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zoysiagrass: a future lawn grass replacement for st. augustine? - Extension Service - Community Services - Seminole County Government - Florida
Zoysiagrass: A Future Lawn Grass Replacement For St. Augustine?
Al Ferrer
Seminole County Residential Horticulturist

Zoysiagrass: A Future Lawn Grass Replacement For St. Augustine?

The standard turf grass in Florida is the St. Augustinegrass, but this grass has many pest problems that cause many headaches and money to homeowners. The promise of a new type of grass that can replace St. Augustinegrass is always good news. The grass most promising today to replace St. Augustinegrass as a preferred lawn grass is called Zoysiagrass. This grass, originated in the Orient, has finer leaves and is shorter with a good compact growth and does not seem to be susceptible to damage by the chinch bug. Other important characteristics of this grass are good shade, salinity and wear-tolerance. Like other grasses, it has some drawbacks, mainly its slow growth and susceptibility to nematode damage. As a reminder, many years back zoysiagrass was also a promising lawn grass and the susceptibility of the cultivars to nematodes at that time was so high that growing zoysiagrass in Florida usually resulted in failure.
There are three different species of Zoysia grasses but only Zoysia japonica is considered for lawn use. The new varieties Empire, JaMur and Ultimate Flora do not seem to have the shortcomings of the old Zoysia cultivars and may prove to be a good alternative to St. Augustinegrass. These promising varieties of Zoysia are already being grown in Florida, and there is already some information on how to take care of this grass. Some of these varieties are:

Empire: This zoysiagrass requires 6-8 hours of sunlight per day, not suitable for shady conditions. This grass should be mowed at about 1.52.0 inches in height with a rotary mower. It needs about 2-4 lbs. of N per 1,000 square feet annually for best growth. Experimentally, it has performed well with 0.5 lbs of water-soluble nitrogen per application or up to 1 lb of N per 1,000 square feet at each application. Use a fertilizer with high Potassium levels for better performance of the grass. Empire tends to develop excessive thatch, susceptible to large patch disease and is also prone to damage by hunting billbugs.

JaMur: This zoysiagrass has a medium textured leaf blade and tolerates moderate shade. It establishes more quickly than many zoysiagrasses and produces an attractive ground cover. It should be mowed between 23 inches in height. In Texas, the fertilization recommendations are to apply 12 lbs of N per 1,000 square feet annually. There is limited production of this grass in Florida.

Ultimate Flora: This zoysiagrass has slightly finer leaf blades than Empire and forms a dense growth. It establishes quickly laterally and will cover and fill in more quickly than the older zoysiagrasses.

Irrigation of zoysiagrasses: As a general rule, it is accepted that zoysiagrasses require less water than most St. Augustinegrasses. Watering, either rainfall or irrigation, will be needed every 34 days in the summer, 37 days in the fall, 514 days in the winter and 37 days in the spring. It will vary depending on the soil type, maturity of the grass and other location factors. Apply to inch of water every irrigation period.

Mowing of zoysiagrasses: Mowing frequency is about the same as for St. Augustinegrass, and be sure to keep the blades sharpened. These grasses will do best when mowed about 2 inches high.

Information for this article was provided by Laurie Trenholm, Ph.D. Turgrass Specialist from the University of Florida.

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