4 Best Grass Types for Louisville Lawns

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Aerial shot of Louisville, KY freeway and commercial buildings along the left hand side, with waterfront to the right

Cultivating your own field of dreams in Derby City has its challenges. Situated in the climate transition zone, our city’s weather can get too hot for some cool-season grasses and too cold for some warm-season ones. Your best bet is to plant one of these four best grass types for Louisville.: 

  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Tall fescue
  • Zoysiagrass
  • Perennial ryegrass

Which grass is best for my Louisville lawn?

Even though you live in the transition zone, cool-season grasses are usually the best fit for Louisville lawns. Cool-season grasses tolerate cold winter weather and have growth periods during spring and fall. Since they prefer the cooler shoulder seasons, they will go dormant (brown) in the summer.

1. Kentucky bluegrass

The string-based stylings of our region’s musical heritage aren’t the only common type of Bluegrass we see here in Louisville. The actual bluegrass lawn type is just as popular. Known for its dark green color, blue-tipped seedheads, and rounded blades, Kentucky bluegrass provides a soft, dense lawn.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes, or underground stems
  • Shade tolerance: Kentucky bluegrass prefers full sun, but tolerates some shade.
  • Drought tolerance: Low, but it can survive by going dormant when water becomes scarce.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Holds up well to wear and tear from people and pets.
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate to high. Irrigation paired with fertilization and lime application helps maintain this lawn’s color. Treatment for disease and insects is also needed.
  • Recommended mowing height: During the growing season, mow weekly to a height of 2.5 to 3 inches.

2. Tall fescue

Well-suited for a variety of soils and landscapes, tall fescue’s dark hue and semi-coarse texture make this a frequent choice for home lawns.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Growing best in full sun, tall fescue is tolerant of moderate shade.
  • Drought tolerance: Of the cool-season grasses, this type is best at withstanding drought and heat.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Tall fescue’s durability allows it to prosper even with heavy foot traffic.
  • Maintenance needs: Tall fescue doesn’t have many problems with insects, thatch buildup, and weeds. Watering is only necessary during dry periods.
  • Recommended mowing height: Mow to a height of 1.5 inches.

3. Zoysiagrass

Characterized by its steeple-shaped leaves, stiff blades, coarse texture, and light to medium green color, Zoysiagrass is a great option for lawns in the transition zone.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: High, especially for a warm-season variety.
  • Drought tolerance: Zoysia withstands drought well, only requiring watering during prolonged dry periods.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Zoysia is unbothered by heavy foot traffic.
  • Maintenance needs: Low. Requires little fertilization and only 1 inch of water per week during the growing season. Zoysia’s dense, weed-resistant lawn may be prone to thatch buildup if over-fertilized.
  • Recommended mowing height: Mow weekly to a height of ¾ of an inch to 2 inches. No need to mow in late fall and winter, as that is Zoysia’s dormancy period.

4. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass has broad blades, a hint of shine, and a dark green color. It works best when mixed with Kentucky bluegrass.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Vertical shoots called “tillers”
  • Shade tolerance: Perennial ryegrass can survive in shaded areas for years.
  • Drought tolerance: Low. An irrigation system is your best bet for keeping this grass type alive.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Perennial ryegrass can handle a lot of wear and tear, which is why it is often used on athletic fields.
  • Maintenance needs: Weed-resistant. Needs fertilization every four to six weeks during the growing season. Water just enough to moisten the soil.
  • Recommended mowing height: To keep up with its rapid growth, mow frequently to a height of 1 inch.

How to select the best grass type for your lawn

Don’t just randomly select one of these grasses. Consider what other characteristics you’re looking for in a grass species:

Does your lawn have shade?

If you have a lot of trees that shade your yard, your best choices are zoysiagrass and perennial ryegrass.

Is your area susceptible to drought or watering restrictions?

The Louisville grasses that withstand dry spells the best are zoysiagrass and tall fescue.

How much foot traffic does your lawn receive?

You can’t go wrong with any of the grass types when it comes to handling heavy foot traffic. Kentucky bluegrass, zoysia, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue can all take a lot of wear and tear.

Do you want a high-maintenance or low-maintenance lawn?

If you don’t like spending a lot of time taking care of your yard, you might want to consider Zoysiagrass or tall fescue.

If you build your lawn with one of the best grass types for Louisville, your neighbors may soon be green with envy.

Need help preparing your lawn? Visit our Louisville lawn care page to get in touch with a professional!

Main Photo Credit: Nicolas Henderson | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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