Issue: August 4, 2007
Is zoysia grass really good?
I live in Edgewood, NM. Some time ago, I received some mail touting something called "zoysia grass". It was claimed that in addition to being very hardy, drought resistant, easy to care for, and sundry other wonderful things, it would also spread through one's lawn and crowd out the undesirable weeds and grasses. That in fact, one need only plant plugs of the stuff every so many inches and it would spread to fill the vacant space.
If true, it sounds to me like a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it would be great to have something that would replace the trash plants in my yard (I'll not call it a lawn) and be easy to mow and care for to boot. On the other hand, that same description sounds like a good description of a very invasive species.
So, are you familiar with the product? Is it something that I could use to replace the nasty stuff near my house or is it something I should avoid in the interest of native species? Or, does the truth lie, as it so often does, somewhere in between? If so, does the product behave as described and what must I do to keep it from getting out of hand and spreading too much?
You are wise to consider the implications of the advertising claims. Dr. Bernd Leinauer, NMSU Extension Turfgrass Specialist, recommends zoysia as a good grass selection for New Mexico. However, he acknowledges that it is slow to establish. This means it is not as invasive as suggested in the advertising. It also means that it will take longer to establish your lawn than you think it will after reading the ad.
Zoysia grass is a fine textured grass that creates a nice looking lawn. It spreads by surface runners, unlike Bermudagrass that also has underground stems. It is a warm season grass that uses little water during the dormant season and it is hardy enough to survive the winter in much of New Mexico. The slow growth is the greatest negative characteristic. That slowness will allow for weed growth and creates the need for you to manage the weeds until the zoysia grass lawn has been established and completely covers the soil. Once established, the zoysia grass will compete with weeds. With proper mowing and lawn management, weed problems will then be reduced.
Some other options for a water conservative and low maintenance lawn are buffalo grass and blue grama. These do not create as thick a lawn as zoysia, so depending on how you want your lawn to look, you can choose any of these. You will need to mow the zoysia to a lower height, which will cause it to be thicker. The native grasses should be mowed to a greater height. This will create a different appearance in the lawn. Regardless of which grass you choose, water conservation and maintenance of a successful lawn require proper management the specific lawn grass you chose.
Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.
Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!