a mat via stem runners. Not tolerant to chilly winter temperatures, it is used mainly in subtropical regions or along the Gulf Coast where winters are short and mild. It appreciates soil moisture in summer heat and can become bald or thatch-like if improperly mowed too short or abruptly after growing tall.

Buffalo Grass

Native to the American West, Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) uses little water and fertilizer. It's gray-green, finely textured blades do not handle foot traffic well and remains in a long winter dormancy when it is tan in color. This warm-season grass is rather expensive to establish although cheap to maintain according to the University of California, Davis.

Carpet Grass

Not particularly nice in turf quality, carpet grass (Azonopus affinis) is the perfect grass to use in soils that are acidic in pH and soggy wet most of the year according the "Gardening in the Carolinas." If a ground cover is needed to prevent erosion or broad-leaf weed patches, use this species.

Keywords: turf grass species, types of lawns, lawn grasses

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.