Bermuda Vs. Zoysia – Which Grass Better Suits You?

Sunlight and shade can determine which grass is best for your yard.

Zoysia grass (Zoysia japonica) and Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) are warm-season turf grasses that thrive at temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and turn brown in their winter dormant periods. Bermuda grass requires full sun, but zoysia grass grows in full sun or partial shade. Zoysia grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10, and Bermuda is hardy in zones 7 through 10.

Bermuda grows faster than Zoysia, but this feature can be a disadvantage if the Bermuda grass becomes invasive. With a reel mower, mow Bermuda grass to 3/4 inch to 1 inch high and zoysia grass to 1/2 inch high, but take care not to scalp the lawn.

Both Bermuda grass and zoysia grass are susceptible to pests such as microscopic nematodes, which cause thinning, stunting and yellow patches. To control nematodes, clean soil from your lawn equipment and do not introduce soil from an infested area. Both grasses are susceptible to diseases including rust, which causes weak, rust-colored, patches in nitrogen-poor lawns, and spring dead spot, which causes 12-inch circular dead areas at temperatures below 65 degrees F. Proper fertilization and other appropriate cultural practices help prevent pests and diseases in both grasses. Too much fertilization or too little water can have damaging effects on Zoysia, also leaving brown areas in your turf.

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass has a fine to medium texture and a dark green color. The 1/10-inch-wide leaf blades, which are stiffer than Bermuda grass blades, have short hairs and emerge at right angles to the leaf stalks. The seeds form along opposite sides of a spike. Zoysia grass spreads slowly along above-ground stolons and underground rhizomes, and takes two to four years to establish from plugs or sod. It grows into a dense, uniform lawn that tolerates heavy traffic.

Bermuda Grass

Common Bermuda grass is a grayish green, medium- to coarse-textured grass that tolerates heavy traffic. It has 1/4-inch-wide, hairless leaf blades and branched flower spikes. Common Bermuda grass establishes from sod, plugs, stolons or seed, and rapidly spreads along stolons and rhizomes. Hybrid Bermuda grass (Cynodon spp.), which also tolerates traffic, has leaf blades as narrow as 1/16 inch and forms a denser lawn than common Bermuda grass. Cultivars include fine-textured, bluish green “Tifgreen” and medium-textured, dark green “Tifway II.” Except for “Savannah” and a few other cultivars, most hybrids do not produce seed and must establish from sod or stolons.

Unlike slow-growing zoysia, Bermuda grass can become an invasive weed. Black plastic mulch and shade trees block sunlight and help control sun-loving Bermuda grass. In the summer, cover closely mowed Bermuda grass with clear plastic mulch if you want to solarize and kill the grass and seeds.

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