Bermudagrass makes for a nice home lawn because it can tolerate a very low mowing height, which is also a reason it is widely used on golf courses in the South. It spreads by both stolons and rhizomes, which helps it to form a thick, dense turf. It is usually found in the south, but may grow as far north as Kansas City. Its maintenance requirements (fertilizing, watering, mowing) are high.
Centipedegrass spreads through stolons, and forms a dense turf. Because it grows horizontally, it requires less mowing and is easy to edge around garden beds and sidewalks. It is found throughout the warm-humid areas of the south. It does not grow well in hot, dry areas and will die if not supplied with adequate moisture. However, its fertilizer requirements are less than other warm-season grasses.
The name fine fescue is actually a “coverall” for the various species of grasses in this group: red, chewings, hard, and sheep. Like the name implies, they are very fine textured with needle-like blades. Fine fescues are popular because of their shade tolerance. However, they do not tolerate heat and dry conditions.
Kentucky Bluegrass is one of the most popular grasses in the North. It has a deep, green color and excellent texture. It grows well from seed, and is a popular choice for sod farms in the North. It grows from a very extensive system of rhizomes, underground stems that produce new plants. However, it does not grow well in deep shade.
St. Augustinegrass is best suited to warm-arid regions such as Florida and the Gulf Coast region. Occasionally, it will be found in areas of California. It is not at all tolerant of cold temperatures, and requires plenty of moisture for survival. It is a very coarse-textured grass that grows via above ground stolons that can reach several feet. It has very broad blades combared to other grasses, with a rounded tip. It is often referred to as “Floratam,” which is a variety of St. Augustinegrass.
Typically a cool-season grass, tall fescue can also be found in hotter regions due to its ability to tolerate heat. It is a bunchgrass often used in athletic fields because it can withstand heavy use and foot traffic. In some lawns, patches of tall fescue may stick out and appear as a grassy weed. It grows in bunches, and is therefore not used very often in grass seed mixes.
Zoysiagrass forms a lawn that feels like a thick, prickly carpet. Zoysia is found mostly in and from the middle part of the U.S. and east toward the Carolinas. It can be found in the north, but will turn brown once the weather turns cold. It is a very slow-growing grass, and it can take more than a year to establish a lawn of zoysiagrass. It has stiff leaf blades and will produce numerous seed heads if it isn’t mowed.
The majority of northern lawns are a combination of Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and fescues. Kentucky bluegrass will form the nicest lawn, but it has a very low shade tolerance. Ryegrass can tolerate heavy foot traffic, but does not tolerate extreme cold or drought conditions. Fescues (both tall and fine) are often found in mixes due to their tolerance of shade, foot traffic, cold and drought. When combined correctly, these grasses will form a dense turf that is acceptable for most northern lawns in the U.S.