Although most types of Zoysia grass are not native to Australia, the turf variety is becoming a popular lawn choice among many Aussies. So, if you’re one of them and want to know more about the maintenance and care of your Zoysia turf, read on.
In this in-depth guide, you’ll learn about the main Zoysia species and cultivars, the conditions they prefer, as well as gain additional knowledge on planting, watering, mowing and other lawn care issues.
What is Zoysia grass?
Zoysia is a genus of creeping grasses in Australasia.
- Scientific name: Zoysia
- Family: Grasses (Poaceae)
- Subfamily: Chloridoideae
- Tribe: Zoysieae
- Genus: Zoysia
Most of Zoysia grass varieties can tolerate prolonged periods of drought. They generally thrive well in the warmer months of temperate climates, in sub-tropical regions and areas with below average rainfall.
Types of Zoysia grass
There are several main species of Zoysia grass and many hybrid cultivars. We’ll explore some of the most popular ones below.
Main Zoysia grass species
- Zoysia Tenuifolia
Z. Tenuifolia is a type of Mascarene grass with a fine bright green leaf. This type is typically grown as ornamental grass and it is not а popular choice when it comes to regular lawns. It grows very slowly, that’s why it is also known as “No-Mow-Grass”. The turf may have a clumpy appearance and in Australia, it is often grown as a ground cover and in parts of homeowners’ yards or public greens, which are not in daily use (ex: roundabouts, verges, slopes and strips). This grass is drought-tolerant and requires little to no lawn care (can be mowed twice a year).
- Zoysia Japonica
Z. Japonica loves humid environments like marine and transition zones but it can grow in certain cool temperate climates, as well. It’s the only Zoysia species that can be seeded. Still, germination is slow, so planting is usually done from plugs or sods. This type of species has a rather coarse texture, as it grows in stiff vertical blades. In Australia, Z. Japonica can be found along the northeastern coast. It is known under the names Korean lawn grass and Japanese lawn grass.
- Zoysia Matrella
It’s a warm-loving type of Zoysia, which forms velvet green, lush mats. It establishes slowly in sandy soils. It suits coastal areas in temperate climates. It has been grown initially as an ornamental grass. However, Z. Matrella can form a beautiful turf and it’s often used for golf courses. Furthermore, the grass has its uses in agriculture (ex: for grazing animal stocks). It controls well erosion and forms fine lawns in coastal regions, due to its high tolerance to salinity. Z. Martella is also known as Manila grass.
- Zoysia Macrantha
It forms fine-textured lawn in coastal regions and is sometimes called dune couch. The species is less shade-tolerant than Z. Matrella and Z. Japonica, so it prefers to grow in full sun. Salinity and short-term waterlogging do not pose huge problems to Macrantha grass.
Zoysia turf cultivars and varieties
From the above mentioned main species, various hybrids have been created. Let’s see what of these are grown in regions across Australia.
- Zoysia Empire (Japonica hybrid)
It has a dark-green, medium-width and relatively fine leaf. The grass thrives in extremely hot and humid climates. It’s wear-tolerant, as well. Characteristically, it maintains a good winter colour and “fights back” weeds, once established. Empire lawn requires less watering and mowing.
- Zoysia Emerald
With its thin-bladed leaf, this Zoysia variety forms fine-textured, lush lawns. A hybrid between Z. Japonica and Z. Tenuifolia, it is a drought- and shade-tolerant cultivar. Still, this type of Zoysia thrives fine in humid conditions, as well. The grass grows slowly and turfs often have a dense appearance. Emerald lawns don’t do well in frost and if over fertilised.
- Compadre Zoysia
The cultivar is a Japonica hybrid that can be grown from seed. It loves warm environments and can be found on the West and East coast of the country. It grows more slowly than Empire grass, for instance.
- Zoysia Nara
It’s known as Nara native turf (Macrantha cultivar), as it’s been bread in Australia. It grows slightly faster than other Zoysia varieties. Still, it is categorised as low maintenance and tolerates drought well. This Zoysia cultivar maintains its green colour even in very hot conditions. It requires little fertilising.
- Zenith Zoysia
A hybrid grass with medium-width, dark-green leaf. The variety tolerates shade well in warm climates. Zoysia Zenith withstands drought stress and winter temperatures better than Emerald, for instance. It grows faster from seeds than from plugs, as well.
How to care for Zoysia grass lawn?
Each type of Zoysia grass comes with its specific characteristics, with respect to lawn maintenance requirements. So, in this post, we will cover the general aspects of Zoysia lawn care, including how to grow this specific types of grass, when and how to fertilise your Zoysia grass and more.
Most Zoysia types of turfs are best grown from sprigs, plugs or sod, with the latter being naturally the priciest manner of establishing a lawn. Some cultivars can be grown from seeds, too, such as Zenith and Compadre. Zoysia grass is best planted in the warm months – spring, early summer and autumn.
Planting Zoysia at the wrong time of the year will lead to various problems. It will struggle to establish if it’s too hot. In cooler temperatures, sod won’t root properly, whereas the slow growth of plugs and seeded grass will allow weeds to take over, leaving you with lawn recovery issues in the spring.
Zoysia grass can be considered hardy, wear- and drought-tolerant, so in that sense, it requires very little watering. It thrives best if a deep watering method is used for irrigation instead of frequent shallow watering. About 40 ml of water per week is usually sufficient for Zoysia turf to look green and healthy, be it from rainfall or supplemental watering. In winter, usually, hardly any irrigation is required.
Depending on its variety, Zoysia grass will grow in well-drained soil with acidic to neutral pH. It doesn’t require frequent feeding. A slow-release fertiliser works fine in delivering the medium quantity of nitrogen Zoysia turfs need.
Most cultivars can be fed once or twice a year, according to the lawn’s level of use, traffic and susceptibility to wear. Note that Zoysia turf doesn’t react well to over fertilisation. It may change its colour and become yellow or brown. And considering its slow growth and the time it takes to repair itself, you’re advised to apply only light feeding to your Zoysia lawn.
You remember the “No-Mow-Lawn” variety that we’ve mentioned earlier in our post? Zoysia grass generally needs less frequent cuts in comparison to other types of grasses. It’s recommended that ⅓ of the blade is removed at one time every 10 days to 2 weeks.
Some varieties, like Nara, grow slightly faster than other Zoysias, so depending on the weather conditions and the time of the year, a weekly mowing may be required. Over the winter and in cooler regions, you can mow your Zoysia turf every 6 weeks.
Aerating and scarifying
Most Zoysia grasses form thick and dense mats, with some cultivars being more prone to thatch build-up than others. Experts advise to always check the thickness of any thatch formations on your Zoysia lawn before reaching for the scarifier. If thatch is less than ½ an inch thick, then dethatching is not required.
Instead, you can up the lawn mower’s setting and halve the fertilising to control thatch build-up. Scarifying your Zoysia lawn is best done in late spring to early summer when the grass is actively growing. To improve nutrient absorption and prevent thatch formation, aerate your turfed area in spring and autumn.
Zoysia grasses fight weeds successfully if the lawn is fully established and healthy. As most varieties have high shoot density, weeds find it hard to penetrate through the thick green Zoysia carpet. Proper care of your specific Zoysia turf will help the grass “choke out” any emerging weedings.
Still, there are various weed killing products that can be used on Zoysia lawns with moderation, if needs be.
Zoysia grasses generally boast a consistent winter colour, especially if grown in the warmer regions of Australia. For instance, most cultivars are not suited to the changeable weather and cooler winter conditions in Melbourne, possibly with the exception of Nara and Empire.
Cold weather turns Zoysia grass brown as it goes dormant. If you’re located in an area in the country, which is prone to frosty nights in the winter, you can fight the change of winter colour by fertilising your Zoysia lawn and taking good care of it in the autumn.
Disease and pest issues
People with Zoysia grass may encounter some problems, which are not necessarily related to pests and diseases. Over fertilisation and scalping are among the most common maintenance issues. These, when coupled with the grass’s relatively slow growth rate, make it harder for damaged areas to recover, regardless of what remedial measures you take.
In addition, older lawns are also susceptible to thatch build-up, which could compromise the overall health of your Zoysia turf.
The good news is that Zoysia grass varieties are quite resistant to pests. White grub (cockchafers) and several mites species are among the most problematic insect pests. White grub and the larvae of other beetles can be controlled with microbial insecticides to some extent.
As these pests feed on grassroots, make sure that you dethatch your lawn, first, before applying the pesticidal product. This way, the substance will reach deep down to the roots where it matters.
The biggest issue for Zoysia turfs is brown patch. It’s a fungal disease that occurs in humid and hot conditions. The affected areas can reach a few metres in diameter in wet summer periods. The grass turns brown and looks dry.
Depending on where you live, the problem usually sorts itself out once the wet period is over, with no actions, required on your part. What’s important to know is that the use of weed control and fertilising products should be avoided when the disease is present. The fungus feeds on such products.
If you live in a generally humid climate, then, you may need to resort to a fungicidal product, which is best used at the onset of the problem.
Other diseases that can affect Zoysia grass, subject to your location, are leaf spot and rust. The first one can be eliminated if you apply some extra fertiliser to your lawn and deep-water it at least once a week. These steps should alleviate leaf spot issues, as the problem occurs during dry weather conditions when days are too hot and nights are cool.
The rusty, powdery appearance of affected Zoysia grass is caused by a type of fungus that develops in cool, moist conditions. An appropriate fungicide should be applied to remedy rust disease problems.
- Zoysia is a low to medium maintenance turf if grown in the right conditions. It suits most natural landscapes and adds an organic feel to your yard.
- With proper care and a good amount of patience, due to its slow growth rate, you can enjoy the velvet look of your vibrant green Zoysia turf almost all year round, if you live in the warmer areas of the continent.
- We can even consider Zoysia an environmentally friendly type of grass. It requires little chemical application in comparison to other grass species, with regards to pest and disease control, weed management and fertilisation. Zoysia is also a low water user, in terms of frequency of irrigation.
- Having Zoysia grass means means less mowing and edging due to its slow growth. This results in a reduced carbon footprint that petrol-fueled and electrical gardening equipment generally contribute to.
- One of the biggest shortcomings of Zoysia grass is the time it takes to establish. If planted in the wrong place, with respect to regional climate and light exposure levels in your yard, Zoysia may not perform as well as expected. Slow growth also means slow recovery.
- Considering that Zoysia grass is on the costly side, it’s always best to turn to the professionals if you’re unsure about any specific lawn care issues.
Do you have a Zoysia turf? Have you encountered any problems growing it? Then, don’t waste a minute and share your thoughts in the comments below.