4 Best Grass Types in Portland

Aerial view of Portland, OR skyline with Mount Hood in the background

It’s hard to compete with Portland’s natural beauty — from it’s scenic waterways to its parks like the International Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and Portland Japanese Garden. It’s enough to inspire you to take your backyard habitat to the next level. It all starts with planting the right grass for your home to make your backyard shine.

Our picks for the best turfgrasses for Portland are Kentucky bluegrass, colonial bentgrass, fine fescue, and perennial ryegrass.

These cool-season grasses will thrive in Portland’s coastal climate. Keep reading to find out which type is best suited to your home’s environment.

1. Kentucky bluegrass

This medium-textured grass has a signature dark blue-green turf. If you like to entertain friends and family, don’t worry – this grass tolerates foot traffic. It grows well in a wide range of soils, but if you have any sandy soils with a pH below 5.5, lime application is helpful. It also works well mixed with perennial ryegrass or fescues to make a more lush-looking lawn.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate; aim for four to six hours of sun
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate; needs at least 2 inches of water a week
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Medium to high. This grass needs annual dethatching and nitrogen fertilization.
  • Mowing height: 2-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate with proper mowing and fertilization, high with lower mowing heights

Other notes: In order for strong roots to develop, the best time to plant this grass is in the fall when temperatures drop to between 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. Colonial bentgrass

Colonial bentgrass usually requires a lot of maintenance, but it thrives in Portland’s coastal landscape. It creates a soft, dense turf with fine blades and a light green color. 

This grass will easily take over lawns in Portland. Most mature lawns have significant bentgrass growth whether intentional or not. With suitable irrigation and mowing, this turfgrass will still produce a high-quality lawn in the summer.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate; will go dormant in a drought
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate; requires regular irrigation and light dethatching followed by coring
  • Mowing height: .38 inches-1 inch
  • Potential for disease: Low. The most common diseases can be partially controlled by fertilizing with 3-4 pounds of sulfur 1,000 square feet per year.

Other notes: Ideally, homeowners should mow with a reel mower instead of a rotary mower to maintain the proper height. 

3. Fine fescue

Compared to other fescues, fine fescue has long, narrow blades and a deep green color. One of the most shade tolerant turf grasses, fine fescue will thrive in your tree-lined backyard. It can do well with low nitrogen but will respond to and maintain color better with regular applications of nitrogen fertilizer. 

Expect fine fescue to dominate a mix, especially with perennial ryegrass, in three to five years.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes or bunch-type, depending on the species
  • Shade tolerance: High. This grass will do better if it’s in partial shade.
  • Drought tolerance: Low
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low. Weekly mowing is best but not essential during the growing season.
  • Mowing height: 1.5-2.5 inches 
  • Potential for disease: Moderate; watch for snow mold and fungus in wet, humid areas

Other notes: When dethatching, go for coring instead of mechanical dethatching to avoid tearing out bunches of the grass. 

4. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is a cool-season grass that is often mixed with other grasses like Kentucky bluegrass. As a naturally disease-resistant turf, you won’t have to worry too much about prevention. It isn’t as cold tolerant as other cool-season grasses, but it thrives in climates where the summers are moderate and the winters are cool. If you want a green lawn throughout the winter, perennial ryegrass is a good choice.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: High; takes longer under drought stress to go dormant than most grasses
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low; requires less dethatching than other cool-season grasses
  • Mowing height: Aim for 1-2 inches
  • Potential for disease: Low

Other notes: Ryegrass needs more nitrogen than other types to thrive. Monitor it closely, though, because too much nitrogen can cause excess growth. 

How to choose the best grass type for your lawn

Is your lawn partially shaded?

Colonial bentgrass does well in sites with morning sun and afternoon shade, and fine fescues can thrive in continuous partial shade.

Do you own a rotary or a reel mower?

Fine fescue, perennial ryegrass, and colonial bentgrass will benefit from a reel mower.

Do you like to entertain?

Kentucky bluegrass will do fine under human and pet feet.

Don’t want to deal with dethatching?

Perennial ryegrass produces the least amount of thatch so you can spend more sitting back and enjoying your outdoor space.

Is the thought of maintaining your new lawn overwhelming? Contact a Portland landscaping professional to lend a hand.

Main Photo Credit: © Steven Pavlov  | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

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