If you are new to the Lowcountry, you may be surprised by the many options available when selecting grass for your lawn. Unlike the bluegrass or tall fescue, you may be accustomed to, the grasses used in Bluffton are all warm season varieties. These grasses require a minimum of six hours of sunlight and will experience varying degrees of winter dormancy. Additionally, they normally can’t be seeded but are established vegetatively (spread using plant parts). When selecting a turf species, consider your lawn’s microclimate, the level of maintenance you desire, and how you intend to use your lawn. The following is a brief description of the five major grasses in our area to help make your decision a little easier.
Bermudagrass is the primary turf species found on both of our golf courses. Under full sun conditions, Bermudagrass is arguably the most resilient turf available. Under intensive maintenance, it produces a thick blue-green canopy that spreads aggressively and tolerates heavy traffic, while also resisting most disease and insect pests. In fact, the fairways on both courses have only been spot treated with fungicide once in the past two years. Despite these advantages, Bermudagrass is rarely used on home lawns in our community because it doesn’t perform well in shade.
Centipede grass is referred to as “graveyard” grass because it is low maintenance and is the least expensive turf to maintain. It is the primary turf species found throughout the Dye course high roughs and does best under low fertility situations. Centipede tolerates minor shade but prefers acidic soil conditions and does not perform well under traffic.
St. Augustine grass is the most shade-tolerant warm-season grass, although it still requires six hours of sunlight to thrive. Under high maintenance, it has wide succulent leaves and produces a moderately dense turf canopy. St. Augustine performs best with abundant fertility and water but is very susceptible to winter injury and is extremely sensitive to both insects and disease. These issues make St. Augustine one of the more expensive home lawn options in our area.
Empire Zoysia grass is the workhorse of Lowcountry lawn grasses. It is well adapted to a variety of environmental conditions and produces a dense apple green lawn. While it is slightly less shade tolerant than St. Augustine, it requires less intense maintenance, does well under modest fertility, is drought tolerant, has good salt tolerance, recuperates aggressively from injury, and is normally both insect and disease resistant. If heavy shade is not a problem, Empire Zoysia is a reliable performer throughout the Lowcountry.
Zeon Zoysia and Zorro Zoysia grasses are high density varieties that are close relatives to Empire Zoysia. They have many of the same advantages as Empire, but they require more maintenance and have slightly better shade tolerance than the wider-leafed Zoysia grasses. These grasses prefer a lower mowing-height and require periodic dethatching to prevent problems associated with heavy organic layering. We use Zorro Zoysia on many of the more shaded tee boxes on the Nicklaus Course where Bermudagrass would perform poorly due to the lack of sunlight.
A healthy well-groomed lawn adds both curb appeal and value to your home, and choosing the right grass for your situation is an important part of building a good landscape. While these guidelines provide an overview of what is available in the Lowcountry, it is always best to consult a landscape professional to help make the right decision for your own lawn.