Empire zoysia grass has a medium-fine blade that is not winter hardy; it browns over the winter. Grasses used in Florida, including zoysia, brown once the temperatures reach 45 degrees F or below. Often zoysia is overseeded with rye during winter, so the lawns are green then. Zoysia is hardy and tolerates dry, arid conditions and salt well, so it is often the grass of choice in Florida and other southern states.
If you just planted seed or sodded, your zoysia seed or sod must be kept moist for at least two weeks to give the seeds time to germinate and root, or for the sod to root. Once the lawn is established, water once a week as needed, making sure your lawn gets at least 1 inch of water per week. Watering encourages deep root growth and a healthy lawn.
For the first mowing, wait three to five weeks or until the height of the grass reaches approximately 3 inches. Zoysia should be mowed at 1 to 2 inches in full sun and to approximately 2 inches in shady areas. Be sure the mower blades are sharp for the proper cut; dull blades cause scalping.
Diseases and Pests
Certain zoysia varieties are prone to dollar spot, brown patch, rust and leaf spot. If you notice any of these diseases in your lawn, obtain the proper fungicide from a local nursery for the specific disease.
Pests also attack zoysia lawns. Common pests include nematodes, crickets and moles. Often grubs and billbugs destroy the roots and eat the grass on zoysia lawns, though grubs and billbugs are normally found only on zoysia lawns in the middle and northern states. Control pests with the appropriate insecticide, available at nurseries.
Zoysia requires fertilizer applications of 2 to 4 lbs. per 1,000 square feet. Fertilize annually. If you are watering at a higher rate to encourage growth, you might need to fertilize more than once per year. Zoysia prefers a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. If the pH changes too much, your lawn might need to be limed periodically.
Every other year, it might be necessary to thatch your yard to remove yard debris from mowing and leaves that has built up over time. This buildup prevents the proper moisture from getting to the roots of the grass. The best time to thatch a lawn is in the late winter, just before the zoysia turns green. Commercial de-thatching machines could be rented for this procedure.