University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Be Wary of Fantastic Grasses

January 21, 1999

This grass will provide a great-looking lawn with little mowing, watering, or fertilizer in the sun or shade, regardless of how many kids play on it. This is certainly good news for most homeowners. Ads say such grasses exist, yet the traditional grass species used in our area, such as Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, or perennial ryegrass don't fit these claims. Are there "miracle" grasses out there?

When considering purchase of any plant material, it is essential to know exactly what the species is. When dealing with turfgrasses, the cultivars in the seed or sod are also important. But what often happens in advertisements is the actual species and cultivars are not listed. In addition, the complete details of the species may not be included.

For example, zoysiagrass is frequently promoted in magazines or catalogs as very heat and drought tolerant, and creating a vigorous lawn. This is true, but zoysiagrass is actually adapted for southern locations and will be dormant for much of the season in northern Illinois. For this reason, zoysiagrass is usually a straw color for most of spring and fall when other lawns are nice and green.

Another grass advertised as needing little care, little water, and not growing fast is buffalograss. There is no question buffalograss is very drought tolerant. However, buffalograss takes a long time to get established; thus allowing weeds to invade. Quality is also very low for home lawn use. Like zoysiagrass, it is a warm-season grass that will be dormant for much of spring and fall.

In climates such as ours with plenty of moisture, buffalograss does not compete well with weeds. However, research is being conducted to develop improved varieties, so perhaps in the future improved cultivars of buffalograss will be a good choice for home lawns in northern Illinois.

Other advertisements may promote super grass hybrids or mixes that will stay green and grow very easily regardless of the situation. Once again, examine the product closely to determine exactly what species and cultivars are included. Oftentimes inferior turfgrass species may be in the product, such as annual ryegrass.

If the ad makes a lawn grass sound too good to be true, it probably is.


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