4 Best Grass Types in San Diego

San Diego skyline

San Diego is a beacon of beauty. Surrounded by the ocean, canyons, and hillsides, and with mild weather year-round, it’s no wonder that San Diego is dubbed “America’s Finest City.” With the city so inviting for outdoor enthusiasts, it’s important for San Diego homeowners to have a top-notch lawn. 

While some people are moving away from grassy lawns, turfgrass is still a popular choice for most homeowners. It’s important to be mindful of water usage when planning which grass type to plant. Water is a precious resource that is particularly limited in California, and some grass types require a significant amount of water to survive. 

For this reason, our list is made up of mostly drought-tolerant, warm-season grass types, which require significantly less water than cool-season grasses. 

These are our four top grass choices for lawns in San Diego: 

  • Bermudagrass
  • St. Augustine
  • Zoysiagrass
  • Tall Fescue

1. Bermudagrass

Out of all turfgrasses, bermudagrass is one of the most water-wise options. It is drought-, heat, and salt-tolerant. It is a very tough turf and can handle a lot of foot traffic, making it a wonderful choice for families and pet owners. It is one of the most popular warm-season grasses across the lower United States.

Bermudagrass ranges from blue-green to dark green. It will go dormant during an extended drought but will recover once water becomes available again. 

It grows quickly, so watch out for thatch buildup. It can be invasive to backyard gardens.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass 
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low; prefers full sun 
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High; it is more fragile during cold weather 
  • Maintenance needs: Low to moderate. It needs monthly fertilization during the summer. Hybrid varieties may need a bit more maintenance.
  • Mowing height: Requires weekly mowing; keep between 1.5-2.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: Low; few pest problems; weeds may invade during the winter
  • Soil pH: 5.8-7.0

2. St. Augustinegrass

Does your yard have a lot of shade? St. Augustinegrass is the best warm-season grass type for shaded lawns. In addition to being shade-tolerant, it is also drought-, heat-, and salt-tolerant. It’s a great grass for coastal yards.

This grass spreads aggressively and can invade your flower beds. St. Augustinegrass produces thatch when over-fertilized or over-watered.

St. Augustinegrass is a quick-growing, dense grass with broad, blue-green blades. It does require maintenance to keep it healthy, but with enough care, this grass type can make a beautiful, lush lawn.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
  • Maintenance needs: High; prone to iron deficiency, which can be corrected with applications of iron sulfate or chelate
  • Mowing height: Keep between 2.5-3.5 inches. Mow to the higher height in shaded areas.
  • Potential for disease: Moderate; watch out for gray leaf spot and chinch bugs
  • Soil pH: 5.8-7.0

3. Zoysiagrass

Zoysiagrass is a quick-growing warm-season grass, creating a durable and dense lawn, so it’s great for households with active kids and pets. It has a fine to medium texture, with colors ranging from light to medium green. 

Zoysiagrass thrives in a variety of soil types. However, it requires a higher amount of maintenance than other warm-season grasses. Since it does create a thick carpet, it resists weeds but tends to easily develop thatch. It needs to be aerated every spring to remove thatch buildup.

It is vulnerable to insects and diseases. Large patch disease may activate when the grass is recovering from a period of dormancy.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes and stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate: prefers full sun, and will thin in large shaded areas 
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate; requires more frequent dethatching and aeration than other grass types
  • Mowing height: Keep between 2-3 inches. Mow weekly. 
  • Potential for disease: High
  • Soil pH: 5.8-7.0

4. Tall fescue

Tall fescue is the only cool-season grass type to make the list, being one of the most drought-resistant turf grasses available. It requires very little maintenance and can handle plenty of activity from kids and pets. It also stays green year-round. No wonder it’s the most popular turfgrass in California.

It is dark green grass with wide blades and rolled leaves. While it is moderately drought-tolerant, keep in mind that tall fescue still requires more water than the other grasses listed above. Tall fescue is a great option for busy homeowners who don’t mind a lawn with a more coarse texture.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate; prefers full sun 
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate to high
  • Maintenance needs: Low; can grow in low-nutrient soil
  • Mowing height: Mow weekly from 2-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Low
  • Soil pH: 5.5-7.0

How to choose the best grass type for your San Diego yard

There are many factors to consider when choosing which grass best suits your yard. While bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass, zoysiagrass, and tall fescue can all thrive in San Diego, keep the following things in mind when making your decision:

How much time and effort can you put into lawn care?

If you’re looking to reduce time spent on yard work, look into planting bermudagrass and tall fescue.

How much shade does your lawn receive?

Sunny lawns will thrive with bermudagrass, and shaded lawns would do well with St. Augustinegrass. 

Do you have pets or kids?

Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass can handle high levels of outdoor activity.

How much water can you use?

If you’re limiting water usage, look into bermudagrass and St. Augustinegrass.

Use these questions as your guide to help you find the perfect grass type for your San Diego home.

Keep in mind: Cool-season grass types use up to 20% more water than warm-season grasses. However, if you live at a higher elevation, cool-season grasses might be a better option for you. To make the most of your lawn water usage, water your grass at dawn. 

Need help with taking care of your lawn? Reach out to a San Diego lawn care professional to help with all of your landscape design, installation, and maintenance needs. 

Main Photo Credit: PublicDomainPictures.net

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