5 Best Grass Types for Salt Lake City

Skyline of Salt Lake City, Utah, with mountains in the background

There’s nothing like the rush of skiing your way into a Salt Lake City winter, but before the cold weather hits, it’s important to seed your lawn for spring success. 

What’s the best grass for your Salt Lake City lawn? There are five types of grass that will make your yard a star attraction in the Crossroads of the West.

The best grasses for your Salt Lake City yard are: 

Salt Lake City is located in USDA Hardiness Zone 6, which means our lawns need either a cool-season grass that grows strong in spring and fall and goes dormant during hot summers, or warm-season buffalograss, which is highly productive in summer but goes dormant in winter.

With our ski town’s snowy winters and hot, dry summers, it’s important to grow hardy grass that can hold its own in extreme weather.

1. Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass Lawn
Kentucky bluegrass
Brenda Ryan | Lawn Love

Kentucky bluegrass is an old reliable for Salt Lake City homeowners. With emerald blades that are soft to the touch, it’s gorgeous, exceptionally cold-hardy, and perfect for outdoor play. If you’re looking for a lawn that will easily recover from cold snaps and games of tag, Kentucky bluegrass is your dream grass.

Kentucky bluegrass has a slow germination rate (14-21 days) and takes months to establish, but once it’s established, it spreads quickly via rhizomes (underground horizontal shoots).

It requires more maintenance than the other cool-season grasses. Kentucky bluegrass requires 1 to 1.5 inches of water each week and needs to be fertilized on a six- to eight-week schedule. Because it is susceptible to disease and weeds, pesticides and herbicides also may be necessary. Kentucky bluegrass is prone to thatch buildup and may require dethatching.

It’s also less drought- and heat-tolerant than other grasses like tall fescue and buffalograss.

To prevent pests and ensure lawn uniformity, it’s often seeded with tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, or fine fescue.

  • Classification: Cool-season
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes (underground horizontal shoots)
  • Shade tolerance: Low; can tolerate light shade but prefers full sun
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate
  • Disease and pest resistance: Low to moderate; susceptible to necrotic ring spot, summer patch, and stripe spot
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: High
  • Recommended mowing height: 2.5-3.5 inches

Grass Seed Options:
Jonathan Green (11970) Blue Panther Kentucky Bluegrass Grass Seed (3 lbs.)
SeedRanch Midnight Kentucky Bluegrass Seed (5 lbs.)
– Jacklin Seed – Biltmore Blue Blend – 100% Kentucky Bluegrass (5 lbs.)

2. Tall fescue

Tall Fescue
Tall Fescue
Ty Haller | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Boasting the deepest root system of the cool-season grasses, tall “turf-type” fescue is an exceptionally heat-tolerant grass that stands up to drought and shade better than Kentucky bluegrass. It’s a highly adaptable, all-purpose grass that resists weeds, disease, and pests.

Tall fescue’s dense, medium- to deep-green leaves have a coarser texture and are more prone to clumping than other grass varieties, though new cultivars have finer leaves and resemble Kentucky bluegrass.

Tall fescue is slow to recover from damage, so it’s often mixed with Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass to prevent bare spots.

  • Classification: Cool-season
  • Spreads by: Bunching
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate; can tolerate partial shade
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Disease and pest resistance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate to high
  • Maintenance needs: Low to moderate; requires 1 inch of water per week, and should be fertilized on a six- to eight-week schedule
  • Recommended mowing height: 2.5-4 inches

Grass Seed Options:
Triple-Play Tall Fescue Grass Seed Blend (5000 sq ft)
Eretz Kentucky 31 K31 Tall Fescue Grass Seed (choose your size)
Pennington The Rebels Tall Fescue Grass Seed Mix (7 lb.)

3. Fine fescue

Fine Fescue - Red Creeping Fescue
Creeping red fescue
Matt Lavin Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Ready to forget the fertilizer and kick herbicide to the curb? With the highest shade tolerance of all the Salt Lake City grasses, fine fescues are excellent, low-maintenance choices for shady lawns with poor, dry soil. 

Fine fescues (including hard, sheep, Chewings, and creeping red varieties) are a favorite with Salt Lake City homeowners who want to skip the mowing. By planting hard fescue or certain fine fescue mixes, you only have to mow your lawn once or twice a year, though you can opt for a regular mowing schedule to maintain an even lawn look.

If your lawn has full sun and gets hot, or if kids and pets use your yard as a play area, fine fescue may not be the best choice. The fine-textured medium green to deep blue blades cannot tolerate high heat or heavy foot traffic.

For Salt Lake City lawns with different levels of sunlight, fine fescue is often mixed with Kentucky bluegrass in sun-and-shade seed blends.

  • Classification: Cool-season
  • Spreads by: Bunching (via tillers, like tall fescue) or rhizomes, depending on the variety. 
  • Shade tolerance: High 
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate
  • Disease and pest resistance: Moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Recommended mowing height: 3-4 inches; alternatively, you can plant a low-mow fine fescue mix that will grow 4-6 inches tall throughout the growing season

Grass Seed Options:
Outsidepride Legacy Fine Fescue Grass Seed (5 lbs.)
Eretz Creeping Red Fine Fescue Seed (choose your size)
Outsidepride Creeping Red Fine Fescue Grass Seed (25 lbs.)
Outsidepride Hard Fine Fescue Grass Seed (10 lbs.)

4. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass
Perennial ryegrass
T. Kebert | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Perennial ryegrass may be one of the more high-maintenance grasses, but it’s certainly a showstopper. If you want a traditional lawn with dark green, glossy foliage, perennial ryegrass is a fast-growing superstar that can stand up to wear and tear.

Perennial ryegrass is quick to germinate and grows densely, making it a great choice for heavily trafficked lawns. It thrives in full sun but can grow in partial shade, and it naturally resists most diseases and insects.

Because perennial ryegrass isn’t as heat- or drought-tolerant as other cool-season grasses, it’s often mixed with fescues or Kentucky bluegrass for full lawn coverage.

  • Classification: Cool-season
  • Spreads by: Bunching
  • Shade tolerance: Low; prefers full sun, though it can tolerate light shade
  • Drought tolerance: Low
  • Disease and pest resistance: Moderate; susceptible to dollar spot and rust
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: High; requires about 1.5 inches of water per week, and you’ll need to apply fertilizer on a six-week schedule
  • Recommended mowing height: 1.5-2.5 inches

Grass Seed Options:
Outsidepride Perennial Ryegrass Seed (5 lbs.)
Eretz ProTurf Perennial Ryegrass Fine Lawn Seed (choose your size)

5. Buffalograss

John Tann | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Native to the Great Plains region, buffalograss may be a warm-season grass but it can hold its own in Salt Lake City’s climate. With soft, light green blades that turn tan to lavender when dormant, buffalograss is an aesthetically pleasing choice that’ll keep your feet happy. The downside? Buffalograss goes dormant in October and won’t green back up until early spring. 

Looking to cut back on lawn care? Because buffalograss is a native species, it’s specifically adapted to grow in our climate and resist diseases common to our region. That means it requires the least maintenance of all the lawn grasses, which saves you time and money while protecting the environment. 

Planting buffalograss instead of Kentucky bluegrass can cut your outdoor water usage by 50% to 75%.

Buffalograss can be mowed regularly, or you can grow it as a low-mow grass. If you opt for the low-mow option, it’ll grow 4 to 6 inches tall and form a dense sod. You’ll just have to mow once in spring to remove old growth.

Resist the urge to overseed buffalograss with a cool-season grass to provide winter cover: Buffalograss is a “purist” grass that won’t grow well with others.

  • Classification: Warm-season
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes and stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Very low; grows best in full sun
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Disease and pest resistance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
  • Maintenance needs: Low 
  • Recommended mowing height: 2-3 inches

Grass Seed Options:
Everwilde Farms Buffalograss Seeds (1 lb. of seeds)
Buffalograss seed (primed) (5-lb. bag)

How to choose the best grass for your Salt Lake City lawn

  • How much maintenance do you plan to do (or hire out)?  
    • Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass require the most mowing, watering, and fertilizing, while fescues and buffalograss require less routine yard work.
  • How much sun exposure does your lawn get?
    • Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and buffalograss require sunny lawns.
    • Tall fescue can tolerate some shade, but fine fescue is the real shade superstar.
  • Is your lawn prone to heat and drought?
    • Buffalograss and tall fescue tolerate hot summers and drought.
    • Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass require frequent watering and additional care during dry periods.
  • How much foot traffic does your lawn get (kids, pets, parties, games, etc.)?
    • Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass stand up to heavy foot traffic, while fine fescue is less durable and cannot tolerate frequent foot traffic.
  • How do you want your grass to look and feel? 
    • Tall fescue is coarser than other cool-season grasses, while Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass offer a more traditional lawn look (and they’re softer on your feet).
  • How fast do you want your grass to grow?
    • Perennial ryegrass is one of the fastest-growing grass types, while Kentucky bluegrass is slightly slow to establish.
    • Fine fescue germinates quickly but is slow to fill your lawn.

Plant your own seed or call a pro

Ready to seed your lawn DIY-style? Plant cool-season grass (Kentucky bluegrass, fescues, or perennial ryegrass) in early fall to give it time to establish before the cold snap. If you’re opting for buffalograss, plant in early summer to optimize summer growth.

Growing grass in the Beehive State takes planning and preparation, and fresh seeds require daily care to germinate and grow strong. If you’re already a busy bee, you can call a Salt Lake City lawn care pro to get your grass thriving, so you can snap into your skis confident that your lawn will be healthy come spring.

Main Photo Credit: Pasteur | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

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Maille Smith

Maille-Rose Smith is a freelance writer and actor based in New York. She graduated from the University of Virginia. She enjoys watching theatre, reading mysteries, and listening to psychology podcasts. She is an orchid enthusiast and always has a basil plant growing in her kitchen.