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Grass Type – Zoysia

Zoysia Grass Lawns

Zoysia grass is a fine to medium-textured warm season grass that is dense, slow-growing, deep-rooted, heat and drought-resistant, cold-tolerant, and holds up well under traffic.

Zoysia is best established from sod, because of its slow growth rate.  It spreads by aboveground stolons and underground rhizomes.  Of course, it can be plugged or sprigged or even established by seed (zoysia japonica only,) but those options are only for the very patient!  Also, seeded zoysia is not as fine a quality as some of the sodded cultivars.

Scalp your zoysia each spring, and bag the clippings.  Scalping removes all the dead material that has been insulating the grass against cold temperatures in the winter.  Scalping each spring will also reduce the possibility of thatch problems.

Thatch buildup can be a problem in zoysia grass.   Although scalping and frequent mowing should prevent thatch buildup, it may be necessary to dethatch zoysia to prevent grass from deteriorating if thatch accumulates.  Dethatch only when there is sufficient time for recovery before winter, keeping in mind its slow growth.

Zoysia should be mowed with a reel mower, for best results.  The correct mowing height for zoysia is from ¾” to 2 ½”.  If you don’t have a reel mower, be sure your mower blades are very sharp (sharpen them monthly.) If your lawn is uneven, you may have to mow at a higher height to keep from scalping it.  Proper mowing is essential for zoysia.

Zoysia will grow in light shade, but only light shade.  It cannot grow in medium to heavy shade.

Zoysia is a high-performing, but high-maintenance grass.  Zoysia requires more water than bermuda to prevent wilt, and if you don’t mow frequently enough, zoysia will get brown seedheads that look very unsightly.

Zoysia is available in many different varieties like Meyer, Crowne, Cavalier, Zorro, Bel Air, Emerald, El Toro, Palisades, etc, but the most commonly available is Meyer. There are 3 separate species: zoysia matrella, zoysia japonica and zoysia tenuifolia.  Some varieties, like El Toro and Belair are faster-spreading but coarser-textured. Different cultivars have different strengths and weaknesses.  Your local extension service can help you with the best variety for your area.

Zoysia can be susceptible to diseases like rust, Large Patch (also called Zoysia Patch or Brown Patch), Fairy Ring, leaf spot, and Dollar Spot.  As far as insect problems, white grubs are the major concern, although spittle bugs, zoysia mites, armyworms, sod webworms, and mole crickets sometimes present problems.

Good things about Zoysia grass:

  • Mildly shade tolerant in the southern United States.
  • Grows in a wide variety of soils.
  • Extremely drought tolerant.
  • Salt tolerant, can grow on sandy seashores.
  • Meyer zoysia is a good selection for the transition zone (i.e. too hot for cool-season grasses, too cold for bermudagrass)
  • Superior wear tolerance
  • Properly maintained, can be a very high-quality turfgrass
  • Aggressive and thick, it can choke out weeds.

Bad things about Zoysia grass:

  • Requires higher maintenance.
  • Performs best when mowed with a reel mower.
  • Slower growth means slower recovery when damaged.
  • Although drought tolerant, will brown before other grasses because it conserves water very well.  (Watering will restore it.)
  • Heavy thatch producer if not scalped in the spring and mowed properly
  • Very susceptible to Zoysia Patch disease, leaf spot, and rust in conducive weather conditions
  • Can be damaged by white grubs or other insects.
  • Aggressive and thick, it can get into flowerbeds or your neighbor’s lawn

Zoysia Trivia:

Zoysiagrass came from China, Japan, the Phillipines and other areas of Southeast Asia and was named after Karl von Zois, an 18th century botanist from Austria.  Zoysia matrella was originally called Manila grass.

Zoysia japonica was introduced to the U.S. as early as 1895 from the Manchurian province of China.

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