5 Best Grass Types in Wilmington, DE

Biggs House in Wilmington, DE

Who needs to take a drive through Brandywine Valley when you’ve got your own glorious landscape right out back? We’ll give you the details on the best grass types to grow in your Wilmington backyard.

The Wilmington weather can make it tricky to choose the right turf. Read on to find out more about our picks for the top grasses for your area: tall fescue, fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and Zoysiagrass.

Tall Fescue
Tall fescue | Robert Gaskin | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

1. Tall fescue

Though tall fescue takes awhile to establish, this is one of the best choices for a Delaware lawn. It’s wear resistant and drought, heat, and salt tolerant. Being a clump-type grass, it takes longer to recuperate, but will come back to life with proper care.

Because Wilmington’s right on the cusp of the cool-season grass zone, it can be tough to keep the yard green year-round. Since cool-season grasses grow best in spring and fall, tall fescue will maintain its color the longest in the summer out of these grass types.

Classification: Cool-season grass
Spreads by: Bunches, sometimes by rhizomes
Shade tolerance: Moderate
Drought tolerance: Moderate
Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate, but takes longer to recuperate from wear
Maintenance needs: Low
Mowing height: 2-4 inches
Potential for disease: Low; large patch can be an issue if there’s been a lot of heat and humidity
Soil pH: 5.5-6.5
Other notes: Tall fescue grows fast, so it requires more frequent mowing than other types

Creeping red fescue
Creeping red fescue (fine fescue) | Matt Lavin | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

2. Fine fescue

True to its name, fine fescue has a fine texture with delicate leaf blades. This grass feels great beneath bare feet, but it doesn’t do well with a lot of traffic. It tolerates poor and drier soils; if you want it to keep its color, though, fine fescue will need regular irrigation. Leaves will wilt or curl if they need water and turn from medium to dark green to yellowish green if the plant needs nitrogen. 

Classification: Cool-season grass
Spreads by: Creeping red fescue uses rhizomes; all other fescues grow in bunches
Shade tolerance: High
Drought tolerance: High
Foot traffic tolerance: Low
Maintenance needs: Low
Mowing height: 1.5-3 inches inches; keep it on the higher end if it’s planted in a shady area
Potential for disease: Moderate
Soil pH: 5.5-6.5
Other notes: This grass type doesn’t need much nitrogen and too much can increase susceptibility to diseases like red thread

Kentucky Bluegrass Closeup
Kentucky bluegrass | Pilot138-17 | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

3. Kentucky bluegrass 

Kentucky bluegrass is prized for its beautiful blue-green hue. However, it can be finicky. It’s easily damaged by drought, heat, and traffic. Not to mention, it’s susceptible to many lawn diseases.

The number one way to curb disease problems is making sure you’re following good cultural practices. This includes dethatching to improve air circulation, winter cleanup, and maintaining your drainage systems. Disease often sets in when grass is injured, so make sure never to “scalp” the lawn (removing ⅓ or more of the leaf blade in a single mowing session). If your grass is overgrown, take it down to the recommended height over several weeks. 

Classification: Cool-season grass
Spreads by: Rhizomes
Shade tolerance: Low; this grass prefers sunlight
Drought tolerance: Moderate
Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
Maintenance needs: Medium to high
Mowing height: 2-3 inches
Potential for disease: Moderate to high; susceptible to diseases like dollar spot, necrotic ring spot, and leaf spot
Soil pH: 6-7
Other notes: Because of its potential for disease and heavy thatch production, it’s important to dethatch in early fall or spring (or both)

Perennial Ryegrass

4. Perennial ryegrass

If you’re in a pinch and want to green up your yard quickly, perennial ryegrass is a great option. It’s often valued because it’s quick to establish — you can go from seed to a mowable lawn in as few as 21 days. 

This dark green grass is relatively low maintenance, but it can appear patchy on its own due to its bunch-type growth. You can reseed it or grow it mixed in with other grasses like Kentucky bluegrass. In the past, the shallow root system of perennial ryegrass has made it intolerant to drought and heat, but newer cultivars have remediated this problem.

Classification: Cool-season grass
Spreads by: Bunches
Shade tolerance: Low; it prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade
Drought tolerance: Low
Foot traffic tolerance: High
Maintenance needs: Moderate
Mowing height: 2-3 inches
Potential for disease: Moderate to high; susceptible to large patch, red thread, and rust
Soil pH: 6.0-7.0
Other notes: The coarse texture can shred if your mower blades are dull. A good rule of thumb is to sharpen your mower blades every 20 hours of use.

5. Zoysiagrass 

Zoysiagrass produces a beautiful, dense turf that will be the envy of your neighborhood. Unlike perennial ryegrass, it takes time to establish, but the results will be impressive. Because it produces a thick growth, weeds have trouble gaining a foothold. Don’t worry about kids or pets trampling all over this turf, either, because it holds up well to foot traffic. 

Zoysiagrass isn’t particularly susceptible to disease or insects. Take care of it with deep but infrequent waterings, annual core aeration, and regular mowing. If you seed it in partial shade, mow it at the taller end of its recommended mowing height. 

Classification: Warm-season grass
Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
Shade tolerance: Moderate
Drought tolerance: High
Foot traffic tolerance: High
Maintenance needs: Low
Mowing height: 1-2.5 inches
Potential for disease: Low
Soil pH: 6-6.5
Other notes: Can have coarse blades that require a sharp mower blade

What to consider when choosing your Wilmington grass

It’s especially important to take stock of your outdoor space’s strengths and weaknesses in a transition zone like Delaware where it can be more difficult to get a lush turf. Ask yourself these questions in order to narrow down your choice.

  • Do you value vibrant, dense coverage?
    • Kentucky bluegrass and zoysiagrass will provide a beautiful-looking lawn.
  • Is your yard on the shadier side?
    • Fine fescue tolerates the most shade with tall fescue close behind.
  • Is your yard a high-traffic area?
    • Perennial ryegrass can handle heavy traffic (which is why it’s used in parks and golf courses).
  • Does your yard retain water?
    • Tall fescue is the least susceptible to fungal diseases caused by humid conditions.

Do you already have a to-do list the size of an encyclopedia? Contact a professional landscaper in the Wilmington area. They’ll take care of your lawn maintenance so you can get back to the fun stuff. 

Main photo credit: Biggs House | Janet Lindenmuth | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Rachel Abrams

Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Rachel Abrams studied creative writing at the University of Virginia. She enjoys volunteering at her neighborhood community garden and growing herbs in her New York City apartment.