Types of Grass in Texas
Growing lush, attractive lawns in the hot, dry climate of Texas comes with unique challenges. However, growing a big, green lawn in Texas is not an impossible task. By choosing the right type of grass for their area, gardeners can grow a lawn of which they’ll be proud.
If a Texan gardening enthusiast is wondering about which grass type they should choose for their lawn, they should first consider the part of Texas they are living in and the season in which they wish to grow their lawn. When it comes to lawns, timing is the most important factor.
Published: October 21, 2022.
Depending on where the gardener lives in Texas, the temperature difference can range anywhere up to 40-degree F between the northernmost and southernmost points of the state, even on the coldest day of the year. Since Texas has such a wide range of temperatures all through the state, different regions need different types of grasses.
In the panhandle or the northern region of Texas, rainfall is more common and winters bring snow and freezing temperatures.
In central and southern Texas, one has to face blazing hot summers and prolonged no-rain periods. West Texas has hot and dry weather resembling the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. The grasses, therefore, need to have a combination of defensive properties that can resist heat, drought and cold, to grow best in Texas.
As such most grasses need direct sunlight than shade to develop stronger roots; however, there are exceptions. The gardener should also learn about the requirements of watering, nitrogen, fertilizers, and environmental conditions of the grass they choose before seeding, plugging, sprigging or sodding.
What Qualities do Texas Grasses Need?
Since Texas has unusual weather patterns, the grasses to be established here well should have certain properties. These include:
Texas has faced severe drought conditions from time to time. In October 2010, the state faced a serious drought. Then again in August 2014, 70% of the state was in drought conditions.
In such a situation, if the homeowner is looking for keeping their lawn look healthy year-round, they’ll have to plant deep-rooted grass that can withstand extended periods of no fresh rainfall.
Most parts of the state share long summers and short winters of Mexico. On the hottest summer days, temperatures can even go beyond 110 degrees F. Therefore, the grass should be able to use the non-stop sunlight that keeps shining from morning till dusk. Grasses with wider blades have higher resistance to heat.
Due to the long warm season of Texas, people use their lawns most time of the year. Some abuse from foot traffic is bearable for the grass.
However, eventually, with too much damage caused by traffic, it’s unable to sustain its growth. Grasses with supple blades in softer soil can tolerate year-round traffic better.
Even though Texas winters are mild, temperatures may drop below freezing. Even homeowners living in the southernmost parts of Texas have to prepare their lawns for severe cold. Some types of grasses are present that will struggle through the summer, but thrive well through the winter of Texas.
Warm-season Vs. Cool-season Grasses
One of the most important factors the gardener should consider is whether they should look for warm-season grass or cool-season grass.
These terms may be a bit confusing as they indicate that warm-season grasses grow in the summer while cool-season grasses grow in the winter.
The fact is:
- Warm-season grasses do well when the temperature ranges from 80- to 95-degree F.
- Cool-season grasses flourish in temperatures between 65- and 75-degree F.
But their growth or death have no relation with whether it’s summer or winter. The growing season of both types of grasses is from spring to early fall. All its concern is with the general climate where the gardener plants the grass.
Most parts of Texas become too hot in the summer to let cool-season grasses survive. On the other hand, much of the state also becomes too cold in the winter to let warm-season grasses stay in top shape.
If a gardener is looking to enjoy a green lawn year-round, it’s a good idea to overseed their lawn with cool-season grasses like ryegrass which will stay green for longer in the winter.
Warm-season grasses occur most commonly in Texas and other regions with warm climates, both dry and humid. They turn straw-colored at the first frost and may go into dormancy during the winter in Texas.
In areas along the Gulf of Mexico, where the climate is quite humid, the best grasses to grow are St. Augustine grass, Centipede grass, and Zoysia grass.
In drier areas of the state, Bermuda grass is a great choice because of its ability to tolerate drought.
Northern Texas has a cooler climate on average than its southern counterpart. Therefore, cool-season grass may be a good choice for this region.
Cool-season grasses grow best in spring and fall and are mainly adapted in North Texas.
They don’t withstand the summer heat and high humidity of most regions of Texas. Cool-season grasses that do well here include Bluegrass, Tall Fescue, and Ryegrass. In dryer conditions, Wheatgrass and Canada Bluegrass are also good options.
Warm-season Grasses in Texas
Here are a few warm-season types of grass that may be right for some areas in Texas.
Buffalo grass thrives in areas where there is some rainfall, such as 25 inches or less per year. It does particularly well in the western to central parts of Texas, but can even be grown in the central-east and far west regions, provided it’s not overwatered.
If planted in the high-rainfall regions of East Texas or when overwatered, buffalo grass is soon invaded by weeds and other grasses. It has high cold tolerance and hence is perfect for the northern and southern regions of Texas.
Since its water requirements are very low, it does best in dry climates and has excellent drought tolerance.
It can do well in a variety of soils but does best in low-fertility and alkaline soils.
Buffalo grass doesn’t perform well in the humid climate of the far-east parts of Texas. It does well in full sun. Its shade tolerance is very low. The grower should avoid shade as far as possible.
Buffalo grass comes in several varieties which gardeners can choose from, both sod and seeded forms. The more popular varieties in sod form include Prairie, 609, Prestige, and Density, while the seeded form includes Texoka, Topgun, Commanche, Common, and Plains.
Buffalo grass is not a fast grower and hence needs infrequent mowing such as once in 7 to 14 days.
Bermuda grass can grow in any region of Texas. It thrives in the eastern regions but can do well in the west too with some additional watering and maintenance, such as fertilization.
Many varieties can be grown from seeds, but others don’t produce viable seeds and therefore can be grown only from plugs, springs, or sod.
Seeded varieties include Mohawk, Blackjack, Sahara, Sunstar, Veracruz, Transcontinental, Princess 77, Majestic, Jackpot, Contessa, Sydney, SR 9554, Southern Star, Shangri-la, Savannah, LaPaloma, Yukon, and Shanghai.
Bermuda grass needs full sun to grow well and has very low to low shade tolerance. One should avoid shade as far as possible. Its water requirements are moderate to low.
Obviously, its drought tolerance is excellent and hence it’s a perfect grass type for very arid regions. Its roots can grow up to 2 meters deep, allowing it to survive when water is sparse.
Bermuda grass has excellent high traffic tolerance too, whereas cold tolerance is moderate.
Bermuda grass comes in several varieties but not all of them are available always at garden centers or lawn suppliers. If the gardener wants a more manicured appearance for their lawn, Mohawk Bermuda and La Paloma Bermuda are the varieties they should prefer.
Mohawk is a hardy variety with a rich texture that is highly tolerant to extreme heat, drought, and cold, whereas La Paloma is a fine-textured, deep green grass that performs well in most climatic conditions.
A gardener should remember that Bermuda grass spreads easily and may be difficult to control around borders, flower beds, and sidewalks. It also needs mowing often, typically 3 to 7 days, if fertilized accurately. Hence the gardener may find themselves doing a lot of lawn maintenance work with this grass type.
Especially hybrid or vegetative varieties are more aggressive than the common varieties, although they’re often darker green, denser, and have a finer texture too. Many of them also need more upkeep (more nitrogen fertilizer, more frequent mowing).
These varieties are more adapted for use on sports fields and golf course fairways than for home lawns. Some of them are Tifgreen, TifSport, Celebration, Common, CT-2, GN-1, Quickstand, Grimes EXP, Tifton 10, and Baby.
Seashore paspalum is a grass species that is harder to find than some other lawn grass types. It also doesn’t have a lot of tolerance to prolonged periods of cold. This grass type does best in the southern part of Texas and as one goes farther south, it becomes easier to grow. It can grow in saline soils as well as with saline water, and also doesn’t need as much fertilizer as some other grasses need.
Seashore paspalum is a good lawn grass option for yards that have irrigation water with high to moderate salinity and that need high maintenance. It can tolerate moderate to high traffic.
Its shade tolerance is low and the grower should avoid shade as far as possible. Water requirements are moderate and drought tolerance is good, and it grows best in the more humid climates of South Texas.
Vegetative varieties of seashore paspalum include Aloha, Isle 2000, Sea Isle I, Salam, Adalayd/Excalibre, and SeaDwarf. Sea Spray is a seeded variety.
Centipede grass originates in China and does well in southeastern Texas. It’s known for its natural resistance to weeds and low maintenance needs. It prefers full-sun conditions, but is moderately shade-tolerant, though it cannot tolerate harsh, freezing conditions. It’s best suited to warm regions.
Since it’s a slow grower, planting it with sod is better than that with seeds. Plus, it requires little mowing. Centipede grass also doesn’t even need much fertilizer.
Centipede grass is aggressive and hence keeps one’s lawn weed-free. It can also fight most insects and diseases. It’s moderately drought tolerant but needs some watering during very dry spells.
It doesn’t come in many varieties. It’s easy to control around flower beds, sidewalks and borders but doesn’t withstand traffic very well.
It can grow in low-fertility soils but thrives well in soils with pH 6.0 to 6.5.
St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass does well in coastal areas of the state where there is abundant heat and only a little shade.
However, it has the highest shade tolerance among warm-season grass species and some of its varieties can grow well in shady areas.
It grows well in the eastern regions of the state too, but the farther south one goes, the better. It can also grow well in Central and Western Texas with supplemental watering.
Although it can be grown in most areas of the state, severe winters in the northern regions may be fatal for it. It’s best adapted in Southeast Texas.
Its leaves are coarse and it grows moderately quickly but is easy to control. Because it’s a sandy soil grass, it needs more nitrogen than grasses that flourish in clay soil.
St. Augustine grass is grown by plugging or sodding, but rarely by seeding. It’s not very tolerant of traffic.
It comes in several varieties like Amerishade, Floratam, Sapphire, and Palmetto. Among these, Floratam grows best in areas near the Gulf Coast. It has wider blades and higher drought tolerance, but lower cold and shade tolerance than other St. Augustine grass varieties.
Carpet grass is a warm-season perennial grass that flourishes in the coastal areas of the state. It grows dense and hence needs amply wet and low-fertility soil which helps it grow quickly.
This grass type doesn’t do well in shade, dry regions, and salty marshes. Although its requirements are less, it’s very specific about the types of conditions that will help it survive.
Zoysia grass is a species of warm-season lawn grass that grows in any area of Texas with almost no maintenance. However, the eastern half of the state is more proliferative for this grass and sometimes it needs additional upkeep in the western half.
Since it’s a slow grower, growing it from sod rather than seeds ensures a fully covered lawn more quickly.
Zoysia grass is drought tolerant. But it turns brown sooner than Bermuda grass during a prolonged drought. Depending on the variety, it has light to moderate shade tolerance; still, it’s not as shade-tolerant as St. Augustine grass. It’s tolerant to moderate traffic.
Zoysia grass can be best established from sod. Sprigs, plugs, and seeds usually take longer than Bermuda grass to fully cover the area.
In Texas, zoysia grass occurs in two varieties, Zoysia matrella, and Zoysia japonica.
- Zoysia matrella requires more frequent and closer mowing. It has a fine texture that is best for establishing a dense lawn.
- Z. japonica has a medium leaf texture that is better suited to regular home lawns. Its maintenance needs are normal.
Z. matrella varieties include Diamond, Zorro, Y-2, Royal, Cavalier, and Zeon. Emerald is an older variety that resembles Z. matrella types in growth and appearance. Z. japonica varieties include Palisades, Meyer, Carrizo, GN-Z, El Toro, Jamur, Crowne, and Empire.
Only two seeded varieties are available – Compadre and Zenith. These need well-prepared, warm soils to germinate and are much slower to grow than seeded Bermuda grass.
Cool-season Grasses in Texas
In the northern areas of Texas, cool-season grasses are better adapted to establish well as lawn grasses in the more moderate conditions of the area. They cannot tolerate the high heat and humidity of central and southern Texas.
Here are some cool-season grass varieties that may suit a Texan homeowner's area.
Kentucky bluegrass is a cool-season grass that is widely used in the northern regions and is adapted in the panhandle area of Texas and is grown by some additional irrigation.
It’s not suitable for the more humid areas of Texas, as it’s prone to diseases and heat stress there. Its leaves have fine to medium texture and deep green color when fertilized properly.
It can also tolerate a significant amount of traffic. It can grow up to 18 to 24 inches tall and has a boat-shaped tip.
Its cold tolerance is very high, but shade tolerance is very low and growers should avoid shade at any cost. Its drought tolerance is good, but it may require extra watering during prolonged dry spells.
In Texas, Kentucky bluegrass can be established only with seeds as there are no sod growers of this species in the state. It comes in several varieties and a blend of 3-4 varieties may give the best outcome.
Ryegrass is a cool-season grass that is mainly used for overseeding (or re-seeding) existing lawns for temporary color in winter when the existing lawns go dormant and lose color. It can thus be used to keep the lawn green all through the year.
It’s of two types – annual and perennial. While annual ryegrass thrives only in a single season (in winter), perennial ryegrass keeps thriving every year. However, except in the northern part of Texas, in the High Plains, one cannot expect ryegrass to hold up year-round in the Texas heat.
Tall Fescue Grass
Tall fescue grass that flourishes in northern Texas is an exception to the rule that grasses need a lot of sunlight. Some varieties of this grass need plenty of shade and additional water during periods of extreme drought and heat.
It’s known as ‘bunch-type’ grass since it grows in bunches from its crowns and should not be mixed with bluegrass. Its improved varieties are commonly known as ‘turf-type’ tall fescues.
It’s available in many varieties with various leaf textures and performance in the climate of North Texas. Tall fescue generally grows well in a variety of soil conditions and maintenance schedules. However, tall fescue lawns will need more water in summer than either Texas bluegrass or warm-season turfgrasses. It’s also not tolerant of very high traffic.
A standard tall fescue variety K-31 was produced as forage grass and is still available. Today there are several new turf-type varieties (over 70) that have finer leaf texture and perform better. They are also more tolerant of shade and heat.
Texas bluegrass which is a cross between the native Texas bluegrass and Kentucky bluegrass is very similar to Kentucky bluegrass, but it can tolerate the Texas heat and sun better, and if the conditions are right, can stay green all through the year.
It needs less water than tall fescue and performs best on yards with low traffic. It’s adapted from Central Texas to Southern Oklahoma and is used in North Texas as an alternative to tall fescue.
Texas A&M University has developed many varieties of Texas bluegrass including Tejas and Reveille, but they are still not widely available.
Texas is a state where there is a range of climates and temperatures, and thus, some grass species do better here than others.
Warm- and cool-season grasses perform differently depending on where the grower lives in Texas.
Therefore, the first step is to determine whether one’s yard needs warm- or cool-season grass. After that, one can choose the grass with the right characteristics for their area and yard to grow a lawn they would love.