"It's just grass."
Nope. As it turns out, grass is a complex organism.
The green cover that blankets many of today's homes is available in many varieties, each with unique textures, maintenance requirements, and properties. Looking at them closely, you may also see subtle differences in color and shape.
Having the right type of grass can mean the difference between a constant struggle and a consistently lush, green lawn, even with very little maintenance. For first-time homeowners, understanding the different grass varieties will allow you to pinpoint what grass would be the best fit for your new lawn. For people with already-established lawns, it means learning to keep the grass as green and healthy as possible.
Bermuda and Zoysia: What's the Difference?
Suppose you're in the southern region, experiencing warmer temperatures and moderate winters. You are probably down to two of the most sought-after, hardy grass types more tolerant to heat: Zoysia and Bermuda grass.
Both warm-season grass varieties, Zoysia and Bermuda are well-adapted to the warm climates of the South, characterized by its long, hot, and humid summers and mild, wet winters. They are also drought-tolerant and will go dormant when deprived of water for long periods. These varieties are mostly recommended to be planted as grass sod as they are easier to establish and give you a fully mature, uniform-looking lawn almost immediately after installation.
Before we break down the similarities and differences between Zoysia and Bermuda grass, below is an overview of the two warm-season grasses.
Bermuda Grass Overview
Bermuda is one of the most common warm-season grass varieties, often used in golf courses, but also a welcomed addition to residential lawns. It features medium to coarse-textured, dark green pointed leaves with a deep root system, which allows it to spread out and form a thick, dense lawn, thus easily out-compete weeds.
This grass variety is generally drought and heat-tolerant. It can thrive in different soil compositions and tolerate being mowed at a low height, which is ideal for high-traffic lawns like those with pets and kids. However, their level of maintenance can depend on the cultivar. Whereas common Bermuda grass is favored for its low-maintenance requirements, hybrid varieties may require more fertilizing and frequent mowing. This, in return, offers increased durability, density, and disease resistance.
Zoysia Grass Overview
Zoysia grass shares many characteristics with Bermuda grass. It is favored for its extreme heat and drought tolerance and resistance to heavy foot traffic, pests, and diseases. This grass variety is slow-growing, which means it requires less mowing. It does well in full sun and partly shady areas, can withstand dry spells, and tends to go dormant, turning brown when soil temperatures dip below 50°. With its different cultivars, Zoysia grass has varying textures from fine to stiff, coarse leaves.
So, Which Grass Variety is Better for You?
Finding the right grass variety for your home takes consideration of several factors, including maintenance requirements, your location, climate, preferences, and budget. By weighing these considerations, you can make a well-informed decision to choose a grass type that will not only improve the aesthetic appeal of your lawn but also survive in your specific environmental conditions and align seamlessly with your lifestyle.
The different cultivars of Zoysia and Bermuda grass have different colors, blade widths, and textures. For example, our proprietary BIMINI® Bermuda grass sod has a deep green color with fine-textured grass blades and upright leaf growth, whereas the hybrid Imperial Bermuda has a lighter green color with smaller leaves, creating a finer, softer, dense turf.
Zoysia grass also features various cultivars with a spectrum of colors, from the lighter green shade seen in Palisades Zoysia to the interesting blue-green color of Icon® Zoysia.
Sunlight Requirements & Shade Tolerance
As warm-season grasses, both Zoysia and Bermuda require at least seven hours a day of full sun. Some cultivars will tolerate slightly less direct sunlight in shady lawns. However, Bermuda grass only comes second to the high shade tolerance of Zoysias.
Each grass variety thrives at different mowing heights and can vary across seasons. As low-growing grass types, we advise maintaining Bermuda grass between 0.5-1.5 inches and zoysia grass between 0.5-2 inches. However, these suggestions still vary depending on the specific cultivar. For instance, finer-bladed Zoysia grasses are best kept between 0.5-1.5 inches, while wider-bladed varieties flourish at 1-2 inches.
Understanding these height recommendations helps you gauge the frequency of lawn mowing. Since different grass types grow at distinct rates and respond differently to conditions, monitoring the grass height provides a reliable indicator of when to use your mower as part of your regular lawn care routine.
Bermuda grass is usually more wear-tolerant than Zoysia grass; hence, it's often the grass of choice in golf courses. While you can also find Zoysia grass in sports fields, its primary purpose is often aesthetic rather than functional, lending a textured appearance to the landscape.
Nevertheless, Zoysia still has a high wear tolerance and can be used in high-traffic areas such as lawns and parks. However, the superior warm-season grass cultivar, Empire Zoysia, is more durable than other grasses of the same variety.
Whereas drought tolerance is the ability to endure a drought, drought resistance is the capacity to flourish until a certain threshold, beyond which the grass can no longer survive without water. Both Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass require approximately 1 to 1¼ inches of water per week for proper lawn care. But, overall, Bermuda grass is more accustomed to drought and tends to thrive better during extended dry spells versus Zoysia.
While both can adapt to diverse soil types, Zoysia grass grows well in sandy or loamy soils and may also exhibit tolerance to clay soils. Conversely, Bermuda grass requires slightly acidic conditions with a pH between 6 and 7 and thrives in sandy soils.
Zoysia grass wins as the more low-maintenance grass variety between the two. With less water requirements, excellent resilience against pests and diseases, and greater tolerance for cold winters, Zoysia is an obvious choice for a low-maintenance lawn.
While hardy, Bermuda grass, on the other hand, tends to spread aggressively. It's notorious for overtaking other grasses and encroaching on concrete sidewalks and roads, thus demanding more frequent mowing. Nevertheless, the extra effort in upkeep is often rewarded with a stunning lawn that rivals the lush quality of golf courses. This makes Bermuda grass an excellent choice for those seeking a picturesque and well-maintained landscape.
Zoysia and Bermuda grass are excellent options for cultivating a lush, green lawn. The appeal of Zoysia lies in its homeowner-friendly properties—tolerance to harsh environmental conditions, minimal upkeep, and overall ease of care.
However, Bermuda grass also emerges as a resilient choice, particularly for locations with consistent sunlight, warmer temperatures, and high foot traffic. A hardier variety that can withstand rougher conditions while maintaining a beautiful lawn.
There's no one-size-fits-all answer—your choice between these two grass types ultimately hinges on your specific situations and the desire for a low-maintenance grass that can flourish in your location.
Zoysia and Bermuda Sod at Bethel Farms
In your journey to cultivating a beautiful lawn, Bethel Farms stands as a trusted grower of premium quality sod and sod plugs, including warm-season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine.
As pioneers in sod farming, we combine cutting-edge technology with years of expertise to cater to your diverse lawn requirements. Whether you're establishing a new lawn with Bermuda sod or rejuvenating sparse areas with Zoysia plugs, trust Bethel Farms for a superior, tailored solution to elevate your outdoor space.
Which is better for your lawn, Bermuda or Zoysia grass? Let us know by leaving a comment.