Zoysia Sod Guide

Zoysia Sod Guide: Is It Right for Your Needs?

The grass sod you choose for your yard will depend on where you live. The climate is fundamental in growing grass successfully. You have to learn about different grass varieties to pair the right one with the needs of your yard and ensure you know how to care for it properly.

Zoysia is a versatile grass variety that can survive in several different climates. It offers a beautiful, lush lawn that many people love, but it can go dormant more quickly than other types.

About Zoysia Sod

This warm season grass thrives in the South. It performs really well in the heat, but it can tolerate cool weather as well, so it will still survive in transition zones like the Midwest. It’s also shade tolerant, so while it will thrive in the sun, it can survive in the shade as long as it has 4-5 hours of direct sun.

Zoysia grass will go dormant after the first frost, but it will also come back earlier than other grasses in the spring. As soon as the soil temperature reaches about 50 degrees, your lawn will be full and green before anyone else.

Characteristics of Zoysia

Zoysia Sod Grass

Zoysia grass is appealing for many property owners because of its thick, luscious nature. This dense growth gives the strong, medium-wide blades a soft feel, much like walking on carpet. This thickness also discourages weed growth because the roots penetrate so much of the soil that they choke out most weeds.

The grass is low maintenance and drought resistant, making it easy to care for. It also adapts well to many different types of soil, so it will grow well in loamy, sandy, or clay-like soil.

The rhizomes and stolons contained in Zoysia sod foster horizontal growth. While stolons spread along the surface of the soil and start roots every few inches, rhizomes grow beneath the surface and create longer, thicker roots that continue to sprout upward. As stolons and rhizomes reproduce every few inches, it creates a very dense lawn.

Key features

  • Thick, lush, and soft
  • Extremely heat and drought tolerant
  • Low maintenance
  • Does well in many different types of soil conditions
  • Grows horizontally rather than vertically

Pros

  • Grows in sun and partial shade
  • Deep root systems make it drought tolerant
  • Will thrive in heat and tolerate cooler temperatures
  • Requires less fertilizing
  • Doesn’t need to be mowed frequently
  • Soft, carpet-like feel

Cons

  • Goes dormant quicker than other grasses
  • Slower to recover from high stress
  • Can develop large patches of disease

Establishing Zoysia Grass

Zoysia Sod

The process for planting Zoysia doesn’t differ much from any other type of grass. Zoysia grass is common in homes with children and pets, on athletic fields and golf courses, and in commercial landscapes.

It holds up under a lot of foot traffic and will thrive better than other types of grass. You can seed your lawn with Zoysia or you can lay sod. Each has their own benefit.

Seed

Trying to establish Zoysia from seed can prove to be difficult because a very small percentage of the seeds will germinate.

While purchasing the seeds is more affordable than purchasing sod, it requires a lot of water and sunlight until the lawn is established. This takes a lot of time and money that not a lot of property owners are willing to dedicate.

Zoysia seed has a tendency to produce grass that’s a coarser texture and the growth may be uneven. Your grass won’t be as soft or as dense when trying to establish it from a seed.

Sod

Most homeowners have better luck establishing their Zoysia from sod. It’s more expensive to install, but you won’t have to put forth as much effort watering it in. It will take a lot less time to install it from sod and growth will be softer and more consistent.

Zoysia Maintenance

While all lawns require maintenance, Zoysia tends to require a little less than others. Because it’s strong enough to thrive in direct sunlight and drought conditions, and because it tends to grow horizontally rather than vertically, it will require much less watering, weeding, and mowing than other varieties.

Watering

Water your Zoysia first thing in the morning before the dew evaporates. It will prevent water loss and reduce fungal issues. Once your Zoysia is established, it only needs about one inch of water per week. Ideally, you should water half an inch twice per week.

During periods of heavy rainfall, it won’t require any watering from irrigation. During extreme heat or drought, you can increase watering if needed. However, because it’s drought tolerant, you may find that your Zoysia performs well even with minimal water.

Watch your Zoysia to see what it does. If you’re going through an extended period of drought, it may go dormant prematurely, but should turn green again after rain or watering. If you want to avoid brown grass in the middle of summer, you’ll need to continue your watering practices.

Mowing

After you lay sod, you can begin mowing as soon as it’s fully rooted and you can’t lift it from the soil anymore. In the south, you’ll need to mow from April to October. In the transition zone, you may only have to mow from May to September.

During the growing season, keep your Zoysia between ½ and 2 inches. Keep it higher in areas of shade or during heat and drought. When you mow, only remove ⅓ of the blade or less at a time.

Fertilizing

Zoysia

Zoysia is hardy, but it still needs to be fertilized once per year. Use ½-1 pound of nitrogen for every 1000 square feet. Find a fertilizer that has a balanced blend of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.

You can apply the fertilizer from late spring to late summer. Don’t fertilize your Zoysia before May 1. You need to wait until it’s 100% green. If you wait to fertilize until the fall, don’t use a high-nitrogen or winterizing fertilizer. You can apply phosphorus in the fall to help your grass store carbohydrates.

Once you apply the fertilizer, saturate the soil immediately and read the instructions on your specific fertilizer for further guidance.

Weed Control

The most common weeds in Zoysia are broadleaf weeds like clover, annual bluegrass, and dandelion. You can apply a pre-emergent herbicide twice a year to prevent an abundance of weeds from developing.

However, be careful not to apply a pre-emergent to a newly sodded lawn that is still establishing its own roots. Hand pick any weeds you find until your sod is fully rooted. It’s best to wait a full year before applying chemicals to your lawn.

Insect Control

If you keep your lawn healthy, it will resist insects and infestations naturally. You can always apply targeted insecticides to problem areas. Just be sure to follow the instructions on the label carefully.

Dethatching

Thatch, or brown plant material, can build up below your green leaf blades. Sometimes dethatching is necessary to prevent pests and disease. Too much thatch will also prevent your grass from receiving water and fertilizer.

Water will accumulate in the thatch and suffocate the roots, but a thinner layer of thatch that is less than half an inch thick can benefit the health of your lawn. It can conserve soil moisture and protect against fluctuations in temperature, much like mulch.

Dethatch your Zoysia in spring or fall. As soon as it reaches an inch thick, it needs to be done.

Aerating

During aeration, you poke small holes into your soil to allow air and water to get through and give the roots room to grow. You can rent an aerator from your local hardware store.

To determine whether your lawn needs aeration or not, you can insert a screwdriver into the soil. If you can’t penetrate the ground because it’s too hard, it’s time to aerate.

Aeration works best during the growing season, before the summer gets too hot. Mid to late spring is an ideal time. The best time to aerate is two days after a soaking rain. If there’s no rain in the forecast, water your lawn thoroughly before aerating. This makes the lawn easier to penetrate with the aerator. You can also aerate during fertilization.

Here’s a maintenance schedule that may make it easier for you to see how easy it is to maintain:

January Prepare for maintenance next month
February Apply pre-emergent to prevent weeds
March Dethatch and aerate before it turns green
April Detatch again, if needed

 

Water

Mow to 0.5-2 inches tall

May Water

 

Mow to 0.5-2 inches tall

Fertilize

June Water

 

Mow to 0.5-2 inches tall

Fertilize

July Water

 

Mow to 0.5-2 inches tall

August Water

 

Mow to 0.5-2 inches tall

September Water

 

Mow to 0.5-2 inches tall

Apply pre-emergent to prevent weeds

October Water

 

Mow to 2 inches to prepare for winter

November Sit back and relax
December Enjoy the holidays

Zoysia Varieties

There are many different varieties of Zoysia, each with its own tolerance for sun, shade, foot traffic, and drought. Pick the one that will work best for you based on how you plan to use and care for your lawn.

EMPIRE Zoysia

EMPIRE Zoysia

This form of Zoysia comes from Brazil. It was developed for lawns throughout the southern two-thirds of the United States. It’s more resistant to disease than other types of Zoysia, which makes it better suited for very warm climates.

Because this type of Zoysia was bred in Brazil, it also performs well in tropical climates that have a lot of rainfall.

This variety is very low maintenance and produces a lovely blue-green color. The blade is wider than most other Zoysia varieties, so it looks thicker and more lush.

Despite its exceptional performance in warm areas, it’s well suited for many different soil conditions and climates, so it’s a great choice for many people. It will do well in clay or sandy soil. Its deep roots offer excellent strength and wearability.

This variety is extremely drought tolerant and has moderate shade tolerance. For people with Chinch bug problems, this grass is ideal because it will resist these pests. It’s also the first breed of Zoysia that is more tolerant to brown patches.

EMPIRE Zoysia makes it very easy to control weeds because it’s very tolerant of herbicides. If you’ve been struggling with weeds, this is definitely a great choice for your lawn.

  • Mow height: 1-2 inches
  • Injury recovery: Very good
  • Wear tolerance: Very good
  • Drought tolerance: Very good
  • Shade tolerance: Good
  • Ideal use: Lawns with 6-8 hours of sunlight, homes, parks, golf courses, commercial landscapes

Innovation Zoysia

Innovation Zoysia

Innovation Zoysia is relatively new. It was developed in partnership with researchers at Texas A&M and Kansas State Universities. It’s extremely cold tolerant, so it grows well in the transition zone. It will perform better in the transition zone than other Zoysia varieties.

This grass is attractive and hardy. Its shade tolerance is good and maintenance is low. It grows as a dark green color, is very soft to the touch, and it has a fine texture.

This variety of Zoysia was developed to compete with Meyer, who was the current industry standard. Meyer has been around since 1952 and also grows well in the transition zone. To improve upon this standard, researchers cross-bred a Zoysia similar to Meyer with another fine-bladed variety that produces a denser canopy.

It’s also resistant to insects and disease, but has finer leaf blades that many people prefer in their lawns today. It produces a better turf quality overall. It establishes itself faster and has a better damage recovery rate.

Innovation Zoysia will keep its color later in the fall and come back earlier in the spring for a long, beautiful growing season.

  • Mow height: 1-2 inches
  • Injury recovery: Good
  • Wear tolerance: Good
  • Drought tolerance: Very good
  • Shade tolerance: Very good
  • Ideal use: Homes, parks, golf courses, commercial landscapes

Geo Zoysia

Geo Zoysia

This is another fine-bladed Zoysia variety that produces a deep green color. This is one of the most beautiful Zoysia varieties you’ll find and easily surpasses other types of grass in beauty as well.

It has great shade tolerance and has incredible wear tolerance, which makes it a great choice for homes with children and pets. It will thrive in a variety of soil conditions and climates. Thatch does not build up as quickly in this variety as it does in others.

While this type of Zoysia requires a little more maintenance than others, it’s one of the best looking grasses you’ll ever find.

  • Mow height: 0.5-1.5 inches
  • Injury recovery: Good
  • Wear tolerance: Very good
  • Drought tolerance: Very good
  • Shade tolerance: Very good
  • Ideal use: Homes, parks, golf courses, commercial landscapes

Meyer Zoysia

Meyer Grass

Meyer Zoysia was the industry standard for a very long time and is still one of the most preferred types of Zoysia. They have been successful for more than 60 years. It’s a medium-bladed, slow growing grass that produces a dark green, dense landscape.

It’s exceptionally cold tolerant and will do well in the transition zone. It will also grow in partial shade. In fact, more so than other Zoysia varieties, Meyer Zoysia grows well in climates where the winters are too cold for Bermudagrass and the summers are too hot and humid for other cool season grasses.

Unfortunately, Meyer Zoysia is susceptible to the bluegrass billbug and to disease. It’s slower to recover from damage than other Zoysia varieties.

  • Mow height: 1.5-2.5 inches
  • Injury recovery: Good
  • Wear tolerance: Good
  • Drought tolerance: Good
  • Shade tolerance: Very good
  • Ideal use: Homes, parks, golf courses, commercial landscapes

Palisades Zoysia

Palisades

Palisades Zoysia is known for its drought tolerance. It’s dense and medium or coarse in texture, making it easy to maintain and ideal for homes. It’s one of the most sought after grasses for homeowners because of its low maintenance.

It’s not as shade tolerant as fine-bladed Zoysia varieties, but it’s more salt, heat, and cold tolerant than most. You’ll also enjoy good color retention in the fall.

It is extremely wear tolerant and establishes itself quickly, so it can be used in high traffic lawns and parks.

  • Mow height: 1-2 inches
  • Injury recovery: Very good
  • Wear tolerance: Very good
  • Drought tolerance: Very good
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Ideal use: Homes, parks, golf courses, commercial landscapes

Zeon Zoysia

Zeon Zoysia

This Zoysia variety grows best in the southern heat and in the lower part of the transition zone. It has fine blades and a medium green color. Its low thatch production and shade tolerance mean it spreads quickly.

It’s more resistant to disease and insects than other warm season grasses and is very low maintenance. It also doesn’t require as much fertilization as other varieties. Because it is so dense, it will choke out weeds, but still features a fine, soft texture.

  • Mow height: 1.5 inches
  • Injury recovery: Good
  • Wear tolerance: Excellent
  • Drought tolerance: Good
  • Shade tolerance: Very good
  • Ideal use: Homes, parks, golf courses, commercial landscapes

Zorro Zoysia

Zorro Zoysia

Zorro will grow in shady areas that other Zoysia varieties can’t. It’s a dark green, fine-bladed variety that does well in residential areas and will retain its color later into the fall. It’s resistant to brown patches, fall armyworms, and hunting billbugs.

It thrives in full sun but can handle partial shade as long as it has 3-4 hours of sunlight per day. It also has a very low water requirement, making it very easy to maintain.

  • Mow height: 1-2 inches
  • Injury recovery: Unknown
  • Wear tolerance: Very good
  • Drought tolerance: Very good
  • Shade tolerance: Good
  • Ideal use: Homes, parks, golf courses, commercial landscapes

El Toro Zoysia

El Toro Zoysia

This light green Zoysia variety has a medium blade and a dense canopy, making it ideal for high traffic lawns. If you’re looking to mow less frequently, this variety has a slower vertical growing rate than others.

It is very heat tolerant once its established and will grow rapidly in hot temperatures. It can withstand heavy foot traffic and is resistant to disease. It requires less water volume and more sporadic mowing.

Shade tolerance and drought tolerance are good, and it will grow in nearly all soil types.

  • Mow height: 1.5-2.5 inches
  • Injury recovery: Good
  • Wear tolerance: Good
  • Drought tolerance: Good
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Ideal use: Homes, golf courses, commercial landscapes

Emerald Zoysia

Emerald Zoysia Sod

This fine-bladed hybrid Zoysia variety is one of the most attractive Zoysia varieties you’ll find. It’s soft, dense, and rich in green.

It’s the best option for places where good lawn maintenance is a must. Upscale neighborhoods and golf courses prefer this type because it lends itself well to outstanding appearance and good first impressions.

While this variety has less cold tolerance than other Zoysia varieties, it’s more shade tolerant. It’s slow growing, so it needs very sporadic mowing, but it requires the use of a robotic or reel mower rather than a rotary mower.

  • Mow height: 1.5-2.5 inches
  • Injury recovery: Good
  • Wear tolerance: Very good
  • Drought tolerance: Good
  • Shade tolerance: Very good
  • Ideal use: Homes, golf courses, commercial landscapes

FAQs

If you’re thinking about planting Zoysia in your lawn, you probably didn’t know there were so many options. These frequently asked questions should help you figure out which Zoysia variety to choose, if any.

Question: What are the Downsides to Zoysia Grass?

Answer: One of the primary drawbacks to Zoysia is that it won’t stay green all year. It will look fantastic for about 3 months out of the year at the peak of its growing season. They will lose their green hue halfway through the fall and the lawn will stay brown until spring. For some people, this is a deal breaker.

Zoysia is not a cold season grass either, so for people in the northern states and in colder climates, this grass will not survive.

Question: What is a Good Price for Zoysia Sod?

Answer: Zoysia varieties will differ, but on average, you’ll pay $225 per pallet. It typically breaks down to $0.40-$0.60 per square foot.

Question: How Quickly Does Zoysia Grass Spread?

Answer: Most Zoysia varieties grow slowly, so it’s recommended that you seed 1-3 pounds per 1000 square feet. However, if planted shallow and watered frequently, you will begin to see seedlings in about 10 days.

Question: Is Zoysia Grass Expensive?

Answer: Zoysia can be much more expensive than other types of grass. It’s typically only available in plug or sod form. Bermudagrass, on the other hand, is readily available in seeds and is much cheaper. If you live in a transition zone, either one of these grass types will do well, but you have to decide if Zoysia is worth the extra cost.

Question: Which Grass is Better, Bermuda or Zoysia?

Answer: Zoysia is more dense and will resist weeds better than Bermudagrass. It’s also much more attractive. It’s softer than Bermuda and offers a nicer lawn for children and pets. However, Zoysia can be hard to mow. Bermudagrass is just as hardy as Zoysia and grows well in the transition zone. Read our full Zoysia vs Bermuda Grass Guide.

Question: Is Zoysia Better Than Fescue?

Answer: Fescue is more shade and cold tolerant than Zoysia and grows better in the northern transition zone. However, Zoysia will tolerate more wear, drought, and salt, meaning it’s better suited for coastal regions and hot climates. Both grasses do well in a variety of soil climates.

Question: What is the Best Type of Zoysia Grass?

Answer: Emerald Zoysia is one of the most beautiful Zoysia varieties, but it can be very expensive to plant. While it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, it does require the use of a reel or robotic mower, making even less frequent maintenance quite expensive. However, if the look of your Zoysia matters, this is the one to choose.

Innovation Zoysia is another great choice because it’s beautiful and very low maintenance. It will thrive nearly anywhere in the southern region or the transition zone. It’s gorgeous, lush, and perfect for all soil conditions.

Final Thoughts

If you’re making the decision to plant Zoysiagrass in your yard, you’ve thought long and hard about the benefits. It might cost more than other varieties, but it is incredibly hardy and does well in hot climates as well as most of the transition zone.

Two of the best Zoysia varieties are Emerald and Innovation, but anything you choose will look fabulous and require much less maintenance than other types of grass. Ultimately, no matter what you pick, you’ll be happy with the results.

All Zoysia is easy to maintain and offers a gorgeous, dense, and lush lawn that you will be able to enjoy for many years.

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