7 Best Grass Types For Atlanta

Atlanta Georgia balloon race, hot air balloons being ready to lift off, dozens of them on the lawn

With a nickname like “Hotlanta,” you’d expect this city to be hot and muggy year-round. Thankfully, homeowners across Atlanta get to enjoy warm summers, cool and sometimes snowy winters, and beautiful spring and fall days. 

This diverse climate is ideal for both warm-season and cool-season grasses in yards across Georgia’s capital.

The seven best warm- and cool-season grasses for Atlanta include:

  • Tall fescue 
  • Perennial ryegrass 
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Centipedegrass
  • St. Augustine 
  • Zoysia 
  • Bermudagrass

But how do you decide between cool-season and warm-season grasses, or do you plant both?

Cool-season vs. warm-season grass

Cool-season grasses are tough and lush, while warm-season grasses are drought tolerant and quick growing. The differences don’t stop there. Here are a few traits to help you distinguish between these grass types. 

Cool season 

  • These grasses should be planted in either late summer or early fall.
  • These grasses grow best when temperatures are between 60-75 degrees. 
  • When mowing, cool-season grasses are usually cut to a taller height than warm-season grasses. 
  • Cool-season grasses are cold-tolerant and go dormant in the summer.
  • Because of their thin blades, cool-season grasses should be mixed only with fine- or medium-textured warm-season grasses to have a lush and uniform look.

Warm season 

  • The best time to plant these grasses is between late spring and early summer.
  • These grasses grow best when temperatures are between 80-95 degrees. 
  • Warm-season grasses will go dormant in the winter.
  • The blades of warm-season grasses are thicker and rougher than cool-season grasses and should be mowed at a shorter height.

To help you select the turfgrass that is best for your yard, we’ve compiled information on the seven best types of grass for Atlanta.

1. Tall fescue

Drought resistant, shade tolerant, and adaptable to drastically changing temperatures, tall fescue is a tough cool-season grass. With the proper care, this grass can stay green year-round and thrive in yards that have both sunny and shady areas. 

Tall fescue can clump over time, so it requires reseeding at least every three years. The wide, coarse blades proliferate quickly and need to be frequently mowed, especially during the fall and spring. Although it’s a cool-season grass, tall fescue requires more water than most warm-season grasses. 

  • Classification: Cool-season 
  • Spreads By: Bunch forming and spreads by tillers 
  • Shade Tolerance: High 
  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: Moderate 
  • Maintenance Needs: Low 
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 2 inches 
  • Soil pH: Grows best in soils with a pH between 5.8 – 6.5

Note: Should only be fertilized once in September and November

2. Perennial ryegrass 

Although perennial ryegrass can be used as a permanent lawn in Atlanta, it is best used as a temporary yard or winter cover. Perennial ryegrass works perfectly as a protective cover to shield your warm-season grass during Georgia’s cold winter. 

Overseeding warm-season grass with perennial ryegrass could be damaging, so proper management of nutrients, moisture, and sunlight is vital to your lawn’s health.

  • Classification: Cool-season 
  • Spreads By: Bunch forming and extends with tillers 
  • Shade Tolerance: Needs moderate sun (at least 4-5 hours) 
  • Drought Tolerance: Low 
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: High 
  • Maintenance Needs: Low
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 1 ½ – 2 ½ inches 
  • Soil pH: Grows best in soils with a pH between 6.0 – 7.0

3. Kentucky bluegrass 

Unlike its name suggests, Kentucky bluegrass isn’t used only to enhance homes in the Bluegrass State. This beautiful, bluish-green grass grows best in Georgia’s cooler northern and upper Piedmont areas, making it perfect for homes in Atlanta. 

Kentucky bluegrass does best in areas with partial shade, but it can handle full sunlight if it receives enough water. Kentucky bluegrass is also prone to becoming semi-dormant early in warm-weather conditions. 

  • Classification: Cool-season 
  • Spreads By: Rhizomes 
  • Shade Tolerance: Moderate 
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate 
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: High 
  • Maintenance Needs: Moderate
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 2 ½ – 3 inches 
  • Soil pH: Grows best in soils with a pH between 6.0 – 7.0 

Note: Because of its shallow root system, it will need to be watered more frequently than other cool-season grasses. 

4. Centipedegrass

Best for yards across the southern part of Atlanta, centipedegrass is excellent for homeowners looking for a low-maintenance turf. Centipedegrass is highly drought-tolerant. It is exceptionally weed resistant and can fight off insects and diseases while needing less fertilization than other grasses. 

Centipedegrass doesn’t stand up well to heavy foot traffic, though, and it can show areas of wear easily. 

  • Classification: Warm-season 
  • Spreads By: Stolons
  • Shade Tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought Tolerance: High 
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: Low 
  • Maintenance Needs: Low 
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 1 ½ – 2 inches 
  • Soil pH: Grows best in soils with a pH between 5.0-6.0 

Note: Centipedegrass is the slowest growing of all the warm-season grasses. This makes it easy to control around flower beds and borders, but it can take some time to build a lush landscape. 

5. St. Augustine

Although St. Augustine grass does not thrive in cold weather, it can handle the more mild winters in the southern parts of Atlanta. This warm-season grass requires at least 3-4 hours of full sunlight, although it can handle partial shade. It requires more water than Zoysia grass, especially if it’s been planted in sandy soil. 

St. Augustine grass fights off weeds well but can be prone to chinch bugs. St. Augustine grass also handles foot traffic relatively well, although it’s not as durable as bermudagrass. 

  • Classification: Warm-season 
  • Spreads By: Stolons 
  • Shade Tolerance: Low, but some varieties can tolerate more shade 
  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: Moderate 
  • Maintenance Needs: High 
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 3 ½ – 4 inches 
  • Soil pH: Grows best in soils with a pH between 6.0-6.5

Note: It can be hard to find seeds for St. Augustine grass in Atlanta, so the most common way homeowners add St. Augustine grass to their lawn is by laying down sod or plugs. 

6. Zoysia 

Zoysia grass is a cold-tolerant, warm-season grass ideal for Atlanta yards. This grass also handles foot traffic well, so it’s great for homeowners with pets or kids. It can be in yards with partial shade, but thrives in direct sunlight. Zoysia has a much more delicate texture than other warm-season grasses like St. Augustine. 

Although Zoysia is a drought-tolerant perennial, this grass type requires more water than bermudagrass during the summer months. Zoysia is a dense grass that needs less mowing than other warm-season types, but it does require regular dethatching. Zoysia also does well at beach homes because it is salt tolerant. 

  • Classification: Warm-season 
  • Spreads By: Stolons and rhizomes 
  • Shade Tolerance: Moderate 
  • Drought Tolerance: High 
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: High 
  • Maintenance Needs: Low 
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 1-2 inches 
  • Soil pH: Grows best in soils with a pH between 5.8 – 7.0

7. Bermudagrass 

Bermudagrass is the most common grass type across Atlanta because of its sturdiness and drought tolerance. Bermudagrass is a dense grass that doesn’t need to be watered as frequently as Zoysia during the summer. Its denseness also means it can handle foot traffic better than any other warm-season grass. 

Bermudagrass spreads rapidly and can be hard to control around flower beds and walkway borders. One downside to bermudagrass is that it does not tolerate shade well, so you should plant another grass type under any trees, bushes, or shaded areas. 

  • Classification: Warm-season 
  • Spreads By: Stolons and rhizomes 
  • Shade Tolerance: Low 
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate 
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: High
  • Maintenance Needs: High
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 1 – 1½ inches 
  • Soil pH: Grows best in soils with a pH between 5.8 – 7.0

Notes: Bermudagrass’s ability to handle heavy foot traffic makes it a frequent choice for golf courses and public spaces. 

A few things to consider

Before planting your new lawn in Atlanta, there are a few questions you should ask to make sure you choose the best turfgrass for your home:

  • How much shade do you have on your property? If most of your yard is shaded, you will want to avoid Bermudagrass and perennial ryegrass.
  • Do you have a lot of foot traffic in your yard because you have kids and pets? You might want to consider Bermudagrass, Zoysia, Kentucky bluegrass, or perennial ryegrass.
  • Are you looking for low-maintenance turf because you are too busy to take care of it? Centipedegrass might be the way to go. 
  • Are you planning to combine warm- and cool-season grasses? Make sure you find two grass types that generally need the same kind of care, sunlight, and soil. In this case, perennial ryegrass and Zoysia might make a good match. 

Answering these questions can help save you time, money, and energy, and give you the lush, green lawn you always wanted. 

A greener yard isn’t always easy 

If you aren’t sure which turfgrass would work best on your lawn, or you don’t have the time or energy to plant the grass yourself, there are many Atlanta lawn care pros ready to assist you. 

Main Photo Credit: Image by Jorge Molina | Pixabay

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