Zoysia vs Bermuda Grass – Which One is Better and Why?


You’ve probably heard of the most common grass types found in America: Zoysia and Bermuda, but do you know what makes them unique and which one is better?

There are many species of grass that make for great lawns, however, the most common and widely used are Zoysia and Bermuda. These grass types have many similarities and may be hard to notice any differences when compared side-to-side.

Each one has its benefits, but how can we tell which is a better lawn choice?

Read on to discover the key and distinguishable differences between Bermuda grass and Zoysia as well as my final verdict on which is better!

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Key Differences Between Zoysia and Bermuda Grass

The differences between these two grass species may be hard to notice at first, however, they include:

  • Zoysia can tolerate shade and a degree of cooler weather, whereas Bermuda grass requires full sunlight and heat to survive.
  • Bermuda displays a true green color when active in summer, whereas Zoysia is a muted, or dull, greyish green even at its peak activeness.
  • Zoysia has a fine texture upon inspection, yet Bermuda Grass has a coarse and chunkier texture.

Bermuda Grass

Bermuda Grass Cynodon Dactylon
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cynodon_dactylon_2.jpg

Bermuda grass is a grass species that is found commonly across the southern regions of America. This perennial, warm-season, grass is known for its invasive behavior, whilst also being a popular choice of lawn for gardens and sports fields alike.

This species of grass is highly variable and spreads through its rough stolons above ground and thick rhizomes below ground. Alongside its creeping nature, this grass can be established through the use of seed, instead of sod – something that separates it from many other grasses.

Because this grass is a warm-season species, it grows and thrives best when exposed to full sunlight as well as heat. This makes it advantageous when chosen as lawn due to its resistant nature. The ability to withstand hot and subtropical climates makes it super water-efficient, so great for those who want to save on their water bill!

Bermuda grass has thick blades with seed-heads that stretch outwardly from its stolons, allowing it to travel to bare patches of grass rapidly as well as self-sow its seeds.

Acclimated to the temperatures of the south, Bermuda grass is in its peak performance at an average daily temperature of 75°F. Because of this requirement, Bermuda grass goes dormant in winter as a self-protection, turning its once lush green color to a grey-green shade.

Pros of Bermuda Grass

  • Excellent resistance to heat and dryness.
  • Low water usage.
  • High tolerance of variated soil pH levels.
  • Great foot traffic tolerance.

Cons of Bermuda Grass

  • Deep-root system makes it a pain to completely eradicate.
  • Can only really thrive in full sunlight, so won’t do great in shaded areas.
  • Can be a handful to maintain as negligence can cause it to overgrow.

Characteristics, Growing Conditions and Appearance

Bermuda Grass lawn

The creeping nature of Bermuda grass is due to the stolons that lay flat above ground level in which the grass blades spread out from. The rhizomes allow for this grass to basically have the ability to root anywhere as well as firmly. The stolons and rhizomes combined allow for the grass to travel quickly and fill gaps in dry or patchy turf.

Soil pH and health is rarely a concern when aiming to propagate and nurture this grass. The rhizomes that spread below the surface create thick and sturdy roots and due to it being a warm-season grass it can survive in dry and hot conditions, therefore, the condition of the soil is not a major factor to consider when growing this grass.

A proper watering regime is key in training this lawn to be well behaved, however, too much water can prove to be troublesome as the roots are designed to absorb water and retain it, hence giving it its drought-resistant qualities.

Lawn care is the most strenuous aspect of keeping this lawn. On account of its invasive behavior, regular aeration and mowing is essential as well as monthly fertilization.

Quick tip: I have a specialized article on all the essential tools YOU need to keep your lawn in tip-top condition! Read this article, here.

In late spring and all throughout summer, Bermuda grass is dense and thick, due to it being in peak health. When in this period, the blades are a true green color as well as furry. The seed-heads sit at the top of the leaf and can be unsightly to some who prefer to have finer grass.

Aggression and Invasiveness

Because it is in the category of invasive grass species, Bermuda grass can basically take root and cause havoc anywhere (if allowed to)!

Like many other invasive grass types, such as crabgrass, the thick rhizomes and seeds allow for it to establish a home in any soil, whilst the stolons give the plant its low creeping mannerism.

These in conjunction can create an issue for homeowners with garden beds that are at risk of being overrun. Once the grass has become a problem and overgrown into garden beds, it is pretty hard to stop that from happening again as the seeds can fall and propagate, hence continuing the lifecycle.

Planting and Caring for Bermuda Grass

Because Bermuda grass starts as a seed, it can be sown and grow rapidly as an even rate, saving you time and money as it pretty much can guarantee an even turf!

Springtime is the optimal season in which new seed is to be sown as any dormant grass will be reviving itself and new grass can have the opportunity be established.

In its peak growth time – summer – Bermuda grass growth thick and rapidly, meaning it will require regular maintenance.

As said above, Bermuda grass requires consistent care if wanting to be a garden turf.

Watering, whilst is known to need less than other grasses, is also important in keeping Bermuda grass healthy. Each week 1” to 1.5” is ideal when in its peak summertime growth period, however, it may need more as the cooler weather sets in and dormancy approaches.

When mowing, this grass is best when kept at a height of 1” as this will reduce over spreading due to cutting away potential seed-heads that can cause it to grow in spaces it is not desired.

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zoysia_Tenuifoli_foliage.JPG

Zoysia grass is a species native to Asia, however, was introduced to the USA in the late 1800’s. This warm season grass is among many species that thrive in the heat of summer and lay dormant in the winter.

Being a perennial grass type, meaning it returns each year, Zoysia can thrive and sustain health when grown in appropriate climates. It grows best in the humid and hot regions of America, such as California.

Zoysia has added value in areas where there is a transition in weather, where it is too cool for warm-season grasses such as St. Augustine, yet too warm for cooler grass species like Fescue. This area of the country’s midsection is where lawn grass zones meet their survival limits, however, Zoysia’s heat and cold tolerance allows it to maintain its health due to its moderate toleration of different climates despite being mainly a warm-season grass.

Zoysia grows low through its surface level stolons that can spread outwardly. The rate at which this grass species grows is a lot slower than many other warm-season grasses, however, once established, created a dense and even layer of fine turf.

The thick carpet of lawn that this grass creates makes it optimal for those who love to entertain and play lawn games due to its density and sturdiness!

Alongside its density and thickness, this grass has a deep-root system meaning that it can hold onto moisture well, therefore, making it very drought resilient and during short drought episodes, the grass can maintain its green color.

Full sunlight is Zoysia’s preference but can tolerate a level of shade unlike other warm-season grasses such as Bermuda grass.

Pros of Zoysia Grass

  • Improved tolerance to cooler weather.
  • Heat and drought tolerant.
  • Low water and maintenance requirements.

Cons of Zoysia Grass

  • Can be invasive.
  • The color can be temperamental based on climate changes.
  • Prone to thatch problems.
  • Hard to remove.

Characteristics, Growing Conditions and Appearance

Zoysia is a slow growing creeping grass that spreads low and creates a dense carpet of turf with fine blades.

Zoysia is tough and able to withstand many climate changes. Its sturdy nature and deep roots make for a great lawn choice for those who want to save time on maintenance. This grass also has an invasive feature so it can outgrow weeds adding to the low maintenance feature of this lawn!

Zoysia needs warm weather to grow, however, can also cope in cooler seasons which makes it advantageous when living on the midsection. Being a warm season grass, this species can survive with low water content, less frequent mowing, and fertilizing.

This grass type has a fine texture due to its thin blades, however, this fine texture provides an even layer of grass that is dense and thick, covering any patches with ease. The color is a light muted green; however, the vibrancy really depends on the climate.

Aggression and Invasiveness

Zoysia is a very invasive grass type, known to drown out any weeds and quickly cover any dry patches of lawn. The reason this grass is grown through plugs and not seed is due to its invasiveness and aggressive growing behavior in which it can easily grow and crowd out other lawn species.

Planting and Caring for Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass will grow better when fertilized less than other grass species as well as requiring less water too. This species of warm season grass is a very independent grower with no specific soil type needed and mowing can be done once a week to make sure it doesn’t invade garden beds and paving.

Zoysia does need regular aeration, however, due to a heightened risk of thatch issues, so aeration will allow for more movement under the grass which in turn promotes the health of your lawn!

Like I said above, Zoysia requires less water than other grass types, needing only an inch per week as it tends to absorb a lot of moisture which it can sustain itself on for long periods of time.

Sunlight and heat are key factors in the health and longevity of this grass as it does need full light for majority of the day in order to survive and keep its healthy green color. Whilst it can still grow in cooler weather, it still needs to be within a 40℉ to 70℉ range for optimal growth.

For other tips on how to care for Zoysia grass watch this YouTube video here!

So, Which is Better?

So, now you want to get to the bottom things… which one is the better lawn choice?

There are many factors which dictate the winner here and it really depends on the user’s preference, however, I will list and discuss factors that can influence the choice between the two.

Strength and Durability

Both Zoysia and Bermuda are strong and durable grasses due to them being drought and heat resistant as well as having thick and deep roots which protects them from many compromising weather conditions.

That being said, Bermuda is very sensitive to temperature changes and homeowners may be faced with discoloration and dryness when Bermuda is exposed to less light and cooler temperatures.

Zoysia, in terms of strength and durability, would be considered to be favorable due to its higher tolerance to temperature and light changes.

Efficiency

Bermuda is more invasive than Zoysia and due to its seeds can be really difficult to eradicate. If Bermuda is to be chosen to be the desired lawn choice, then it will require more work as it needs regular maintenance to curb its wild tendencies.

The regular upkeep is not ideal for many homeowners who just want a simple and low maintenance lawn – that is where Zoysia is better.

Whilst it still has its requirements such as regular aeration and mowing, it is less likely to need as much maintenance as Bermuda in terms of fertilization and watering.

beautiful house with perfectly green lawn

FAQ

Will Bermuda grass take over Zoysia grass?

Bermuda has the capabilities to overtake many grass species due to its unique ability to grow predominantly through seeds.

These seeds can lay dormant and can sprout at any time during the growing season and once sprouted can grow fast and wild over any other grass species.

Zoysia, whilst invasive, has a less aggressive growing behavior as well as being a slower grower, hence makes an easy competitor for Bermuda grass.

Can you mix Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass?

This question can be answered in a few ways:

If in full light, Zoysia and Bermuda may not be great to mix as Bermuda will most certainly outgrow the Zoysia plugs due to its more aggressive nature.

However, if your garden has areas of shade in which your Bermuda grass isn’t coping as well as it should, mixing Zoysia in the shaded areas will create a fuller lawn affect as the Zoysia can grow better than Bermuda grass in shaded areas.

Summary

It can be a difficult choice between Zoysia and Bermuda grass as both have some really great advantages, both being heat and drought resistant, as well as both having the ability to create a thick and dense lawn.

When comparing them it is definitely hard to choose a winner; in terms of efficiency Zoysia may be the better choice, but in terms of growth speed and density, Bermuda proves to be better.

So, what’s the verdict?

In my opinion, it is up to you! Hopefully, after reading this post you can make your decision better and choose the best turf for your garden!

Don’t forget to comment and share your experiences with either Zoysia or Bermuda grass!

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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