Grass Identification Guide | Do You Know Your Grass Type?


Mar 27, 2019

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Not sure what grass type you have? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

When somebody comes to us for advice, one of the first questions we’ll ask them is “what type of grass do you have?”

And that’s why we put together an all-encompassing Grass Identification Guide.

Complete with multiple high quality pictures, and information like specific characteristics, as well as pros and cons, this is the first and last lawn identification guide you will ever need.

Warm-Season Grasses

First up are warm-season grasses. But what are they?

Down in the South we have grass species that thrive and grow their best when temperatures are above 75 degrees.

This zone stretches throughout the southeast and deep south of the country where states experience longer summers and higher average temperatures. These types of grasses can vary greatly across the zone as different species are more well equipped than others to handle either the arid or humid climates.

In the cooler months of fall and winter we’ll see warm season grasses turn a tawny brown as they become dormant. Luckily, these grasses are resilient when properly taken care of and will green up again each spring when the weather warms up.

It’s important to know that these types of grasses will still go dormant in especially hot and dry summers. However, rain and regular watering will help these grasses recover through the intense summer stress.

Types of Warm-Season Grasses

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia is known for being a hardy grass that grows well in a wide range of conditions. Largely found in the deep south and up to the transition zone, Zoysia is a low maintenance grass choice for many homeowners. Its outward growth habit creates a thick, dense lawn that feels great in bare feet.

Although it is slow to establish and slow to grow, this tough grass develops a deep root system allowing it to avoid drought stress in unfavorable conditions. It is one of the most shade tolerant warm season grasses and does not require much watering or fertilizer. However, it is quick to lose its color once cold weather sets in.


Color – Light to medium green in color that can sometimes appear grayish-green.

Appearance – Medium-sized leaf blades with pointy tips; varieties can be either fine or coarse in texture.

Tolerance – Many strains of Zoysia struggle in colder weather but its tolerance to heat, drought, and foot-traffic are all excellent.

Growth Rate – Grows slowly, outward, and dense; can be maintained at very low mow heights and only requires light to moderate fertilization.



  • Superior wear and tear resistance
  • Tolerates heat very well
  • Requires less frequent waterings
  • Grows well under shady conditions
  • Slow to recover from thinning or damage
  • Hard to establish from seed
  • Poor cold tolerance

St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine is a light to medium green grass best suited to warm and wet regions such as Florida and the Gulf Coast. It is not at all tolerant of cold temperatures, and requires plenty of moisture for survival. Ideally, St. Aug is grown in lawns that are in high heat, high humidity environments that do not require low mow-heights.

It is a coarse-textured grass with very broad blades rounded at the tip. This grass requires moderate levels of maintenance and does not hold up well to a lot of foot-traffic. In ideal conditions St Augustine will grow quite quickly, but will struggle in areas that are heavily shaded.


Color – Light to medium green that quickly loses its color in the winter.

Appearance – Coarse leaves with wide blades that are rounded at the tip.

Tolerance – St. Augustine cannot tolerate cool temperatures or foot traffic, but does relatively well at tolerating extreme heat, moisture, and shade.

Growth Rate – Spreads rapidly throughout the lawn and crowds out most weeds and other grasses; grows best in full sun or partial shade.



  • Thrives in regions with high temperatures and high amounts of rainfall
  • Spreads quickly and pushes out other grass types and weeds
  • Can grow in moderately shaded areas
  • Quickly loses color in colder temperatures
  • Needs a lot of water
  • Cannot withstand a heavy foot traffic
  • Cannot tolerate low mowing heights


Bermudagrass is the ideal grass-type for those who have kids and pets, as it handles heavy foot traffic extremely well- but its maintenance requirements may make it unsustainable for most homeowners. Its aggressive growth habit that spreads both above and below ground helps it to form a thick, dense turf capable of recovering from wear and tear.

Noted for its fine blades and its attractive dark green color, Bermudagrass is usually found in the South but can be a viable turfgrass up into the transition zone as well. You’ll find that its drought and wear tolerance are unparalleled, as are its needs for food, water, and mowing. Due to its high maintenance requirements, this grass-type is best suited for those who like to spend a lot of their free time in the lawn.


Color – Medium to dark green leaf blades.

Appearance – Moderately thin leaf blades that spread out horizontally and thread together creating a dense, lush lawn.

Tolerance – Excellent drought, wear and heat tolerance; goes dormant quickly in cool temperatures and has poor shade tolerance.

Growth Rate – Growth rate is aggressive as it quickly spreads both above and below ground; requires frequent mowing.



  • Aggressive growth habit
  • Excellent heat tolerance
  • Can withstand heavy foot traffic
  • Superior drought resistance
  • Extremely high maintenance requirements
  • Does poorly in cooler weather
  • Shade intolerant- does best when grown in full sun areas

Centipede Grass

Centipede grass is best adapted to hot, humid, and tropical climates. Popular due to its low maintenance needs, Centipede produces an attractive lawn with a medium to coarse textured grass blade. It is a very climate specific grass type most commonly found in the sandy soils of the Southeast, where rainfall is high and summers are warm and humid.

Centipede grows well in full sun and is very tolerant to high temperatures. However, its drought tolerance does not match its excellent heat tolerance. Compared to other warm season grasses, Centipede grows relatively shallow roots. This means homeowners must stay on top of watering when drought conditions are present. It requires minimal fertilization and can persist in moderate shade, but it’s a slow grower and does not handle heavy foot-traffic well.


Color – Leaves are light to medium green.

Appearance – Produces an attractive lawn with a medium to coarse textured grass blade.

Tolerance – Poor at handling freezing temperatures, but heat tolerance is excellent; moderately shade-tolerant and due to its slow growth rate and spreading ability it doesn’t recover from damage well.

Growth Rate – Slow, low growing grass that does not require much fertilization.



  • Low overall maintenance
  • Grows best in full sun, but still fairly shade tolerant
  • Minimal disease and insect issues
  • Does well in poor soil conditions
  • Sensitive to drought and freezing temperatures
  • Does not recover from damage well
  • Cannot withstand heavy foot-traffic


Bahiagrass has a naturally deep root system, making it a drought resistant grass-type typically only found in some lawns in the Southeast and on the coasts of the gulf states. It has a light to medium green, coarse blade with some varieties that are instantly recognized by their V-shaped seed heads when overgrown. It is suitable for many types of soils and can grow well even through poor conditions and low pH levels.

Due to its low maintenance needs, Bahiagrass can be a great option for homeowners who are struggling to grow grass in less than favorable conditions. Though, while it is not the most visually appealing grass-type, it is best utilized in lawns that have full sun, poor soils, and no irrigation system.


Color – Light to medium green that only retains color through the growing season.

Appearance – Typically thin, and spindly, but some varieties have broader blades. It is a very coarse textured grass with a pointed leaf tip.

Tolerance – Heat and drought tolerance are good to excellent, but wear, cold, and shade tolerance are moderate to poor.

Growth Rate – Vigorous growing habit, with tough seed stalks that rise taller than the leaf blades and quickly wear out mower blades.



  • Excellent heat tolerance
  • Excellent drought tolerance
  • Performs well in poor, sandy soils with limited nutrients
  • Requires limited fertilizer and irrigation with overall low maintenance needs
  • Susceptible to weed, insect and fungal attacks
  • Requires frequent mowings to prevent tall growth
  • Not an attractive looking grass-type
  • Can quickly dull mower blades

Cool-Season Grasses

Let’s start with some general information.

From the Pacific Northwest down through the middle of the country and up through the Northeast, you are going to see grass species that grow in some of the most volatile conditions.

Cool-season grasses have adapted to grow in the areas of the country where we see large temperature fluctuations, such as cold, freezing, and moderate summers.

The perfect temperature for cool season grasses are right between 60 and 75F, give or take. This means if you live in the northern half of the US your lawn is going to experience the best growth during the cool weather of fall and spring.

As temperatures become more frigid these grasses will enter a winter dormancy where they will turn a greenish yellow and remain this way until spring. Some cool season grasses located in areas that experience warmer summers may also turn a tawny brown and slip back into dormancy from excess heat stress.

Lawns in the north will typically have a mixture of two or three different cool-season grass types, so they get the best of both worlds. Now let’s dive into each species in more detail.

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass (KBG) is the most widely used cool season grass in the continental United States. For many homeowners, well taken care of KBG creates a lawn that stands out and is beautiful to look at. Its dark green leaves (almost blue in color) are soft to the touch and grow in a dense pattern.

It has fair warm temperature tolerance and good to excellent cold temperature tolerance. However, KBG will struggle in drought conditions and does not grow well in deep shade. For these reasons, you’ll often find this grass blended with Fescue(s) and/or Ryegrass.


Color – Lush, dark green color that comes out of dormancy late in the spring and under ideal conditions can last through late fall/winter.

Appearance – Medium size leaf blade (thinner than Tall Fescue) with excellent leaf uniformity, soft feel and a dense growth pattern.

Tolerance – Extremely tolerant to cold weather. Can handle moderate summers but under stress may slip into dormancy. It is not very drought or shade tolerant and can withstand a modest amount of foot-traffic.

Growth Rate – Aggressive growing grass that requires high levels of maintenance and fertilization.



  • Recovers quickly from occasional wear and moderate foot traffic
  • The grass blades are beautifully dark in color and can appear “blue”
  • The soft texture makes it pleasant to walk on barefoot, in contrast to the rougher texture of tall fescue
  • Poor shade adaption and only a few varieties are moderately adapted to partial shade
  • Somewhat poor drought resistance and can slip into summer dormancy when there is little water
  • Slow germination rate
  • Moderate to high maintenance level

Tall Fescue

Tall Fescue is highly valued for its adaptability to a wide range of climates. Its ability to tolerate heat, drought, and shade makes this versatile grass a common choice for homeowners in the transition zone and northern parts of the US. As a bonus, due to its deep root system Tall Fescue requires less watering than many other grass types.

Another big advantage is that it can withstand a lot of wear and tear from foot traffic. Though, it does have its limits and if under heavy stress can take a while for the grass to recover fully. If well maintained, Tall Fescue can create a hardy and durable lawn.


Color – Deep emerald green leaves that come out of dormancy in the mid-spring and typically maintain its color into late fall.

Appearance – Medium sized leaf blades (slightly wider than Kentucky Bluegrass); it grows very dense and is coarse in texture.

Tolerance – Has the highest heat, traffic, and drought tolerance of all the cool season grasses.

Growth Rate – Relatively fast growing and requires frequent mowing; known for its clumping growth habits and is referred to as a ‘bunching-type grass’.



  • Ability to withstand warmer temperatures
  • Great wear resistance and can handle high foot traffic
  • Low maintenance alternative to Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Develops a deep root system that helps protect itself from drought
  • Thins out when stressed and may require yearly overseeding to maintain density
  • Not a “spreading-type” grass and grows in clumps
  • Slow to recuperate from damage
  • Susceptible to disease (Brown Patch) in hot and humid conditions

Fine Fescue

Fine fescues are made up of a variety of different species like Hard Fescue, Sheep Fescue, Creeping Red Fescue and Chewings Fescue. Well adapted to moderate summers and high altitudes, Fine Fescue can do well even in cold and arid climates.

This is the most shade tolerant of all the cool season grasses, but it still needs some sun exposure throughout the day to stay growing and healthy. Many homeowners will mix Fine Fescue in with Kentucky Bluegrass for use in areas that only receive three to six hours of sun per day. This is the best cool season grass if you have a dry, shady lawn.


Color – Medium to dark green leaves with the ability to keep its color year round.

Appearance – Blade width is extremely fine that grows in a vertical manner.

Tolerance – Can tolerate both warm and cold temperatures well; has an excellent tolerance to both shade and drought, but does not stand up well to foot traffic and is slow to recover from injury.

Growth Rate – Slow to establish and slow to recover.



  • Tolerates both warm and cold weather well
  • Upright growth creates nice even-looking grass
  • High drought/shade tolerance
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Poor wear resistance and does not recover well from injury
  • Grows slowly
  • Slow to establish from seed
  • Does not make good sod

Perennial Ryegrass

Ryegrass is most notably regarded as a “ride-along” or “companion” grass-type that is typically used for overseeding. Very rarely, will a lawn be made up of entirely Ryegrass. This is a very easy seed to work with and can be a good option for some homeowners looking to fill the gaps in their lawn.

Ryegrass has shiny, dark green leaves that are fine to medium in texture. They are primarily found in cool, humid climates of the north, but may not have the cold tolerance to survive as far north as Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Canada. Like fescues, they are bunch grasses and do not spread outward.


Color – Medium to dark green leaves and blends in well with other cool season grass types.

Appearance – Grows relatively dense with a fine leaf texture; produces attractive, tough leaves that make it easier to maintain.

Tolerance – Excellent at handling high foot-traffic; not particularly cold or heat tolerant. Will go dormant during times of drought and has moderate shade tolerance.

Growth Rate – Known for its rapid establishment rate from seed and is fast growing; has a clumping growth habits and is referred to as a ‘bunching-type grass’.



  • Quick to establish from seed (4-7 days)
  • Very easy to maintain
  • Aesthetically pleasing striping effect from mowing
  • High wear tolerance
  • Not particularly cold or heat tolerant
  • Often needs to be blended with other cool season grasses
  • Poor disease resistance
  • Does not recover well once damaged

Wrapping Up

So, you made it this far! Hopefully now you have a clear grasp on your grass type(s), and the pros and cons that come with each.

Remember to keep this information in mind when you’re building a treatment plan for your lawn, or planning on what lawn to grow next.

Here at LawnStar, we make high-quality liquid fertilizers for homeowners that makes growing a healthy, luscious lawn easy and stress free. We make our products in Florida and have thousands of satisfied customers. If you’d like to learn more about our products, click here.

Beau Adams

LawnStar Contributor

Beau Adams

LawnStar Contributor

Beau is a native Oklahoman with an associate degree in Environmental Horticulture and a bachelor's in English. He spent more than a decade as a Golf Course Superintendent across Georgia and other southern states.