Should you grow St. Augustine grass or zoysia grass? Both are warm-season grasses, but there are subtle differences and similarities you should consider when choosing. While both grasses can produce beautiful lawns for homes and sports turfs, the differences shown below can help you make the right choice.
Zoysia lawns are greyish-green in color with a fine texture while St. Augustine grass has a blue-green tint with a fairly coarse texture to its lawns. Of the two turfgrasses, St. Augustine grass is cheaper and easier to establish and maintain while zoysia is a little costlier with a much more frequent maintenance schedule.
Below, I’ll take you through these differences, how to identify either of the two grass species and what factors you need to consider when choosing between them.
Zoysia vs St. Augustine Grass: Differences
It could be that cost factor, sunlight requirements, tolerance to disease and drought, or the texture that makes the difference. Sometimes you establish a turfgrass in your yard and end up finding out the water requirements are too much for your liking, or the trees around your yard produce too much shade than the grass can handle.
So, what should you consider between these two grasses? Here’s a quick St. Augustine grass vs Zoysia comparison table:
|Zoysia Grass||St. Augustine Grass|
|Greyish-green colour||Blue-green colour|
|Zoysia has a fine turf texture||St. Augustine grass has a coarse turf texture|
|Requires more detailed and frequent maintenance||Requires less maintenance|
|More costly to establish and maintain.||Relatively cheaper to establish|
|Costly sods||Cheap sods|
|Zoysia grass spreads by both stolons and rhizomes||St. Augustine grass preads by stolons alone|
|Doesn’t turn green until late spring||Turns green as soon as early spring|
These two grass species can be differentiated by various aspects including:
Color of lawn
During the active growth season, depending on the type of Zoysia grass, it can have a emerald-green, light green, or dark green appearance.
- EMPIRE Zoysia leaves when healthy are dark Green
- Innovation Zoysia leaves when healthy are dark Green
- El Toro Zoysia leaves when healthy are Dark Green
- Palisades Zoysia leaves when healthy are Light Green
- Meyer Zoysia leaves when healthy are Emerald Green
While St. Augustine grass assumes a blue-green, to dark green shade.
- Palmetto St. Augustine leaves when healthy have an Emerald Green look
- CitraBlue St. Augustine leaves when healthy have a Deep Blue-Green look
- Floratam St. Augustine leaves when healthy have a Medium Green look
- Raleigh St. Augustine leaves when healthy have a Medium Green look
Zoysia grass produces fine turfs that are smooth to the touch, while St. Augustine grass turfs have a course feel to them.
Zoysia grass has more maintenance requirements; given that it’s more vulnerable to diseases and requires more frequent mowing and fertilization than St. Augustine grass. A Zoysia lawn should typically be mowed at least once a week, whereas a St. Augustine lawn can be left for up to two weeks without mowing.
See also my guide on the right way to fertilize Zoysia grass
Zoysia grass doesn’t thrive in highly shaded areas. St. Augustine- meanwhile- is the most shade-tolerant of the warm-season grass varieties.
Cost of establishment
Zoysia grass is more expensive to establish, compared to St. Augustine. This is because a lot more goes into the preparation process for installing Zoysia grass on a lawn. For instance- you have to lay a base that’s a mix of silica sand and Canadian peat moss. This base is way more costly compared to a St. Augustine base, which is simply a basic soil mix.
What’s more, Zoysia grass sods commercially retail for more than the average price of St. Augustine grass sods.
Zoysia grass spreads by both above-ground and underground shoots (stolons and rhizomes); while St. Augustine grass only spreads through above-ground shoots (stolons) and lack underground shoots (stolons).
Zoysia is a slow-growing grass that doesn’t turn green until late-spring; while St. Augustine turns green in early spring- just like many other warm-season grass species.
Zoysia Grass Identification
Zoysia grass is a drought-tolerant turfgrass that’s quite similar to the popular Bermuda grass – but with a few differences. For instance, Zoysia grass has leaf hairs that stand upright on the upper sides of the leaf blades – a characteristic that’s not present on Bermuda grass.
What’s more, it has a spongy feel to it as opposed to the ’hardy-textured’ Bermuda grass varieties. (See how Bermuda grass compares to St. Augustine grass here.)
Here are more identifying characteristics of zoysia grass you should know when compared with St. Augustine grass.
- Slower growth rate: This warm-season, winter-dormant turfgrass turns brown during the cold winter months. Being a slow-growing grass species, Zoysia grass doesn’t turn green until late spring, which is its peak growing season.
- Zoysia can withstand foot traffic: For a warm-season turfgrass species, Zoysia grass has relatively good cold-tolerance, and can also withstand regular foot traffic without wear.
- Stolons and rhizomes are present: You can always identify Zoysia turfgrass on your lawn by uprooting a single plant to inspect whether it has both above-ground shoots (stolons) and underground shoots (rhizomes).
Alternatively, you can inspect the leaf blade texture, which usually varies depending on which of the two major species of Zoysia grass is growing on your lawn. Zoysia japonica varieties have a coarse texture, while Zoysia matrella varieties are fine-textured.
St. Augustine Grass Identification
St. Augustine grass is a coarse-textured turfgrass variety that can tolerate shade. Native to Africa and The Caribbean, this turfgrass species thrives in subtropical climates with warm temperatures throughout the year.
St. Augustine is drought tolerant
It’s also drought-tolerant and can withstand heavy foot traffic. St. Augustine grass turfs are relatively deep and dense; as the grass has broad leaves with a circular tip- and large, flat stems.
When you notice big thatches of grass in your backyard you probably have St. Augustine grass species on your lawn. To double-check, you can identify it by checking whether it has above-ground shoots known as stolons.
St. Augustine grass establishment
St. Augustine grass also produces a limited amount of viable seeds and is- therefore- best established on lawns and sports grounds by sodding, sprigging, or plugging.
Under adequately humid conditions, it develops a visually attractive blue-green color. However, this warm-season grass species will lose this lush color and turn to an unsightly brown appearance during winter, as it has poor cold-tolerance.
Which Grass to Choose
Making the right choice between growing Zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass on your lawn depends on what type of landscaping aesthetic you’re looking to achieve in your backyard.
Is there shade in your lawn?
If you already have trees and other tall plant varieties growing on your lawn, it would be wiser to go for the more shade-tolerant St. Augustine grass.
Alternatively, if you’re going for a beautiful lawn look with fine texture, Zoysia would seem like the better option.
What is your budget and maintenance ability?
Your choice will also depend on your budget. If you’re working on a tight budget and are not willing to spend lots of resources on the maintenance on your lawn it would only seem logical to opt for St. Augustine grass.
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.