Considerable interest has developed in the use of zoysiagrass for
lawn purposes. It is a good hot-weather grass on poor soil. Advertising,
which has also created interest, has ranged from fair to misleading.
It is not a miracle grass, as some advertising would lead one to
believe. Zoysiagrass is neither all good nor all bad--it is desirable
on some turfgrass areas and the wrong grass to use on others. Test
plantings, trials, and observations of zoysiagrass have been made
on Long Island, in New Jersey, and nearby states for more than 25
years. The purpose of this leaflet is to summarize the present knowledge
on the desirability, the use and the culture of zoysiagrasses. In
part, the decision to use or not to use zoysiagrass involves personal
taste on its brown winter color. Before purchasing or planting zoysiagrass,
you should observe a zoysiagrass lawn during the fall, winter and
spring. Consider the following advantages and disadvantages of zoysiagrass
before deciding on its use.
Zoysiagrass grows especially well during the hot summer months.
established, it produces a thick, dense, cushiony turf.
thick growth prevents and controls crabgrass and summer weeds.
It has a good green color during the hot summer months when the
cool-season grasses may become unattractive.
It withstands close mowing (1/2 to 1-1/4 inches).
in most types of soil with proper management.
Withstands wear and tear during the summer.
Can survive severe heat stress.
Tolerates low fertility once it is well established.
less water than most cool-season turfgrasses.
It loses its green color and becomes brown and straw colored about
mid-October. It remains this color until about mid-May. In contrast,
cool-season grasses usually have good green color about 10 months
or longer. Even in mid-winter, cool-season grasses have some green
by vegetative establishment, with stolons or sod plugs, is necessary.
This method tends to be expensive and laborious. Seed is generally
unavailable and impractical. Seeded types are generally very coarse
establishes slowly. Under ideal conditions, it may give cover
in one season. Normally, two to three years are required.
Winter annual weeds tend to be more of a problem in zoysiagrass
than in cool-season turf.
Once established, it is difficult to eliminate and may be a nuisance
around plant beds. It can also invade a neighbor's lawn or garden.
from persistent winter traffic can be severe while zoysiagrass
brown and straw colored, it is flammable and may be a fire hazard
when allowed to grow tall near wooden buildings.
Since it is tough and grows densely, it requires more regular
mowing in summer.
While it tends to have less disease than most turfgrasses, it
is subject to rust and fairy ring. Fusarium blight has caused
serious problems on occasion.
It is not satisfactory for shade.
should be used primarily in situations where a summer lawn is of
primary importance. The unattractive winter color is not objectionable
on lawns of summer homes. The same may apply around swimming pools.
grows best and is most useful for areas which have sandy or gravelly
soils. It is sometimes put to good use on sunny, south or southwest
slopes and on poor or sandy soils. It is occasionally used on curb
strips between sidewalks and roads.
Some zoysiagrass grown in the southern United States may winterkill
seriously in the Northeast. The following types, which are Zoysia
japonica or have stock of this species, are winter-hardy. 'Meyer',
released from Beltsville, Maryland in 1951, has been the most commonly
used variety. 'Emerald', another variety, was introduced from Beltsville,
Maryland in 1955. It has finer leaves than 'Meyer'. This grass appears
less hardy than some, but it has survived more than 10 years on
Long Island. Japanese lawngrass, Zoysia japonica, is somewhat
coarser than 'Meyer.'
well-prepared weed-free plant bed is desirable when establishing
zoysiagrass. Vegetative material may be planted as sprigs or plugs.
One square foot of sod may provide as many as 500 sprigs or 36 two-inch
plugs. A plug is a round or square piece of sod usually two to four
inches in diameter with a core about 2 to 2 1/2 inches in depth.
The term "sprig" applies to a vegetative portion of the grass plant
and usually includes the leaves, a stolon (runner) and some roots.
is best planted during its early growing season from mid-May through
June. Later plantings fail to cover the soil before frost and they
will experience more winterkill.
- Place plugs 2 1/2 inches in diameter (preferred over 2 inches)
at 8- to 12-inch intervals. Press plugs into a similar-size hole
to get good soil contact. Do not cover the plugs with soil or
allow the plugs to remain elevated. A hard steel plug cutter can
be used to cut the plugs in the nursery. Such a tool may also
be used for cutting holes in the lawn into which the plugs are
- Sprigging into an existing lawn is not as desirable as plugging.
Sprigs should be planted in well-prepared, weed-free plant beds.
Sprigs are obtained by tearing a piece of sod apart. Each sprig
should be at least three inches in length and contain one or two
nodes. Sprigs are planted with one end below the soil and the
other end with the leaf shoots above the soil. Fresh sprigs are
planted 4 to 12 inches apart in rows and 8 to 12 inches between
Liming - Soil acidity for zoysiagrass should be maintained
as for most regular grasses. The pH should be between 6.0 and
6.5. Have the soil pH tested and add limestone according to the
pH results. See our GreenShare Factsheet on soil
testing for more information on having your soil tested.
- At the time of establishment of zoysiagrass on a rototilled
or loosened plant bed, apply a half rate of 5-10-5, or 10 pounds
per 1,000 square feet. Use a moderate-release- type fertilizer.
First season of establishment with sprigs or plugs, repeat the
1/2 rate of a complete fertilizer every three or four weeks through
early August. Use a slow-release fertilizer for these applications.
After establishment, late May fertilization is best; but it can
be fertilized through early August. Established zoysiagrass requires
less fertilizer than most turfgrasses and it will endure long
periods without fertilization. Do not use more than one pound
of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per application. In order
to determine if a fertilizer is fast or slow release, and to learn
how to determine rates, see our GreenShare Factsheet on Developing
a Fertility Program for Lawns.
Mowing - Since zoysiagrass is grows slowly, it does not
require as frequent mowing in cooler growing weather as do some
turfgrasses. Mowing once a week during this season, however, will
help to maintain smooth, well-groomed turf. It is a tough grass
that grows more rapidly in hot weather when it may need tow or
three mowings per week. The mowing height should be 1/2 to 1-
1/4 inch. Zoysiagrass tends to form a dense mat when mowed low.
Low mowing favors this grass and is especially beneficial when
you are trying to get plugs started in established lawns. A close
mowing in late April will remove brown leaf tips and encourage
- Newly planted plugs and sprigs of zoysiagrass should be kept
moist during the first two or three weeks to prevent drying out.
Established zoysiagrass turf does not require as much water as
most Northern lawn grasses. It will survive the early off-color
wilt stage, but it should be watered when a darker gray-green
or loss of green color develops in extended drought periods. A
slow application of one to two inches of water may be necessary
on established turf during these times.
Bugs, Billbugs and Sod
- These insects may cause damage from June through September.
Preventive or curative treatments when the insects are active
may be necessary to prevent serious damage. See individual factsheets
on these insects for control recommendations.
Control - After the lawn is well established, it usually has
little need for weed control. Occasionally, a few broadleaf weeds
and wild garlic (onion) do appear. These can be controlled with
the common materials used for our cool-season grasses.
Control - Thatch - the accumulation of stems, stolons, roots,
etc. above the soil surface - is one of the most common problems.
You can remove some thatch with a vertical mowing device or power
raking machine. Remove thatch in mid-to-late spring, usually every
year or two, depending on how much the grass is fertilized.
the Lawn - Zoysiagrasses, which turn straw colored and brown
in the fall with the first heavy frost, can be colored green for
the winter months. Several pigment-type colorants are available
at some garden supply stores for dyeing brown lawns. A single
application of dye after the zoysiagrass is completely dormant
will usually last all winter. Although artificial in appearance,
the green dyed lawns may look better than straw-colored ones.
Many people plant zoysiagrass with the hope that it will solve all
their lawn problems. After observing it for one or two winters,
some people change their minds and hope to eliminate it. Their task
is not easy.
If you do not wish to use chemicals, or if complete or fast elimination
is not required, you can use the following procedures.
Fertilize in September and October only.
Raise the height of cut to 3 inches or higher.After
several years, this type of management encourages the cool-season
turfgrasses to overtake the zoysiagrass.
elimination is possible. You would have to kill the entire zoysia
lawn with a non-selective weed killer such as glyphosate, then renovate
and reseed (CAUTION: glyphosate is not available for sale in Rhode
Island--you will need to order it from an advertisement in a gardening
magazine or newspaper).
Tom Kowalsick, Cornell Cooperative Extension, 2001