6 Best Grass Types for Birmingham

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statue surrounded by trees and flower, at the Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama

For those who live in the “Magic City,” mild winters followed by hot summers are the norm. Being in a humid, subtropical climate, you need grass that can handle a little chill in the winter but mostly withstand the heat and drought of summer. 

The five warm-season grass types and one cool-season grass that can thrive in your Birmingham lawn are:

  • Bermudagrass
  • Tall Fescue 
  • Bahiagrass
  • Zoysia 
  • Seashore paspalum 
  • Centipedegrass

Read on to find out more about these grasses and see which one best suits your yard. 

1. Bermudagrass

Bermudagrass is a classic lawn found in homes across the South. This warm-season grass is heat- and drought-tolerant and has a high tolerance for salt. Although there are hybrids and variations of bermudagrass that do better in the shade, the original variety thrives in full sun. This grass struggles in the cold (more than other warm-season grasses) and should be overseeded with tall fescue or perennial ryegrass.

It’s a resilient, quick-growing grass, but it can be hard to control around flower beds, walkways, and borders. Its fast-growing nature also means it requires more maintenance than other grasses. 

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes 
  • Shade tolerance: Low; some varieties can tolerate more shade than others
  • Drought tolerance: High; will go dormant in extended periods of drought
  • Cold tolerance: Moderate 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High 
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate 
  • Recommended mowing height: ½-2 inches 

2. Tall fescue 

For cool-season grass, tall fescue can tolerate high temperatures and drought. Tall fescue does well in Birmingham’s cold winters, but it also can survive through its hot summers. This tough grass can handle a lot of foot traffic and is low maintenance, making it an excellent option for homeowners with busy families. It also works well for properties with a lot of shaded tree cover. Tall fescue is susceptible to brown patch and requires frequent overseeding.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch forming; spreads by tillers
  • Shade tolerance: High 
  • Drought tolerance: High 
  • Cold tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High 
  • Maintenance needs: Low 
  • Recommended mowing height: 3-4 inches 

3. Bahiagrass

Bahiagrass is drought- and heat-tolerant and its extensive root system is ideal for sandy soils. Bahiagrass can take more shade than bermudagrass but still requires a lot of sunlight throughout the day. This grass can tolerate the cold, but it can be overseeded with perennial ryegrass to better withstand the winters. This turfgrass is also low-maintenance and resilient, with the ability to handle a high amount of foot traffic. 

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons 
  • Shade tolerance: Limited shade, prefers at least six hours of sun each day
  • Drought tolerance: High 
  • Cold tolerance: Moderate 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High 
  • Maintenance needs: Low 
  • Recommended mowing height: 3-4 inches 

4. Zoysiagrass

Zoysiagrass is cold and heat tolerant and can handle more shade than bermudagrass. This turf forms a dense layer of grass, which helps it handle a heavy amount of foot traffic. It can develop too much thatch because of its denseness, leading to pest infestation and diseases. The upside to Zoysia is how low-maintenance it is. It doesn’t need frequent watering, mowing, or fertilizing, and it stays green longer than bermudagrass. Since Zoysia is such a thick grass, it is resistant to weeds.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes 
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate 
  • Drought tolerance: High 
  • Cold tolerance: High 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low 
  • Recommended mowing height: 1-2 inches 

5. Seashore paspalum 

Just like its name suggests, seashore paspalum is a great choice for homes near the beach but does well in inland areas, as well. This grass can tolerate a heavy amount of salt and heat and can survive in periods of drought. It is a quick-growing grass, which means it needs frequent mowing, but it can struggle to recover from damage, so make sure your mower blades are sharp. It can tolerate a moderate amount of shade and needs about five to six hours of full sunlight. Because it has such a low cold tolerance, it is best to overseed this turfgrass with perennial ryegrass in the winter. 

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes and stolons 
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate 
  • Drought tolerance: High 
  • Cold tolerance: Low 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate
  • Recommended mowing height: 1 ½-2 inches 

6. Centipedegrass 

Low-maintenance and tolerant of high heat, centipedegrass is excellent for Birmingham homeowners who want an easy yard. This grass has a very low tolerance for the cold, so making sure it’s fertilized with the proper nutrients before winter hits can protect it from severe damage. 

It is a slow-growing grass, so you will need to mow it less often. It doesn’t stand up well to heavy foot traffic. It can tolerate more shade than bermudagrass, but still needs at least five hours of sun a day to thrive. It is tolerant of a variety of soils, even sandy and acidic soils. 

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons; it is the slowest growing of the warm-season grasses
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate 
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate 
  • Cold tolerance: Low 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low 
  • Maintenance needs: Low 
  • Recommended mowing height: 1 ½ -2 inches 

How to choose the right grass for your Birmingham lawn

Choosing the right grass type for your home can be confusing, but there are a few questions that can help you narrow down your search, including:

  • What pH is your soil, and what type of soil do you have? 
    • Centipedegrass can handle a variety of soils, including sandy and acidic.
  • How much shade does your property get?
    • If you have a shady, tree-covered yard, tall fescue is your best choice. 
  • How much maintenance do you want to put into your property?
    • You have a lot of choices if you are looking for a low-maintenance lawn. Try centipede, Zoysia, bahia or tall fescue.
  • How much foot traffic does your yard get?
    • The only turf that does not handle high foot traffic is centipedegrass.

Once you answer these questions, you’ll have a better understanding of what grass on this list will work best. 

Ask a professional 

Your home is unique, and not every grass will be able to meet your specific needs. You have to make sure whatever grass you choose receives the proper care each season to survive.

For homeowners who aren’t knowledgeable about lawn care, this process can be complicated, overwhelming, and tiring. That’s why quality professionals located near you are ready to help you choose the best grass for your Birmingham home and care for it after it’s installed.  

Main Photo Credit: pxfuel.com

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