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Grasses for Special Sites and Uses


Zoysiagrass is dormant much of the season in northern Illinois.

Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescues are the primary lawn species for use in northern Illinois. Other turfgrass species may be used or promoted for use, however, for certain situations. Examples include tall fescue, creeping bentgrass, buffalograss, zoysiagrass, rough bluegrass, and annual ryegrass.

Tall fescue features good heat and wear tolerance. Newer cultivars of tall fescue, called turf-type tall fescues, are much improved in appearance as a lawn grass compared to the old types. However, winter hardiness is a concern. Tall fescue has a bunch-type growth habit, so it does not recover well after being damaged. Tall fescue would be a good choice for a warm, dry site, but may require overseeding periodically to maintain a quality stand. Tall fescue prefers full sun but also tolerates some shade.

Creeping bentgrass, commonly used on golf courses for greens, is rarely used as a home lawn grass due to high maintenance requirements (fertilizer, pest control, and time). Creeping bentgrass spreads with above ground horizontal stems called stolons.

Buffalograss, although drought-tolerant and slow-growing, is not the best lawn grass species for highly visible lawns. Buffalograss in large areas does not require high levels of care. The appearance quality is poor and buffalograss is slow to become established. Buffalograss is a warm season grass, meaning it has a short period of active growth in northern Illinois. Newer cultivars of Buffalograss are now on the market and several are being used successfully in northern Illinois.

Zoysiagrass, another warm season grass, will be dormant (straw-color) much of the season in northern Illinois. Thus it is not suggested for home lawns. Zoysiagrass has both rhizomes and stolons, producing a dense stand that readily produces thatch. Zoysiagrass is slow to establish. This grass does have very good heat and drought tolerance, as frequently promoted in magazine advertisements.

Rough bluegrass (Poa trivalis) adapts well to wet, shaded areas. Its appearance quality as a lawn grass is poor, and rough bluegrass appears very weedy when mixed with other grasses. Rough bluegrass has thin leaf blades and stolons

Annual ryegrass is a short-lived species that is not suggested for lawns. It is best suited as a quick, temporary cover for bare soil due to its rapid germination.