6 Best Grass Types in Memphis

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Elvis Presley Statue, Memphis, TN

Living in the Home of the Blues doesn’t mean you have to feel blue about your yard. Since Memphis is located in the transition zone, there are plenty of grass types to choose from. But you need to balance the best grasses with four distinct seasons. 

Here are our top six choices for Memphis lawns:

  • Tall fescue
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Perennial ryegrass 
  • Zoysiagrass
  • Centipedegrass
  • Bermudagrass
infographic showing the cool and warm season grasses on the US map, along with the transitional zone

Our list is a mix of cool-season and warm-season grasses that do best in a transition zone.  Cool-season grass types stay green throughout the winter, but they use up to 20% more water than warm-season grasses. Warm-season grasses may dull during the winter, but they are better equipped to handle summer heat. You also want to consider the amount of foot traffic on your lawn and how much maintenance you’re willing to do. 

1. Tall fescue

Tall fescue is one of the most adaptable cool-season grasses, making it a great grass type for your lawn. It does well in the winter, but can be sensitive to summer heat. 

Tall fescue can benefit a lot from overseeding, especially with warm-season types during the summer. It has a coarse, wide blade, and is a great option for active families with pets.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate. One of the more drought-resistant varieties of turfgrass.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate to high
  • Maintenance needs: Low. Can grow in soil with low nutrients. 
  • Mowing height: Keep between 1.5-3 inches. Mow weekly.
  • Potential for disease: Low. High tolerance against insects and disease.

Other notes: Stays green throughout the summer. You won’t have to worry about thatch

2. Kentucky bluegrass

While it’s not as drought-resistant as tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass remains a popular option across the United States. When people imagine turfgrass, most picture Kentucky bluegrass. It’s durable with a soft and smooth texture.

This is a great choice for sunny lawns and active families. It stays green all year long.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate. Requires a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight.
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate. Does well with proper irrigation and goes dormant during extended droughts. 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: High. Low nutrients can cause delayed growth and stripe rust. 
  • Mowing height: Keep between 2-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate to high

Other notes: Schedule to dethatch at least every other year

3. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is fast-growing and drought-resistant, making it a great low-maintenance grass type for busy families. Perennial ryegrass is often used alongside Kentucky bluegrass, and can also be used to thicken your lawn and fill in dead patches. 

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: High; drought will lead to dormancy, but it will revive quickly when watered.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Mowing height: Keep between 1-2 inches
  • Potential for disease: Low; disease- and insect-resistant; heat and humidity can lead to grey leaf spot disease

Other notes: Does not produce as much thatch as other cool-season grass types

4. Zoysiagrass

Zoysiagrass varies in texture and color, ranging from light to medium green. It thrives in a variety of soil types but requires a high amount of maintenance. 

Zoysiagrass grows quickly in warm weather and will give you a dense, durable lawn in the spring and summer. This is a great grass type for homes with active kids and pets. 

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes and stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate; prefers full sun, and will thin in large shaded areas. 
  • Drought tolerance: Low. Will quickly go dormant in a drought. Requires more irrigation than other warm-season grasses.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: High; needs to be fertilized frequently with small amounts of fertilizer
  • Mowing height: Keep between 2-2.5 inches; mow weekly
  • Potential for disease: High. Vulnerable to insects. Large patch disease may activate when the soil is between 65 and 75 degrees. Zoysiagrass is weed-resistant. 

Other notes: Needs to be aerated every one or two years to take care of thatch buildup. 

5. Centipedegrass

Centipedegrass is a low-maintenance warm-season grass, perfect for a busy household. 

Compared with other warm-season grasses, centipedegrass is a bit more sensitive to the cold. It’s a light green color, and iron deficiency will cause it to turn a light yellow. Keep in mind that it’s not very tolerant of foot traffic. 

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate; prefers full sun
  • Drought tolerance: High. Recovers quickly after droughts. Overwatering can lead to weeds. 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low; avoid over fertilizing; watch out for iron deficiency. 
  • Mowing height: Keep between 1.5-2.5 inches; mow weekly or every other week. 
  • Potential for disease: Low; nematodes can become an issue

Other notes: Produces less thatch than other warm-season grass types

6. Bermudagrass

Bermudagrass is commonly used for athletic fields, and its durability is what makes it a great option for active families. 

It ranges in color from blue-green to gray-green to dark green. During the cold season, bermudagrass can go dormant and dull in color.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low; bermudagrass prefers full sun
  • Drought tolerance: High; will go dormant during an extended drought
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High. More sensitive when the temperature is low. 
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate to high. Needs to be fertilized monthly during the summer. Hybrid varieties may need more maintenance.
  • Mowing height: Requires weekly mowing; should be kept between 1.5-2.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: Few pest problems; weeds have a greater potential to invade during the winter

Other notes: Bermudagrass does not produce allergenic pollen. Can be invasive in backyard gardens. Look out for thatch buildup. 

How to choose the best grass type for your Memphis yard

Since you live in a transition zone, there are plenty of factors to consider before choosing which type of grass best suits your lawn. Tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, and bermudagrass can all survive in Memphis, ask yourself the following questions when making your decision:

How much time do you want to put into lawn care? 

With perennial ryegrass and centipedegrass, you won’t need to worry a lot about maintenance.

Is your lawn shaded or in full sun?

Tall fescue and centipedegrass can stay green in a shaded yard. 

Do you have pets or kids?

Kentucky bluegrass and zoysiagrass can handle high levels of activity.

By using these questions as your guide, you’re well on your way to finding the perfect grass type for your Memphis home.

When do I plant grass?

For cool-season grass types, plant between late August and mid-October for best results. Most warm-season grasses will thrive when planted between May and the end of June. Warm-season sod can be installed any time of year, as long as the ground isn’t frozen. 

During the summer, cool-season grasses do not need to be mowed as frequently as warm-season types. However, they are more vulnerable to heat-related damage, so be sure to prep your cool-season grass for the summer. 

Need help with your lawn? Contact a Memphis lawn care professional to assist with all of your landscape maintenance, design, and installation needs. 

Main Photo Credit: Sharon Mollerus | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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