Since we are well into spring, warm season grasses, such as Bermuda, centipede and Zoysia, have come out of dormancy and turned green. Zoysia is one of the most beautiful of these grasses. Even though it is not planted as much as some of the others, more area homeowners are turning to this type of grass for their lawns. With its coarse to fine texture, bright green color and ability to form a dense stand of grass, it has many positive attributes.
Zoysia is sometimes referred to as the "Mercedes" of turfgrasses because of its excellent appearance, its higher cost to establish, and its requirement of a higher level of maintenance than other turfgrasses. And, even when it turns brown and goes dormant during the winter, it still maintains a neat and tidy appearance.
Zoysia needs full sun, although it is tolerant to light shade; however, it will thin out and deteriorate in deep shade. The lawn requires moderate levels of fertilizer; a soil test will help determine what amounts are necessary. Supplemental water is needed during prolonged dry spells, but the soil needs to have adequate drainage -- if the water puddles after irrigation or rainfall, the grass will suffer and decline. Zoysia is prone to develop thatch, especially if heavily fertilized. The lawn should be aerated every two to three years with a hollow tine aerator to reduce thatch and to alleviate soil compaction.
Zoysia is established by sod or by sprigs and should be installed during warmer weather when the grass is green, not during the colder weather when it is dormant. Zoysia has a slower growth rate as opposed to other types of grasses and takes more time to become established. Thus, it requires less mowing. However, if scalped or damaged in any way, it takes longer to recover. Ideally Zoysia should be cut with a reel mower, but the use of a rotary mower with a sharp blade will provide an attractive cut. The grass should be mowed at a height of one to two inches. During hot, dry weather, raise the mowing height one-half inch.
Several varieties of Zoysia are available. Meyer, one of the most popular, has a medium texture, is tolerant to cold temperatures, and spreads more rapidly than other Zoysia hybrids.
Emerald Zoysia is an attractive fine-textured hybrid with a dark green color and is best suited for high quality lawns that have a good maintenance program. However, it does have a tendency to develop excess thatch at a more rapid rate, and it is less tolerant of extreme cold.
El Toro is a relatively new hybrid that was developed in California. It has a similar appearance to Emerald and grows faster than other Zoysia hybrids. El Toro is the most tolerant to being cut with a rotary mower and produces less thatch.
Zeon has an intermediate growth habit, excellent drought tolerance, and is adaptable to differing soil types.
If you are willing to make the investment and provide the appropriate care, consider growing Zoysia. It will thrive and beautify the home landscape. With Zoysia, your lawn can be the envy of the neighborhood.
Timothy Daly, MS, Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent, Gwinnett County Extension. He may be contacted by phone at 678-377-4010 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.