The extended summer heat across Texas requires a gardener to grow warm-season grasses except in the extreme northern part of the Panhandle. The right turf grass selection depends on anticipated use, availability of water, presence of shade and desired amount of maintenance.
All types of Texas grass benefit from good site preparation including clearing rocks and debris, breaking up the soil surface, adding organic matter and leveling. A soil test prior to planting provides direction on fertilizer requirements and desirable soil amendments.
Bermuda is the most widely grown turf grass in Texas. It has narrow leaves and grows vigorously. Bermuda spreads by both rhizomes (underground stems) and stolons (above-ground shoots) and can quickly invade landscape bedding and gardens. Bermuda is dormant in the winter and begins growing after soil temperatures reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Bermuda has good heat and drought tolerance and survives high foot traffic making it appropriate for athletic fields and play areas. Bermuda has poor shade tolerance.
This grass may be sown from seed, sod, plugs, or sprigs. The two types of Bermuda grass are common and hybrid. Common Bermuda varieties include Arizona, Mirage, Riveria, Sultan and Southern Star. Hybrid varieties, often used on athletic fields, include Tifway 419, TifSport, and Patriot. Common Bermuda should be mowed every 3 to 4 days at a mowing height of 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Mow Hybrid Bermuda every 1 to 2 days at a mowing height of 1/2 inch to 1 inch. Fertilize four times per year in spring, early summer, late summer and early fall at a rate suggested in your soil test report.
St. Augustine grass has broad leaves and spreads by stolons. It tolerates some shade and is usually planted from sod. St. Augustine does not survive as well as Bermuda in high traffic areas. It has fair to good drought tolerance. Frequently grown St. Augustine varieties include Texas common, Floratam, Seville, Delmar, and Raleigh.
If grown in full sun, St. Augustine should be mowed every 4 to 6 days at a height of 2 to 3 inches. Shade growing St. Augustine can be mowed less frequently at left a bit taller—3 to 4 inches. Fertilize in amounts and frequency recommended in your soil test report. Before applying weed killer, read package directions to ensure that the product is safe for use on St. Augustine.
Zoysia tolerates shade, although not as well as St. Augustine. Once established, zoysia requires less maintenance and fertilizer than Bermuda or St. Augustine. The two main types of zoysia are Zoysia japonica and Zoysia matrella. Japonica varieties have wider blades, are lighter green, with more shade tolerance than matrella. However, japonica zoysias are less cold tolerant than matrella types.
Zoysia is typically planted by sodding the entire area, although it will spread slowly from plugs set at 12-inch centers. Mow these grasses every 3 to 4 days to a height of 1 to 2 inches.