3 Best Grass Types in Indianapolis

Indiana World War Memorial Plaza looking south to Downtown Indianapolis. The plaza is full of green lawns, open spaces, and war memorials

What type of grass is best for your Indy lawn? Experts recommend three cool-season varieties: 

  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Fine fescue
  • Turf-type tall fescue

The first step to determine which grass is best for your lawn is to consider your yard. Do you get full sun, or do you have areas with shade? 

Another important factor to consider is wear and tear. Do you like to play pickup soccer games on your lawn? If so, you’ll need a turfgrass with good wear that recovers quickly. 

A final point to consider is maintenance. If you’re the type who loves to spend time manicuring your lawn, Kentucky bluegrass may be a good bet. If you prefer to do other things with your time, fine fescue or turf-type tall fescue may be a better option. 

Now that we’ve discussed your primary concerns when choosing a grass type, let’s dive into the details.

1. Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass is highly prized for its “classic green lawn” look. However, that comes at a price. This species requires constant vigilance, including regular watering and fertilization. Diseases and insects can be common as well. Although preventive measures will head off most problems, you may have to treat your lawn for pests and weeds. 

In full sun, this grass works well seeded at 100%. In partial shade, consider a shade-tolerant variety mixed with 50%-70% fine fescue. 

If you have flower beds bordering your lawn, be sure to install concrete or metal edging about two inches deep. This will help prevent the grass’s aggressive rhizomes from tunneling into your ornamental beds.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate to high
  • Foot traffic tolerance:  Moderate, but has a high recuperative potential.
  • Maintenance needs: High. Requires regular fertilization and water.
  • Mowing height: 2.5-3.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: High

Other notes: Susceptible to billbugs and grubs. Root diseases such as summer patch and necrotic ring spot are common.

*Kentucky bluegrass requires regular watering to keep it looking healthy. If there’s a drought, the grass will likely go into dormancy and turn brown. That does not mean it isn’t drought-tolerant. This grass has moderate to high drought-tolerance, meaning that it will likely recover once regular watering resumes instead of dying off. Its rhizomes (underground stems) give it this excellent recuperative potential after periods of drought. 

2. Fine fescue

Fine fescue is usually mixed with Kentucky bluegrass in lawns with partial shade. Unlike Kentucky bluegrass, this group of grasses is relatively low maintenance, requiring less mowing, fertilizer, and water. 

Due to their low requirements, fine fescues have gained a reputation for being ideal for homeowners who want a low-input, low-maintenance lawn. However, it is not recommended to seed this grass on its own.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Fine fescues are bunching grasses except for creeping red fescue, which contains short rhizomes.
  • Shade tolerance: Full sun to moderate shade
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low to moderate wear tolerance. Low to moderate ability to recuperate after traffic stress.
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Mowing height: 2.5-3.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate to high

Other Notes: Consider endophyte-enhanced seed to resist common pests such as the billbug. Most varieties are moderately to very susceptible to dollar spot or red thread disease. 

3. Turf-type tall fescue 

This grass is a good lower-maintenance alternative for those wanting the look of a Kentucky bluegrass lawn with less maintenance. It can be seeded at 100% in full sun or partial shade lawns. There are many varieties for you to choose from, so do your research to find a cultivar that will suit your lawn’s needs.

This grass has a long establishment period, so this may not be the best choice if you want a lawn that will withstand heavy traffic soon after planting. 

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Most varieties are bunching-type grasses; some varieties have rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Full sun to partial shade
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low to moderate. Requires low to moderate levels of water to maintain a healthy look. Grows quickly, so you may have to mow often.
  • Mowing height: 3-4 inches
  • Potential for disease: Low to moderate

Other notes: Consider endophyte-enhanced seed to reduce pest pressure. Although it will stay greener longer than Kentucky bluegrass in a drought, it doesn’t perform quite as well in extended drought conditions. Excessive wear may require you to overseed. Susceptible to brown patch and gray leaf spot during the first two years of growth. Red thread can also be a problem for this grass.

Grow a healthy, cool-season lawn

Whether you want your front lawn to look like the Lilly House or you just want a decent lawn to withstand your flag football games, a healthy cool-season lawn is within your reach. Just consider these things when choosing the best turfgrass:

Is your lawn exposed to sun most of the day?

You can’t go wrong with any of the grasses — turf-type tall fescue, fine fescue or Kentucky bluegrass.

Do you have kids and pets?

If you have a lot of foot traffic in your yard, turf-type tall fescue is the best.

Are you too busy to put a lot of thought or maintenance into your yard?

You probably want to choose fine fescue.

If you’d rather have a professional mow, edge, blow, and plant, contact one of our Indianapolis lawn care pros today. They have the expertise to keep your lawn neat, tidy, and healthy throughout the year. 

Main Photo Credit: Pixabay

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