Slow Growing Grass and Short Grass [No-Mow Alternatives]

Mowing your lawn is perhaps one of the most daunting lawn care tasks that must be performed regularly. But you can enjoy a low-maintenance lawn by planting slow-growing grass.

Slow-growing grasses are just that, turfgrass types that grow slowly, hence do not require frequent mowing and maintenance. 

Quick Answer

When speaking of slow growing grasses, aka low maintenance lawn grasses, there are several options I’ve worked with, most notably: 

  • Fine fescues
  • Buffalo grass
  • Bahiagrass
  • Centipede grass
  • St. Augustine grass

In this article, I’ll go over why these grass types are regarded as slow mow and why they may be a good choice for your lawn.

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Low Mow Grass Type: Buffalo Grass

Slotting in at the #1 position is none other than Buffalograss (Buchloë dactyloides), a warm-season grass that’s often chosen for lawns and landscapes, particularly in regions with hot and dry climates.

If you’re looking to plant a slow mow lawn, Buffalograss is an excellent choice owing to its slow growth habit that requires less frequent mowing. 

Mowing Condition

Speaking of which, Buffalo grass should ideally be mowed every two to four weeks in its active growing season, which is typically during the warmer months of late spring through early fall. This period can vary on the rate of growth and the desired appearance and can be even less during periods of slow growth, such as during:

  • Drought,
  • High temperatures,
  • Winter months.

Buffalograss tends to go dormant in the winter months when temperatures are cooler. During dormancy, the mowing frequency can be reduced or stopped altogether.

If mowing is needed during this period, it should be done sparingly, and the mower height can be raised to avoid stressing the grass.

With regard to height, Buffalograss is often maintained at a higher mowing height than some other grasses, somewhere around 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 centimeters). Mowing at this height helps promote a healthier deep root system and aids in weed suppression.  

Soil Condition

Apart from its no mowing traits, Buffalograss is one of the few warm-season grasses that is tolerant of most soil conditions, although will do particularly well in sandy soils.

Shade Condition

However, one of the downsides of Buffalograss is that it doesn’t do well in partial shade areas but showcases some shade tolerance compared to other warm-season grasses. 

While it may survive in partially shaded areas, its growth and overall health may be compromised in conditions with limited sunlight.

Planting Buffalo Grass

Buffalograss can be planted via lawn seeds, plugs or sod.

Fine Fescue (Festuca spp.)

If you live in one of the northern states or specific areas of the transition zone and are looking to get rid of your existing grass and establish a lush cool-season grass turf, fine fescue is one of the best cool-season types of grass that’s highly recommended.

Fine fescue is available in several different varieties such as:

  • Creeping red fescue,
  • Chewings fescue,
  • Hard fescue
  • Sheep fescue,

All of which are known for their fine texture and slower growth rate. 

Mowing Condition

Due to its slow growth rate during the summer months and growing season, fine fescue lawns thrive even when mowed every seven to fourteen days but this period can vary depending on the specific fine fescue variety, local climate, and growth conditions.

Fine fescue can be maintained at a taller growth height than other cool-season grasses, which equates to 2.5 to 4 inches. Mowing at this height helps promote a healthier root system and can improve the grass’s ability to compete with weeds.

Shade Condition

Even though fine fescue can thrive in full sun, it’s often well-suited for areas with partial shade or filtered sunlight. 

Planting Condition

The best time to plant fine fescue depends on whether you are planting from seed or using sod or plugs. Remember, it’s a cool-season grass, which grows most actively in cooler temperatures. Therefore, late summer to early fall is generally the best time for seeding fine fescue, and late summer to early fall is an ideal time for planting sod or plugs.


Low Mow Grass Type: Centipede Grass

Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) is a warm-season grass species that you’ll commonly find in the southern United States. Compared to other warm-season grasses like Bermudagrass for an existing or new lawn, centipede grass offers myriad benefits including low maintenance requirements, excellent drought tolerance, great adaptability to poor soil conditions, moderate shade tolerance, choke-free growth, low nitrogen requirements, and superior pest resistance. 

In case you’re wondering, Bermudagrass can be used as a warm-season residential turfgrass or as forage for livestock but didn’t make this list as it has the fastest growth rate of any of the common warm-season grasses. 

Mowing Condition

This warm-season turfgrass requires less frequent mowing, making it an attractive option for those seeking a lower-maintenance lawn.

It’s important to note that while centipede grass has a slow growth rate, its performance can be influenced by various factors, including local climate, soil conditions, and maintenance practices. 

  • During the growing season, depending on the rate of growth and the desired appearance, centipede grass may be mowed every 10 to 14 days.
  • However, during periods of slower growth or drought, you may need to mow less frequently.

Mowing heights for centipede grass are usually recommended to be between 1.5 to 2.5 inches. Always follow the one-third rule, which means you should never remove more than one-third of the grass height in a single mowing. This helps maintain a healthy turf and minimizes stress on the grass.

Centipede grass features a stoloniferous growth habit, meaning it spreads through above-ground runners called stolons, allowing it to form a dense turf over time. Once established, it boasts good drought tolerance and can withstand periods of dry weather. 

Soil Condition

Compared to some other warm-season grasses, centipede grass requires fewer nitrogen applications, and excessive nitrogen excessive nitrogen fertilization can lead to thatch buildup and negatively impact the growth rate.

Planting Condition

Centipede grass can be planted via seeds sod and sprigs, which are small sections of grass that include stolons or runners with nodes and leaves. 

Zoysia Grass

Certain varieties of zoysia grass are known for their slow growth and dense turf. Zoysia requires less frequent mowing compared to some other warm-season grasses.

‘Emerald,’ ‘Zenith,’ and ‘Compadre’ are examples of zoysia varieties with lower mowing requirements.

Emerald, Zenith, and Compadre zoysiagrass varieties are often used for residential lawns, low-maintenance lawns, and golf courses and are hailed for their fine leaf structure and thick carpet growth, which helps suppress weeds. 

Mowing Condition

Emerald Zoysia has a slow to moderate growth rate, so it typically requires less frequent mowing compared to faster-growing grasses like Bermuda grass.

These varieties of zoysia grass should be typically mowed every 7 to 14 days but again remember never remove more than one-third of the grass height in a single mowing.

I recommend maintaining a mowing height between 1.5 to 2.5 inches for Emerald zoysia, but these numbers can vary based on factors like the specific cultivar, local conditions, and personal preferences.

Soil Condition

Emerald, Zenith, and Compadre zoysia grass varieties exhibit some salt tolerance just like seashore paspalum, making it suitable for coastal areas where salt spray may be a factor.

Adding to this, they are known for their resistance to chinch bugs, which are common pests for certain turfgrasses and are well-adapted to hot summer temperatures, hence thrive in warm climates.

Planting Condition

Zoysia grass can be planted with seeds, sod, plugs, and sprigs.

Tall Fescue

The words tall fescue and fine fescue are often used interchangeably and even though they are two common cool-season lawn grasses, there are a few distinct differences between the two types.

Tall fescue has a coarser texture compared to fine fescue and is a bunch-type grass, meaning it grows in clumps rather than spreading by rhizomes or stolons. 

Mowing Condition

The growth rate of tall fescue can vary based on factors such as climate, soil conditions, and management practices. Generally, Tall Fescue is considered to have a moderate growth rate compared to some other cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass. 

Tall fescue showcases more vigorous growth during the cooler seasons of spring and fall. During this active growing season, you may need to mow tall fescue lawns more frequently.

The recommended mowing height for tall fescue varies between 2.5 to 4 inches and depends on factors such as local climate, soil conditions, and specific cultivar characteristics.

Shade Condition

Furthermore, tall fescue is known for its adaptability to a wide range of soil types and climates. It performs well in both sunny and partially shaded areas, whereas fine fescues exhibit various growth habits, including bunch-type and creeping.

Some fine fescue species spread by rhizomes or stolons, creating a more spreading or mat-forming turf.

Before you go…

The next step is to determine which slow mow grass is right for your lawn, after which you can decide whether you want to establish the lawn via seed, sod, or plugs. Also make sure you choose the best grass seed for your lawn even if it’s not a low-mow grass type.

Finally, read my next article to understand how long it will take for grass seeds to grow, which depends on several factors like weather, soil moisture, time of year, and grass species.

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