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What Is Zoysia Grass? Guide to Growing Zoysia Grass & Problems

In the world of gardening and lawn maintenance, grass comes in various shapes and sizes. Don’t let the uniform and almost identical shape of the blades and stalks fool you. Not all grass species are created equal. But when it comes to Zoysia grass, no other grass comes close in how it puts up with drought, heat, and foot traffic.

Zoysia grass

Image courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr, Flickr, CC License

This is a tough grass that gives you a dense, yet appealing lawn without all the hard work that goes into maintaining a lawn or backyard.

  • But is Zoysia grass the right one for you?
  • How do you grow it and keep it looking fresh, green, and healthy?

Let’s take an in-depth look at this fascinating grass and why it might exactly be what your garden or lawn needs.

What is Zoysia Grass?

Although Zoysia grass is often classified as warm-weather grass, it is a hardy plant that has a high tolerance for cold weather. It will not die in the frost or even when the temperature hits rock bottom during the winter months. However, it needs plenty of light to grow. Partial shade might not impact it much as long as it gets enough sunlight during the day.

Originally hailing from Asia, Zoysia grass made its way to the United States in 1895. It was around that time that lawns became popular and robust grass that could tolerate the extreme changes in the weather was called for. Zoysia grass fits the bill with its durability and a high tolerance for heat and drought.

The growing season for Zoysia grass starts in late spring. When the heat peaks in the summer months that’s when the grass reaches its optimal height. As a perennial plant, it sprouts again around the same time each year. 

The grass is more suited to the southern parts of the country from Florida all the way to California. Both the heat and high humidity are perfect for its growth. Unlike other lawn grass such as Bermuda grass and Kentucky bluegrass, Zoysia grass is adaptable and requires less maintenance work. This is why it thrives in the cold temperatures of the midwest and what is known as the Transition Zone between Kansas and the Carolinas.

How to Grow Zoysia Grass

Most often you can plant Zoysia grass in your lawn in one of three ways:

  • Seeds
  • Sod
  • Plugs

Which one you choose depends on your area and how soon you want the grass to carpet your lawn. Since Zoysia grass is a slow grower, many people prefer to go with sod or plugs to have fast results. The following steps guide you through the process of growing Zoysia grass in your lawn.

  1. Measure your lawn or the area you want to plant the grass. This helps you determine the amount of seed, topsoil, and fertilizer you’ll need for the job.
  2. Zoysia grass thrives in slightly acidic soil. Check that the pH in your soil is somewhere around 6 to 6.5. Test the soil to ensure you have a good balance of nutrients about 4 weeks before sowing the seeds.
  3. If the soil is too poor or the pH is not optimal, mix the right amount of nutrients, based on the results you get, into the top 4 to 6 inches of the topsoil.
  4. Make sure the soil is level. Use a rake to break the hard chunks of soil and clear the area of rocks and any other debris.
  5. Now the bed is prepared, spread the seeds using a spreader. You can do it by hand, but you won’t get the even spread that a spreader achieves. You won’t have thick patches and barren spots in your lawn if you use a spreader.
  6. Don’t cover the seeds with soil after spreading. Unlike other grass seeds, Zoysia grass needs sunlight to germinate. However, it’s recommended to use a lawn roller over the seeds to ensure they have contact with the soil.
  7. Water the lawn for the next 2 to 3 weeks. That’s the time the seeds take to germinate. Keep the soil wet but not soaked.
  8. Don’t mow the grass until it’s at least 2.5 inches high. This allows the roots to set deep in the soil.
  9. Repeat the seeding process in bare spots which might have been caused by dog urine or lack of soil contact with the seeds. 

Zoysia Grass Care

No matter how hardy or low-maintenance Zoysia grass is, it still needs care and attention. It’s true, this grass is less fussy than Bermuda grass, but mowing and performing regular checks are par for the course. Here are some of the main care aspects that your Zoysia grass lawn expects of you.

Thatch removal

Thatch is a common issue with Zoysia grass. It often grows on top of the grass and if not checked it becomes a real problem that threatens the growth and splendor of the grass. It often appears in late winter and early spring.

Once it reaches about one inch thick, that’s when you need to dethatch your lawn. Use a vertical mower or if you have a dethatcher, it gives better results. Set the dethatcher blade to 2-inch spacing and a quarter-inch depth. Power rakes are not recommended for this job since they cause serious injury to the grass.

Aerification

Like most other grass turfs, Zoysia grass needs aeration. This process involves punching holes in the lawn. It’s an important part of your maintenance work since it prevents compaction and allows the root system of the grass to have access to air. Make sure to combine this with dethatching to help the grass get over the effects of frost and prepare for the growing season in the late spring.

Weed

Even though we’re talking about grass, that doesn’t mean that weed and unwanted plants won’t grow and crowd your lawn if you give them a half chance. Summer annuals such as sand spurs, goosegrass and, crabgrass are the common pests you have to deal with.

Your best course of action is to apply pre-emergent herbicides between mid-February and mid-March. Another spray is needed about 2 months later to keep the weed off the turf for the rest of the year.

Pest control

As far as Zoysia grass problems are concerned, undesirable weed is the least of your problems. As the weather warms up and temperatures rise in the late spring that’s when insects such as the mole cricket, grubs, and Japanese beetle larvae make their presence known.

Usually, you would use a pesticide to prevent the pest from becoming a serious issue. To check for grubs and larvae, peel a section of the turf away. If you see more than 6 grubs, apply the pesticide.

Water and fertilization

As a sun-loving plant, Zoysia grass needs a moderate amount of water during the growing months from late spring to the peak of summer. However, even during dormancy in the winter months, you need to irrigate it to alleviate the effects of a dry winter. It also keeps the grass intact for the spring growth. 

The use of fertilizers should be determined by the soil tests you apply once the last frost is over. Abstain from applying fertilizers before the growing season.

Tips and Considerations when Growing Zoysia Grass

While Zoysia grass is easier to grow and maintain than Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda grass, you need to keep in mind the following tips.

  • Zoysia grass needs at least 6 hours of sunshine every day. For optimal density, make sure the turf gets about 8 hours of sunlight on a daily basis.
  • The grass is more suited for the Transition and Southern regions of the country.
  • The grass blades usually entwine to create a thick carpet that withstands heavy foot traffic and the heavy punishment of spiked sports shoes.
  • According to USDA recommendations, the grass grows best in zones 6-11.
  • Make sure the daily temperature is in the early 70s Fahrenheit before you plant the grass in your lawn.
  • For optimum appearance, cut Zoysia grass between one to two inches shorter than other types of grass.
  • During the summer months, the grass is usually a bright green. However, in the fall and winter, it becomes tan or even brownish. This is normal due to the drop in temperature.
  • When sowing the seeds, don’t cover them with soil or straw. Direct sunlight is important for the seeds to germinate.
  • The deep roots of the grass help it fight off drought much better than other types of grass. However, if exposed to drought for too long the grass goes dormant.

Parting Words

Do you have Zoysia Grass in your garden? Did you run into any problems with it?

Let us know in the comments bellow.

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