Zoysia grasses are relative newcomers to Florida residential lawns. There are many exciting attributes to Zoysia grass, but it is important to separate the marketing hype and common misconceptions from reality
Zoysia are finer textured than St. Augustine grasses and have a softer feel. They are slower growing and produce less leaf clippings than St. Augustine varieties.
Once fully established, Zoysia lawns will produce underground plant parts known as rhizomes in addition to above ground stolons. This attribute allows Zoysia to be more tolerant of traffic, drought and freeze than St. Augustine. However, establishment to this degree will typically require 12 to 18 months.
In northern and north central areas of Florida, Zoysia grasses will typically go dormant in the winter. When completely dormant, the turf will appear uniformly brown. However, when the grass is going into or out of the dormant state, the turf may appear mottled with green and brown splotches. Zoysia grasses are often the last turf varieties to become green again in the springtime.
- Make sure Zoysia is the right grass for the conditions of your lawn. Zoysia grass lawns perform best in full sun and will tolerate only moderate shade.
- While Zoysia grass is often marketed as being more drought tolerant than St. Augustine grass, Zoysia requires just as much water in terms of frequency and volume as St. Augustine to remain green and attractive.
- The attribute that makes Zoysia grasses more drought tolerant is its ability to transition into a dormant state under drought conditions. In the dormant state, the color of the turf is brown to grayish-brown. Under short-term dry conditions, St. Augustine grass will wilt; upon receiving sufficient water, it will return to an attractive appearance within a few days. Under the same short-term dry conditions, Zoysia grass will turn brown in its dormant state and require new leaf growth to cover the dormant brown leaves.
- The benefit of Zoysia grass over St. Augustine is only under severe drought conditions. In severe drought situations,Zoysia grass would be more likely to ultimately recover, while St. Augustine grass may require replacement.
- Zoysia grass does not perform well in areas that retain water excessively. Like most turfgrasses, Zoysiagrass prefers a soil that is moist, but well drained.
- Proper mowing height and frequency is crucial to the health and appearance of a Zoysia grass lawn. Avoid mowing at heights higher than recommended. The most widely planted Zoysia variety in Florida is Empire. Empire should be mowed at 2 – 2.5 inches. Dwarf varieties such as Geo require a lower mowing height of 1.5 to 2 inches. Mowing should always occur when the height of the grass becomes 1/3rd higher than the mowing height.
- It is highly recommended that the mowing height be reduced by 1/3rd of the recommended mowing height for the first mowing in the spring.
- If possible, the cuttings should be bagged and removed from the site. This process allows sunlight to more easily reach the new shoots emerging from rhizomes and will provide a quicker spring green-up.
- Zoysia grasses are equally or more affected by disease issues than St. Augustine grasses; dollar spot and brown patch fungus are the primary concerns.