We all dream of a picture-perfect landscape. A yard that’s the envy of the neighborhood!
But maintaining a beautiful lawn requires the right kind of grass for the region. One of the more complicated regions to grow a lawn in the United States is the transition zone.
The transition zone is the middle area of the United States. This is where temperate and subtropical climates meet. To the north are the cooler climates where cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue thrive. To the south are the hot climates where warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass grow best.
Growing and maintaining a healthy lawn in the transition zone is challenging.
One of the best grass types to plant in the transition zone is zoysia grass. Learn how to plant zoysia grass seed for a vibrant lawn by following these simple steps.
What is Zoysia Grass?
Zoysia is a warm-season grass that is heat and drought-tolerant. It produces a thick, green lawn during the growing season. It also has more cold resistance than other warm-season grasses. This combination makes it a popular type of grass for the transition zone.
How to Plant Zoysia Grass Seed – Step by Step Instructions
Planting zoysia grass seed is a lengthy process but it doesn’t have to be over-complicated. By following the steps outlined below, you can grow your own zoysia grass seed lawn that is tolerant of all the stresses of your region.
1. Choose The Right Time
Zoysia grass seed is not tolerant of cool climates and will not germinate in cold weather. Make sure that the threat of frost has passed before you begin to plant any zoysia grass seed. A general rule of thumb is to plant in the late spring or 7-14 days after the last frost.
2. Measure Your Lawn
You don’t want to spend too much but you also want to buy enough bags of zoysia grass seed to cover your yard. Measure your property so you know how many square feet of grass seed, topsoil, and fertilizer you’ll need.
3. Test Your Soil
Before you plant your zoysia grass seed, I highly recommend performing a soil test. You can request al test at your local extension office.
Zoysia grass seed prefers acidic soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. A soil test will determine the nutrient content of your lawn. It will let you know if your soil is missing nutrients, or has some in excess.
4. Fix Your Soil
The results of your soil test might show that you have some adjusting to do. A pH level below 7.0 indicates acidic soil and a pH above 7.0 is alkaline.
Alkaline soils have too much sodium, calcium, and magnesium. This makes it harder for plants to draw up nutrients, resulting in grass stress and stunted growth.
Adding an amendment such as lime, sulfur, or peat moss can bring your soil back to the ideal pH level. Correcting pH levels can help improve drought tolerance by maintaining consistent soil moisture.
4. Prepare the Soil
If you are starting a new lawn from scratch, then I recommend first eliminating any other grass in the yard. Make sure that the yard is level and free from large rocks, dirt, debris, and chunks of soil. Rake up excess debris and use a soft rake to create loose soil on the surface for planting.
5. Spread The Grass Seed
Now that your yard is ready, it’s time for the fun part: planting the zoysia grass seed. There are several ways for broadcasting seeds, and the method you choose depends on the size of your yard.
I generally use a hand spreader or push spreader for even seeding. Spreaders make it easy to apply the right amount of seed uniformly across your turf. For a large yard, you can also rent or buy spreader towing attachments and connect them with your tractor.
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6. Ensure Seed-to-soil Contact
Zoysia grass seed needs direct sunlight to germinate, so avoid covering them with a layer of straw as you would for other grass types.
Grass seed also shouldn’t be directly exposed to the elements. The best way to ensure seed-to-soil contact is by using a tamper or lawn roller.
7. Keep the Soil Consistently Moist
Now that you have planted the zoysia grass seed, it is time to water them. Germination of zoysia grass seed usually begins between 14 and 21 days.
Maintain a consistent watering schedule to keep the soil moist. I recommended watering your new lawn every day for at least two weeks.
If the weather gets too hot or there is a drought, you may need to water twice per day. Ensure that water is draining properly to prevent fungus and lawn diseases.
8. Wait and Enjoy
No one likes sitting around waiting for grass seed to grow – unless that grass is your new lawn because mowing is a daunting task!
Once your grass is thick and has a dense growth pattern, it can be tempting to mow. But, to ensure strong root development, you should wait until the grass is at least 2.5 inches tall to mow. Set your mowing height to 1/3 of the blade length for best results.
How to Patch Zoysia Grass Bare Spots?
If you’re not looking to create an entirely new lawn but want to patch an existing bare spot or two, you can reseed these bald areas in your turf.
Bare spots in your lawn can be caused by dog urine, foot traffic, or grubs. Not only does it diminish the curb appeal of your lawn, but can also be an invitation for weeds.
Here’s how you can easily patch zoysia grass on your own.
1. Clear The Area
Make sure the area is clear of debris to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Remove all dead grass so you can start with a fresh seedbed.
2. Rake The Soil
For the best chances of germination, loosen the first 1-2 inches of soil with a garden rake. Apply a layer of topsoil and rake it so that it covers the entire bare spot.
3. Apply Seeds
Thankfully patch repairs are cheaper than trying to establish a new lawn. Usually, a small bag of grass seed is enough to do the job.
Be sure to apply the seeds evenly so that the grass will not overcrowd each other.
4. Water Well
Maintaining a consistent watering schedule keeps the soil moist but not soggy. Keeping it consistently moist is one of the best ways to ensure successful germination. Seeds should start to sprout in 2-4 weeks.
5. Wait On Mowing
Wait to mow your lawn for at least 6-8 weeks to allow for the grass to establish a strong root system. Let the grass grow to about 2.5 inches before cutting it.
How to Overseed With Zoysia Grass?
The words “reseeding” and “overseeding” are often used interchangeably. In reality, they are different processes that serve different purposes.
Reseeding is a lawn care process performed to fill any bare spots in your lawn. Overseeding allows you to stay ahead of grass-thinning issues.
Grass thinning is completely normal as your grass matures. It is especially common if you use your turf often. While Zoysia is a strong turfgrass, it will go dormant in winter and lose its green color. Overseeding allows you to keep it fresh and retain some green in your yard.
Overseeding involves spreading grass seed over an existing lawn. It is a low-maintenance, straightforward process to strengthen and boost the appearance of your lawn. Usually, lawns are overseeded with different types of grass to improve certain qualities of your turf. Overseeding isn’t always needed with zoysia grass – and here’s why!
Zoysia grass grows thickly and develops complex root systems. Any other grass seed will struggle to penetrate the to germinate and develop its own root system.
If you want to overseed zoysia, I recommend trying perennial ryegrass. Perennial ryegrass has a faster germination and establishment rate; however, it can also make your turn look blotchy.
When it comes to overseeding, timing is everything. You want to make sure you sow your seeds when conditions are ideal for germination in late spring or early fall.
2. Mow Low
You want to be sure that your seeds make their way down to the soil. I recommend cutting your grass to 1 inch.
3. Aerate and Dethatch
As we spend time outdoors running and playing on our grass, it can cause soil compaction. Likewise, a buildup of grass clipping and thatch (organic material under your grass) can also contribute to the problem.
Core aeration is the process of using a machine to pull up hundreds of tiny plugs of sod. This loosens the soil, allowing water, air, and fertilizer to reach the roots of your grass.
Signs Your Yard Needs to be Aerated
If you are unsure about what is causing your grass to look so weak and unhealthy, check out these sure-shot signs:
Is there a constant puddle of water in your yard after it rains or year-round? This could be a sign of soil compaction that is preventing water from being absorbed into the ground.
Does your grass feel like you are walking across a mattress? That is a sign that you have a thick thatch buildup that retains moisture and can lead to diseases, and it can also be an inviting home for pests.
Stick a screwdriver 6 inches into the ground. Is it hard or easy? If it’s difficult, your soil is compacted and could use good aeration.
You can rent a lawn aeration machine at your local hardware store or you can dethatch your lawn with a hand rake or a more efficient power rake.
How to Plant Zoysia Grass From Sod?
If you want to establish a new yard quickly, then planting zoysia grass from sod is your best option. Sod is a more expensive and labor-intensive process than traditional seeding, but can give you a vibrant green lawn in a fraction of the time.
1. Till The Soil
First things first, you need to prepare the ground under the sod to ensure strong root-to-soil contact. First, till the top 1-2 inches of soil and mix with it with balanced lawn fertilizer.
2. Lay The Sod
Begin by laying sod at the longest edge of your lawn. Unroll and make sure that the seams are as close as possible and there is no overlapping. Gaps can cause edges to dry out and can be a spot for weeds to crop up.
3. Tamp The Sod
Once your sod is in place, firmly tamp the sod into the dirt by using your hands or a lawn roller. Make sure that you smooth out any ridges and get rid of any air bubbles. Once the layers have been pressed, apply 1-2 inches of water immediately.
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Sod is very fragile and requires a lot of water. For the first 2 weeks, you will need to water your lawn at least once a day.
After 2-4 weeks, you can cut back watering to every 2 days. Then you can continue to water once a week according to the weather conditions. Refrain from getting carried away with watering. Soggy lawns can encourage lawn diseases that can kill your sod and destroy your efforts and cash.
How to Maintain a Zoysia Grass Lawn After Seeding?
Watering After Seeding Zenith Zoysia
Water newly seeded Zenith Zoysia grass lightly but frequently, making sure not to waterlog the soil. Once the seeds have germinated and the grass has established itself, gradually reduce the frequency of watering. Monitor soil moisture levels and water the grass as needed to keep the soil evenly moist.
As a general rule after the germinating period, Zoysia grass should be watered deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance.
Weed Control After Seeding Zenith Zoysia
To prevent competition from weeds for light, water, and nutrients, use a pre-emergent herbicide before planting Zenith Zoysia grass seeds to prevent weed germination. Once the Zoysia grass has established itself, use a post-emergent herbicide to control remaining weeds.
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using herbicides, or alternatively remove weeds by hand or with a tool like a hoe or rake. This is a safe and effective way to control weeds without chemicals.
Mowing After Seeding Zenith Zoysia
It is important to wait until the Zenith Zoysia grass has established itself before mowing it for the first time. This can take several weeks, depending on the conditions and the care given to the grass. Once the grass has reached a height of 2-3 inches, you can begin mowing it to the desired height.
Follow these tips for best results:
- Use a sharp blade on the mower to avoid damaging the grass.
- It is also a good idea to mow in different directions to avoid creating grooves or patterns in the lawn.
- As a general rule, Zoysia grass should be mowed to a height of 1-3 inches, depending on the time of year and the desired appearance of the lawn. Mowing the grass too short can damage it and make it more susceptible to weeds and pests.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Zoysia Grass?
Many homeowners choose zoysia grass for its advantages over other warm-season grasses.
Zoysia has unique drought-tolerant abilities, owing to its dense turf. This keeps the ground below cool, slows evaporation, and helps your lawn retain its moisture. Its also has a deep root system that allows it to withstand drought better than most warm-season grasses.
Characteristics of Zoysia Grass
Zoysia grass is a tough and sturdy grass that is relatively easy to maintain and hard to stress. This warm-season grass thrives in regions with high heat and humidity. Zoysia grass is drought-resistant and able to withstand moderate amounts of traffic.
What Type of Zoysia Grass Is Best for a Backyard?
Zoysia is one of the most popular types of turfgrass for yards in the transition zone. There are numerous varieties of Zoysia grass seed. Each variety performs differently based on its setting.
Varieties of Zoysia Grass
- Empire Zoysia: Developed in Brazil, Empire zoysia performs well in southern and tropical areas of the United States. Ranked high in performance and requiring little maintenance, Empire is a suitable seed for many lawns in the transition zone. Compared to the El Toro variety (below), it is more disease-resistant.
- El Toro: This is a lighter green zoysia grass seed with a thick canopy that withstands high foot traffic. El Toro is a slow grower, which makes it appealing to homeowners who want less maintenance. El Toro is resistant to most common lawn diseases, can tolerate most soil types, and requires less irrigation than other grasses. It has a high drought-tolerance and is the turf of choice for most golf courses in the region.
- Meyer Zoysia: Native to Japan, Meyer Zoysia creates dark green color lawns with wider blades than other Zoysia varieties. It is a slow-growing, dark green grass that creates very dense lawns that are tolerable to traffic and cold temperatures. This makes it a great choice for lawns within the transition zone. Meyer Zoysia grows well in partial/light shade or full sun.
- Palisades Zoysia: Palisades Zoysia is commonly used on residential lawns. It is a low-maintenance grass with a thicker blade width. It is not as shade tolerant as some of the other zoysia varieties.
- Zeon Zoysia: Zeon zoysia loves the hot summers and cool winters of the lower South. Developed for the landscape industry, it has increased shade tolerance, a fast growth rate, and high resistance to insects, drought, and disease. Zeon is great for weed control as it outcompetes most weeds.
- Zorro Zoysia: is a fine-bladed variety featuring a dark green color. It is good for parks and residential lawns. Zorro zoysia has a higher shade tolerance than most other warm-season grasses. It has the unique feature of being a warm-season grass that retains its green color longer in the fall. Zorro is resistant to common lawn pests such as the fall armyworm and the hunting billbug.
- Zenith Zoysia: is an improved zoysia cultivar similar to Meyer Zoysia. It grows well in full sun or partial/light shade and has excellent tolerance to heat and cold. Zenith Zoysia is the only zoysia that can be planted during the winter when it is dormant.
Q. What Is the Best Time to Plant Zoysia Grass Seed?
A. The best time to plant Zoysia grass seed is during the early spring after the last chance of frost has passed, or in the early fall, 60 days before the first frost.
Q. Where Does Zoysia Grass Grow Best?
A. Zoysia grass seed performs best in areas that have hot summers and cool winters. This area is called the transition zone and lies in the central part of the United States.
Q. What Type of Soil Is Best for Zoysia Grass?
A. Zoysia grass seed prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH balance of 6.0 to 6.5. Perform a soil test to be sure your lawn has the right nutrients to sustain a new lawn.
Q. How Long Does It Take to Zoysia Grass Seed to Grow?
It can take 14 to 21 days for Zoysia to germinate. See also my detailed guide on how long it takes for grass seed to grow.
Here’s an informative video of Zoysia Grass’ pros and cons:
Zoysia grass is a very strong and versatile grass that comes in many varieties. Whether you are trying to create the perfect residential landscape or spruce up your home’s curb appeal, Zoysia is a great choice.
Now that you have been informed of everything Zoysia it’s time to get out there and start getting your lawn ready for planting. Use what you know to choose the best Zoysia variety for you.
Hi, Alex Kuritz here. Growing up I remember that my family had one of the best lawns in the neighborhood. Richly green and lush. I did a lot as I grew up in terms of caring and tending for not only my family’s lawn but also my neighbors. I can say I have years of experience, and I am here to share it with you.