6 Best Grass Types for Denver

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Denver City and County building from Colorado State Capitol

What makes Denver such an attractive place to live is the breathtaking view of the snow-capped mountains and the city’s amazing climate. The Mile High City averages 300 sunny days a year, and the average temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The high elevation, arid climate, and mild temps offer an ideal growing environment for many grass types.

Most of the grasses that thrive in Denver are cool-season grasses because of their durability and drought tolerance. There are a few tough warm-season grasses that — if cared for properly — can survive the colder Denver seasons. 

Here are the six grasses that grow well in Denver: 

  • Tall fescue
  • Fine fescue 
  • Kentucky bluegrass 
  • Perennial ryegrass
  • Buffalograss
  • Blue grama 

1. Tall fescue 

Tall fescue is known for its adaptability because it can withstand cold, heat, drought, and shade. It is a dense grass with a deep root structure, making it a hardy grass that needs very little watering. This cool-season turf can tolerate heavy foot traffic from kids and pets. It can grow in all soil types regardless of its pH level, as long as the dirt is well-drained.

It is slow-growing and won’t invade gardens and flower beds. It also may require overseeding to remove bare spots and promote thick growth.

  • Classification: Cool-season 
  • Spreads By: Bunch forming and extends by tillers 
  • Shade Tolerance: High 
  • Drought Tolerance: High 
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: High
  • Maintenance Needs: Low 
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 2-3 inches

2. Fine fescue 

In the same family as tall fescue, fine fescue is a low-maintenance cool-season grass perfect for busy homeowners across Denver. Fine fescue gets its name from its long, narrow blades. It’s a turfgrass that grows well in high elevations and can be planted in rocky and sandy soils. If your property is shaded, fine fescue would be a great option because it thrives in shady locations. If you have areas that receive plenty of sun, you will want to mix fine fescue with blue grama or Kentucky bluegrass.

The grass’s dense turf can be tough to cut, so be sure to have sharp mower blades. Fine fescue is highly susceptible to fungi like red thread and dollar spot.

  • Classification: Cool-season
  • Spreads By: Bunch forming and spreads by tillers
  • Shade Tolerance: High 
  • Drought Tolerance: High 
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: Low 
  • Maintenance Needs: Low 
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 2 ½ – 3 inches 

3. Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass is one of the most popular grass types found in homes across The Mile High City. This dense, durable cool-season grass thrives in all types of climates. Kentucky bluegrass gets its charm from the fine, blue-green blades. It’s a turfgrass that is soft on the toes if you walk on it barefoot.

KBG prefers full sun but some varieties, like Glade and American bluegrass, can handle total shade. You can complement Kentucky bluegrass with perennial ryegrass to build a versatile, lush landscape. 

Kentucky bluegrass contains a large amount of thatch and needs regular aerating and dethatching to thrive. It is also prone to pests and disease —  like grubs and chinch bugs — more than other cool-season grasses. 

  • Classification: Cool-season 
  • Spreads By: Rhizomes 
  • Shade Tolerance: Moderate 
  • Drought Tolerance: Low 
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: High 
  • Maintenance Needs: Moderate; because its root system is shallow, it will need to be watered more frequently than other cool-season grasses
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 2 ½ – 3 inches 

4. Perennial ryegrass 

This cool-season grass has durable blades, so it’s great for yards with frequent visitors and heavy foot traffic. In fact, it’s so tough, it’s often used in commercial settings like golf courses and parks. Perennial ryegrass has narrow, durable blades. Its dark green blades won’t fade under regular wear and tear, so it always keeps a lush appearance.

Perennial ryegrass germinates quicker than any other grass type, and unlike annual ryegrass, it works as both a permanent and temporary lawn. It is the one grass that is generally included in grass seed blends and complements species like Kentucky bluegrass.

One downside of this grass is that it can be highly prone to fatal disease or pest infestations like gray snow mold and Japanese beetles. It also has a hard time surviving cold, dry winters.

  • Classification: Cool-season 
  • Spreads By: Doesn’t spread 
  • Shade Tolerance: Low
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: High 
  • Maintenance Needs: Low
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 2 ½ – 3 inches

5. Buffalograss

Buffalograss is a warm-season grass and can only grow at an elevation of 6,500 feet or below. For those homes in the lower elevations of Denver, this beautiful grass is an excellent heat- and drought-resistant option. Buffalograss is known for its long (10-12 inch) curly blades that drape over to create a lush, green carpet. To keep it looking healthy, avoid heavy foot traffic, especially during its dormant periods.

This grass prefers alkaline and loamy soils that are well-drained. If buffalograss is left in stagnant water or poorly-drained soils, it can become susceptible to pests and diseases like chinch bugs and fairy rings. 

  • Classification: Warm-season 
  • Spreads By: Stolons and seeds 
  • Shade Tolerance: High
  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: Low 
  • Maintenance Needs: Low, though if over-fertilized, it’s prone to excessive weed growth
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 1 ½ – 3 inches

6. Blue grama 

This warm-season native grass gets its name from its bluish-green blade color. Blue grama is excellent if you are looking for a low-maintenance turf that can withstand a good amount of wear and tear. The slow-growing grass doesn’t grow very tall, so it requires less mowing than other grasses. 

Brue grama, which is often found in pastures and open fields, enjoys full sunlight and has little shade tolerance. It is prone to fungal diseases like rust and smut.

  • Classification: Warm-season 
  • Spreads By: Rhizomes 
  • Shade Tolerance: Low
  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Foot Traffic Tolerance: Good, except when it goes dormant from May to October 
  • Maintenance Needs: Low 
  • Recommended Mowing Height: 1 ½ – 2 inches 

Choosing the right grass for your home 

With each grass’s unique needs and requirements, it can be hard to know which one will work best for your property. 

Here are a few questions that can help you determine the right grass type

  • What is your elevation?

If you’re located under 6,500 feet, buffalograss would be a great option for your home. 

  • How much sunlight does your exterior get? Is there a lot of shade? 

If your property is covered with trees or hedges, a yard with tall fescue would work well because the grass has high shade tolerance. 

  • How much time do you want to dedicate to lawn care?

Blue grama is a low-maintenance option, whereas Kentucky bluegrass needs more care, but the work is well worth it.

  • How do you want to plant your grass: sod, seed, or plugs?

Some grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass, can only be planted as sod, so having your yard prepared ahead of time is essential. 

Buffalograss enjoys alkaline soils, while fine fescue can be planted in rocky areas. 

By answering these questions, you can narrow down the best grass types for your landscape. 

Still having trouble deciding which grass is best for you? Consult with a professional to find the perfect grass for your exterior, there are many quality local landscapers in your area ready to take on the job. 

Main Photo Credit: Ken Lund | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

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