4 Best Grass Types for Los Angeles Lawns

Los Angeles City Hall and front lawn with red benches

With the hustle and bustle of living in LA, who has time to think about the lawn? We’ve done the work for you. Here are four species to consider for your LA lawn:

Well Maintained Bermudagrass
Gilba Solutions Pty Ltd | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

1. Bermudagrass

This aggressive-growing grass is familiar to LA homeowners. If your lawn has high levels of foot traffic, bermuda’s high level of wearability makes it a contender. This grass establishes quickly as well, so you don’t have to worry about fending off too many weeds during the establishment period.

It does have a few drawbacks. Bermudagrass develops thatch quickly due to its aggressive growth habit and may require more watering than is feasible for some homeowners. This species is subject to several insect and disease issues, including mole crickets, sod webworms, and dollar spot. 

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Needs frequent mowing due to fast growth rate; develops thatch easily; needs regular fertilization
  • Mowing height: 1-2.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate — depends on the cultivar

Other notes: Bermudagrass goes into dormancy (turns brown) when temps start to drop. Cultivars have a wide spectrum of disease resistance, level of maintenance, etc., so choose one that has the best combination of characteristics for your lawn. If you have flower beds in the lawn, bury metal or concrete edging 2 or more inches into the ground to prevent bermuda from spreading into these areas.

Grass Seed Options:
Pennington Bermudagrass Bare Spot (5 lb. bag)
– Pennington Smart Seed Bermudagrass Mix (8.75-lb. bag)
Scotts Turf Builder Bermudagrass (10-lb. bag)
Hancock Seed Co. Bermudagrass (50-lb. bag)

John Tann | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

2. California buffalograss

Formerly known as “UC Verde” buffalograss, California buffalograss is a cultivar developed in California as an alternative lawn option for homeowners and landscapers. Researchers took the best characteristics of native buffalograss, including its drought tolerance, and improved other features to make it feasible as a turf alternative.

California buffalograss can be left as a meadow-like grass, or you can mow it every few weeks. It has a dense growth habit, making it resistant to weeds, and requires few or no chemical treatments for fungus or insects. As a bonus, it produces very little pollen compared to other turfgrasses.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: High; will turn brown during summer if left unirrigated; needs about half an inch of water per week
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Mowing height: Up to you; naturally grows from 4-6 inches
  • Potential for disease: Low

Other notes: Goes dormant (brown) in winter. Try biodegradable green colorant (aka grass paint) to keep it green all winter. This cultivar is touted as using up to 75% less water compared to other turfgrasses after it is established.

St. Augustinegrass
St. Augustinegrass
Michelle Selzer | Lawn Love

3. St. Augustinegrass

St. Augustinegrass is a popular warm-season turf that works well in low-traffic lawns. Although it thrives in full sun, it works well in warm-season lawns with partial shade, which is a key selling point for many homeowners. Another plus is its dense growth habit, which helps it to crowd out weeds and produce a full-looking lawn.

Thatch can cause insect issues, so dethatch regularly to prevent unnecessary infestations. St. Augustinegrass is also prone to winter injury, which is why it is only grown in areas with mild winters. St. Augustine is planted via sod or plugs. Seed is not commercially available.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate to high — depends on the cultivar and the level of water and nutrients
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low to moderate
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate; requires a high level of nitrogen and may require an iron supplement as well
  • Mowing height: 2-4 inches, depending on the cultivar. Mow on the high side to prevent weed invasion.
  • Potential for disease: Not as prone to disease as in the Southeast, but insects can be an issue

Other notes: If well-maintained, St. Augustinegrass will develop a thick layer of thatch, which must be removed regularly. Excess thatch leads to chinch bugs and other problems. Select the right cultivar to head off issues common to your area. Be sure not to over-fertilize or over-irrigate, as this can lead to disease.

Grass Plug Options:
Seed Ranch St Augustine Seville Grass Plugs (2 Trays)
Seed Ranch St Augustine Floratam Grass Plugs (2 Trays)

Forest and Kim Starr | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Zoysiagrass

Zoysiagrass is another warm-season grass that works well in Los Angeles. It has good shade tolerance (slightly less than St. Augustine) and is not susceptible to significant disease or insect pressure.

Zoysiagrass is considered to be a low-maintenance grass. Its dense turf crowds out weeds, it has a high tolerance for foot traffic, and it requires less mowing than other grasses because of its slow growth habit. If you establish this as new grass, planting sod over plugs is recommended due to its slow growth rate.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate, but depends on the cultivar
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low to moderate; needs to be dethatched on occasion and needs some fertilization
  • Mowing height: 0.5-1 inch
  • Potential for disease: Low, but nematodes may be a problem

Other notes: Will need to be dethatched periodically. Use a sharp mower blade for the best results. If you have nematode problems in your soil, ask a local extension specialist for help in choosing the best grass type. Zoysia is very sensitive to nematodes, so another grass type may be best in soils that have this issue.

Grass Plug and Seed Options:
Zoysia Plugs (50 Large Grass Plugs)
Zoysia Plugs (50 Full & Lush Grass Plugs)
Zoysia Plugs (100 Plugs)
– Zoysia Emerald Grass Seeds (1/8 lb. of seeds)
Zenith Zenith Grass Seeds (1/8 lb. of seeds)

How to select the best grass type for your Los Angeles lawn

Before you select one of these grasses to plant, ask yourself a few questions about your lawn. 

  • How much sun do I have on the lawn?
    • California buffalograss and bermudagrass need full sun. St. Augustinegrass and Zoysia can tolerate some shade.
  • Does my area suffer from drought or watering restrictions?
    • Many factors influence a grass’s ability to use water well (soil, species, cutting height, etc). Having said that, warm-season grasses require less water to thrive than cool-season grasses, and each of the grasses on this list is unlikely to die except in extreme conditions. California buffalograss probably needs the least amount of water to thrive while St. Augustinegrass probably requires the most water. 
  • How much maintenance do I want to do?
    • California buffalograss and Zoysia earn high marks in the low-maintenance category.
  • Does my lawn have lots of foot traffic from people or pets?
    • California buffalograss and St. Augustinegrass work well in low-traffic areas. Bermudagrass and Zoysia can handle higher levels of traffic.

If “hire someone to cut the lawn” is on your to-do list, contact one of our Los Angeles lawn care professionals. They’ll mow, edge, and make your City of Angels lawn sing.

Main Photo Credit: David Wilson | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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Sarah Bahr

Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, raise chickens, and mow the grass with her battery-powered lawn mower.