Different species of grasses are suited to different climates. Some grasses flourish in warm climates while others do better in cool climates. So the health and beauty of your lawn depends on how well you have chosen your grass. In the warm and arid parts of southern and southwestern USA, warm-season grasses that are adapted to temperatures between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit are in their element.
Some of the best grasses for extremely warm climates are:
- Bermuda grass: known in gardening circles as Cynodon dactylon, Bermuda grass originated in the Middle East and is believed to have arrived in the USA from Bermuda, where it is an abundant invasive species and is locally known as crab grass. It has rough-edged gray-green blades that are 0.78 to 5.9 inches long. When erect, it is slightly flattened and has purplish stems that measure from 0.39 to 11.81 inches tall. The reason Bermuda grass is so well suited to hot and drought situations is that it has a deep root system, which can go down to 6.6 feet deep. The grass spreads by creeping over the ground, and as it travels, it grows a root wherever a node touches the ground, creating a dense sod. It can be grown at temperatures above 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and between 77 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit, being the optimum temperature for growth. During the winter, it turns brown and becomes dormant. Bermuda grass has a low shade tolerance, but high heavy use tolerance. Since it grows very quickly during peak season, the lawn needs to be mowed every 4 to 6 days. It can be cut as short as half an inch.
- Zoysia grass: Zoysia grass is a genus of creeping grass that thrives in coastal areas and grasslands. Found in abundance in Asia, Australia, and the Pacific islands, it is the most heat-tolerant of all grasses. However, among all the warm climate grasses, it has the least tolerance for heavy use. Zoysia grass is the collective name for nearly a dozen species of grasses that include Zoysia japonica (found in Japan), Zoysia macrantha (found in Australia), Zoysia minima (New Zeland), and Zoysia matrella (East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia). Dark green in color and intermediate in texture, it can be cut as low as half an inch tall. Since it grows so quickly during peak season, it needs to be mowed every 7 to 10 days. It is widely used for lawns in temperate and tropical areas. It is also ideal for creating teeing areas and fairways on golf courses. In winter, it becomes brown and is dormant.
- Bahia grass: Also known as Paspalum notatum, Bahia grass is a perennial grass that thrives in tropical and subtropical areas. It is characterized by a prominent V-shaped inflorescence (the complete flower head including stalks, stems, bracts and flowers) that consists of two spike-like racemes containing a multitude of tiny spikelets, each 0.11 to 0.14 inches long. The grass creeps along the ground with its scaly rhizomes firmly buried underground and its stolons and stouts hugging the soil to create a dense sod. Its flat, hairless, rough-textured leaves have blades that are 0.079 to 0.236 inch long. The stems can grow to a height of 7.9 to 29.5 inches tall. Since bahia grass grows very rapidly, the lawn needs to be mowed every five to seven days. It should be cut to a height of 1 to 3 inches. Bahia is lightly shade tolerant and grows well in sandy and acidic soils. It doesn’t need as much fertilization as other grasses. If you want a thick carpet of grass on your lawn, then Bahia is the grass you should have.
- Buffalo grass: Buffalo grass, also known by its scientific name bouteloua dactyloides, is a warm-climate North American prairie grass native to the USA, Canada, and Mexico. It does not tolerate shade and doesn’t grow well in sandy soil. What makes it so suited to extremely warm climates is that it is resistant to heat, cold and drought. But since it has low resistance to salt, it is not suitable for coastal areas. Buffalo grass is normally dioecious (having male and female reproductive organs in different plants), with flower stalks that are 3.9 to 7.9 inches tall. But some are also monoecious (having male and female reproductive organs in the same plant). It crawls along the ground with numerous stolons that branch out in all direction, creating a dense sod. Occasionally, it also grows rhizomes which are buried underground. Its roots are finer than those of most plains grasses, with a diameter of less than 0.039 inches. Normally, it grows from 2 to 5.1 inches tall; but in the southern Great Plains, it can reach a height of 12 inches. When mowing this species of grass, it should be cut to 2 to 3 inches tall.
- St. Augustine grass: St. Augustine grass, which is also called Charleston grass, after the great city in South Carolina, found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and is considered a warm-season grass, for places like Miami, Florida. It is often found growing in abundance in marshes, lagoons, shorelines and wherever moisture occurs in plentiful supply. Although it is less tolerant to drought than bermuda grass, it rivals the latter in popularity as a lawn grass. It has flat blades and is dark green in color. It spreads out in every direction with numerous stolons, forming a dense carpet-like sod. It can be cultivated in a wide variety of soil types with pH values ranging from 5.0 to 8.5. There are more than half a dozen cultivars of St. Augustine grass, including Captiva (a southern chinch bug resistance cultivar developed by the University of Florida), Floratam (a viral infection resistant cultivar developed by the University of Florida and Texas A&M University), and Sir Walter (an extreme heat and drought resistant cultivar developed in Australia in 1996). It is a medium to high-maintenance grass.
All of these grasses have one thing in common: heat and drought tolerance, which makes them the ideal choice for lawns and golf courses in the Southern United States, and particularly in the Miami, Florida.