The Lawn Grower’s Guide to Grass Types

Let’s talk turf! There are 2 major types of turfgrass in the US: cool season grass, most common in northern states, and warm season grass, native to southern states. Cool season grasses like Fescues, Ryegrass, and Bluegrass grow best when temperatures are 60-75°F while warm season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine flourish in 80-95°F weather. This is why cool season grasses shoot up in the spring and fall, then thin out in the summer heat when warm season grasses thrive (yes, it’s not just because your neighbor sings to his grass while mowing).

It’s also why these grasses primarily grow in the cold upper two-thirds of the United States: think Pacific Northwest, High Plains, Upper Midwest, and the Northeast. The primary cool season grasses are fine and tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and bentgrass.

While all of these grasses have adapted to brave the winter weather, certain species fare far better than others when planted further south in the “Transition Zone” between the warm season southernmost states and the cool season region (Mid-Atlantic, southern Midwest, northern Southwest).

The Transition Zone Grass Grower’s Guide to the Galaxy…or at least the central US

They say you can grow anything in the transition zone, just nothing well! But don’t worry, the gnomes are here to give you the inside scoop on what grasses can actually be greener on your side and the other side.

Tall fescue especially thrives in this region because of its high tolerance to heat stress and drought conditions in addition to its hearty, winter-resilient roots system. You’ll even see Tall fescue as far south as Atlanta as homeowners have fallen for this traffic-tolerant turf, but we’d advise that it is not a water-wise move this far south, as it will get especially thirsty in the summer heat.

Similarly, Bermudagrass and Zoysia are the main warm season grasses in this region because they can withstand drought and cold temperatures better than the other warm season grasses: Buffalo, Centipede, St. Augustine, Bahiagrass, etc. Of course, the further north you grow, the more you’re fighting against mother nature…and we always recommend working with her. This is why you’ll see even Bermuda and Zoysia go dormant brown when temperatures drop firmly below the 55-60 degree F range.

The Other Growers’ Guide to the coolest and warmest grass types near you

Of course, there are several grass types that can’t quite toe Goldilocks’ line between cool and warm but are still just right for their respective regions. Here’s a few quick tips for the other most common grass types.

Kentucky Bluegrass is perfect for those lawns with a mix of sun and shade and spreads its dark green blades to fill in bare patches–perfect for those who want to avoid overseeding whenever possible. 

Perennial ryegrass on the other hand is a non-spreading “bunch-type” grass, meaning the blades shoot out horizontally and vertically from the stem, rather than spreading to create new blades entirely. While drought will lead to dormancy, perennial rye quickly revives when watered and is highly resistant to foot and pet traffic, disease and pests. 

St. Augustine is perfect for the warm-season lawn owner that thinks less is mower when it comes to cutting your grass and fighting off weeds. This species requires less mowing than other grass types, and its coarse, thick blades crowd out most weeds better than its alternatives.

Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on the two most fertilizer-sensitive species of turf: Buffalo and Centipede. Lawn care experts joke that if you look at Centipede the wrong way with Nitrogen it will get over-fertilized. This is why all of our custom lawn care plans take into account the grass type and of course growing climate to perfect not only your soil health but also tailor nutrient levels to your turf’s needs.

Still not sure what kind of grass you have? Send the gnomes a picture on our contact form here: Contact – Gnome ( or tag us on social media @trygnome and we’ll help you get growing.

Pierce O’Donnell
Tagged: Lawn Care 101