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What Are Warm Season vs Cool Season Grasses

Grass blades with dew on them.

Here in Virginia, our climate varies with our diverse geography, meaning that local grasses need to adapt. When planning out your yard, it’s critical to keep this in mind. Different grasses need different growing conditions and in order to maximize your yard’s production, we’re here to show you the difference. 

What is Warm-Season Grass?

Warm-season grasses prefer conditions where the temperature usually stays above 50 degrees, making them perfect for the Piedmont and Tidewater areas. These species of grass include:

  • Bermuda Grass: This common turfgrass is one of the best options for a lawn in Virginia. It’s a hardy perennial with a reliable active/dormant cycle and a high degree of drought tolerance for foot traffic. All of these characteristics add up to a reliable all-purpose grass.  
  • Zoysia Grass: This equally common grass shares many characteristics with Bermudagrass but has the upside of greater cool weather tolerance. This makes it slightly more versatile and a good choice for warm areas that experience extended cool spells. 
  • St. Augustine Grass: Unlike the previous two types of grass, which are some of our favorite set-it-and-forget-it turfs, St. Augustine Grass requires a bit more upkeep. But, its tight structure and carpet-like appearance make it highly desirable for lawns and give it exceptional weed resistance. 
  • Bahiagrass: Well-suited to Virginia’s coastal regions, Bahiagrass is prized for its outstanding heat and drought tolerance and relative lack of required upkeep. It prefers sandy soil so it may not be ideal for far-inland lawns. 

What is Cool-Season Grass?

Cool-season grasses are so-called less because they prefer cool weather and more because they’re tolerant of it. Where a cold snap might kill a warm-season grass, a cool-season variety won’t be bothered at all. For those reasons, these grasses thrive in Northern Virginia and in higher elevation areas. Cool-season varieties include:

  • Fescue: Commonly known as Tall Fescue, this grass is probably the best-known and widest-spread variety of cool-season grass. Compared to other cool-season grass varieties, it's fairly tolerant of heat. Additionally, it’s a popular lawn grass because of its outstanding disease resistance and fast growth.
  • Kentucky Bluegrass: Kentucky Bluegrass is one of the hardiest grasses out there when it comes to cold weather and yields an absolutely gorgeous lawn. A Bluegrass lawn will always overwinter beautifully but it requires lots of direct sunlight, is less heat-tolerant than Fescue, and some varieties are vulnerable to drought. 
  • Perennial Ryegrass: This fast-growing grass variety is a good choice for lawns with partial shade. While it’s comfortable in cooler weather, it isn’t as tolerant of cold stretches as Fescue or Bluegrass, which must be kept in mind when planting. 

Which Type of Grass Does Best in Virginia?

Virginia experiences all four seasons so the best grass choice for you is one that is condition-tolerant and not overly picky. While any of the grass varieties mentioned above will do well in Virginia we usually recommend Bermuda Grass, Fescue, or Bluegrass. Each of these grasses is available in many different subspecies, easy to find and maintain, inexpensive, and will do well in most of Virginia’s weather conditions. If you want an attractive, low-maintenance lawn that you can count on in most conditions, going with any of those three types of grass will yield a good result. 

Can You Mix Warm and Cool-Season Grasses?

Mixing warm and cool-season grasses on your lawn should be avoided. This is simply because they’ll never be at their best at the same time of year, giving your lawn a perpetually uneven appearance. On top of that, different grass varieties have different appearances and growth patterns. So, if they’re mixed, your lawn will have a patchy appearance. That being said, if you’re planting pasture or grazing grass for animals, mixing cool and warm-season grasses is a good idea as it will provide a reliable food source all year.

Contact Your Local Lawn Care Company

No matter which variety of grass you choose, we at Agronomic Lawn Management have the tools, experience, and knowledge needed to give you a healthy, gorgeous lawn. For over 20 years now, we’ve helped Virginians get the lawns of their dreams. Our lawn care technicians are some of the finest you’ll work with anywhere and our results speak for themselves. We guarantee a beautiful lawn that you’ll love for years to come so when your lawn needs a boost, look to us to make it great!

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