Most turf grasses were brought to this country and then adapted to specific climate zones

Types of Grasses found in America

Very few turf-type grasses currently growing in America are native to our land. Buffalograss is probably the most common native turfgrass that has been adapted to be grown as a lawn and then only in special circumstances.

Most turfgrasses were brought to this country and then adapted through selective breeding and cross-breeding to provide us with the grasses that we are most familiar with today.

There are a multitude of grass varieties, brands but there are basically only 2 grass types: Cool Season type grasses and Warm Season type grasses. Each grass type is suited primarily for one or the other seasons. There is also a narrow band that crosses the country called the Transitional Zone where some grass types for either the Cool Season or Warm Season can be grown, but that doesn't mean all of them will grow in this narrow zone.

Cool Season Growth Pattern

Best Cool Season Grasses

On average, these climates have cold winters and warm to hot summers. Usually they also have regular intervals of rain throughout the summer months, but grasses will tolerate some extended periods of draught by going dormant. Typical cool season grass types include:

Typical Transition Zone Grasses

There is a “transition zone” between northern and southern turfgrass regions, which follows the lower elevations of Virginia and North Carolina west through West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas and includes parts of southern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. In this transition zone, neither Warm Season nor Cool Season type grasses are uniformly successful. However, several of the Cool Season type grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, do well across Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Missouri. Tall fescue is the best choice in Tennessee, North Carolina, northern Georgia, northern Alabama and the Texas panhandle. In the lower elevations of these latter states Warm Season grasses do well too. Typical grass types suitable for the Transition Zone include:

Growth Pattern Warm Season Grass

Warm Season Type Grasses

In some ways, growing and maintaining a good-looking lawn in the South is more involved than for northern homeowners. Choosing a grass type is trickier; many turf grass varieties do much better when started as plugs or sod than from seed, as is usually done with Cool Season turf-type grasses. Good soil is critically important for growing a low maintenance lawn in this region. Most all Warm Season grass types will turn brown when cooler temperatures arrive. Some southern gardeners seed their existing lawns with ryegrass each fall to maintain green color during the winter months. This is called “winter overseeding.”

Maintaining ideal growing conditions for your particular grass type is critical, otherwise unwanted grass varieties will start popping up and will be extremely difficult to remove. For example, St. Augustine grass being invaded by Bermuda and vice versa.

Typical Warm Season grass types include:

See the MOWING section for mowing recommendations. Also see the HISTORY section for a brief history of lawns in American culture.