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Zoysia Grass

Zoysiagrass originated from areas in Southeast Asia, China and Japan. It is a low growing, creeping grass, heat resistant, wiry, possibly uncomfortable under the bare foot. Zoysia is slow to establish but aggressive and competes with weeds for its own space.


Zoysiagrasses (Zoysia species) grow best during the warm (80 to 95 °F) months of spring, summer and early fall. They grow vigorously during this time and become brown and dormant in winter. They are adapted to the entire state and are some of the most cold-tolerant of the warm-season grasses.

These grasses form an excellent turf when properly established and managed. For the best appearance, zoysias require cutting with a reel mower, although a rotary mower with sharp blades is satisfactory. They also require occasional watering and periodic thinning or dethatching. Once this grass is established, thatch can build up, especially when heavily fertilized. Remove thatch every two to three years.

The zoysias form a dense, attractive turf in full sun and partial shade, but often thin out in dense shade. Most zoysias grow very slowly compared to other grasses and usually are established by sprigging or plugging, although there are seeded types. Sprigs or plugs, 2 inches in diameter planted on 6-inch centers, will cover completely in two growing seasons if watered and fertilized properly. However, it may require several years to cover if not properly maintained. As it is a slow grower, it requires less frequent mowing than some other grasses. It will, however, recover slowly from damage due to its slow growth habit.

Zoysia japonica is sometimes called Japanese or Korean lawngrass or common zoysia. It has coarse leaf texture, excellent cold tolerance, and it can be seeded.

Meyer zoysia, also called “Z-52,” is an improved selection of Z. japonica. It has medium leaf texture, good cold tolerance and spreads more rapidly than most other zoysias. This is the zoysia often advertised as the “super” grass in newspapers and magazines.

Belaire is also an improved Z. japonica variety noted for its excellent cold tolerance and medium green color. It has a coarser leaf texture and faster rate of establishment than Meyer. It is susceptible to brown patch disease.

Emerald zoysia is a fine-textured hybrid that is possibly the most attractive zoysia. It is well-suited for top-quality lawns where a good maintenance program is provided. Emerald zoysia has less winter hardiness but more shade tolerance than Meyer. It has a dark green color, a very fine leaf texture, good shade tolerance, high shoot density and a low growth habit. Emerald will develop excess thatch rather quickly if overfertilized and is prone to winter injury northward from the Columbia area.

El Toro is a relatively new zoysia that was developed in California and looks like Meyer zoysia. It is the fastest growing zoysia, tolerates mowing with a rotary mower and produces less thatch than Meyer. The winter hardiness of this grass is not well-established although it can be found growing in the Columbia area.

Zenith is a hybrid zoysia that is available as seed. It has a medium dark green color, a medium density, and will tolerate light shade. It is planted in late spring to early summer with a seeding rate of 1 to 2 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet. The seed should be very lightly covered with soil by raking. Cover the seeded area with straw to retain soil moisture during the germination period. Water the newly seeded lawn very lightly three or four times per day to keep the seed moist for best germination.

The seed will germinate in ten or more days. Gradually reduce watering frequency, but give the lawn longer soakings to establish the new grass root system.

In general, the zoysias are slow to cover completely (thus more costly to establish), less drought-tolerant than bermudagrass, and recommended for lawn use only when the homeowner is willing to provide the required maintenance.


Annual Maintenance Schedule

March Through May

Mowing: Zoysiagrass performs best when mowed between ¾ and 2 inches. Begin mowing as soon as the lawn turns green in spring. Always leave the clippings on the lawn in a practice called ‘grass-cycling’. Grass clippings decompose quickly and do not contribute to thatch. If prolonged rain or other factors prevent frequent mowing and clippings begin to clump, they can be collected and used as mulch. For more information on mowing lawns refer to HGIC 1205, Mowing Lawns.

Fertilizing: Apply ½ to1 pound of nitrogen (N) per 1,000 square feet several weeks after the last expected frost of the spring. In most circumstances, do not apply more than 2 pounds of N per 1,000 square feet per year to zoysiagrass lawns. Submit a soil sample to determine nutrient and lime requirements. In the absence of a soil test, use a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 4-1-2 ratio, such as 16-4-8. Apply lime if suggested.

To determine the amount of product needed to apply ½ pound of N per 1,000 square feet, divide 50 by the first number in the fertilizer ratio. For example, for a 16-4-8 fertilizer, divide 50 by 16. The result is 3.125 pounds of product per 1,000 square feet: 50/16 = 3.125 pounds of 16-4-8. For more information on fertilizing lawns refer to HGIC 1201, Fertilizing Lawns.

Irrigation: As a general rule, irrigate when 30 to 50% of the lawn shows sign of wilt. Probe with a screwdriver to ensure the top 4 to 6 inches of soil are moist following irrigation. Do not irrigate again until the lawn shows sign of wilt. In general, zoysiagrass needs a total weekly application of about 1 to 1¼ inches of water. Sandy soils often require more frequent watering, for example, ¾-inch of water every third or fourth day. For more information on watering lawns refer to HGIC 1207, Watering Lawns.

Weed Control: Apply preemergence herbicides to control summer annual weeds when forsythia or redbuds are in full bloom. Apply postemergence herbicides in May as needed to control summer annual and perennial broadleaf weeds. Be sure that the product is labeled for use on zoysiagrass. Apply postemergence herbicides when weeds are present, and at least three weeks after the lawn greens up. For more information on weed control refer to HGIC 2310, Managing Weeds in Warm Season Lawns.

Disease Control: Irrigate properly; overirrigation promotes disease. HGIC 2152, Leaf Diseases of Lawns.

Thatch Removal: Vertically mow in May to remove the thatch after the lawn becomes green and is actively growing, but only if the thatch is more than ½-inch thick. After dethatching, irrigate with ¾ to 1 inch of water. Fertilize with 1 pound of N per 1,000 square feet if the lawn has not already received a spring fertilizer application.

Renovation: Replant large bare areas using sod or sprigs (3 to 5 bushels per 1,000 square feet). Some zoysiagrasses can be seeded at 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Do not cover the seed with more than 1/8-inch of soil since zoysiagrass seed require light for germination. Do not interseed hybrid zoysiagrass lawns with common zoysiagrass. Use sod or sprigs of the existing hybrid instead.

June Through August

Mowing: Zoysiagrass performs best when mowed between ¾ and 2 inches.

Fertilizing: Apply ½ to 1 pound of N per 1,000 square feet every 4 to 8 weeks.

Irrigation: As a general rule, irrigate when 30 to
50 % of the lawn shows sign of wilt. In general, zoysiagrass needs a total weekly application of about 1 to 1¼ inches of water.

Insect Control: August is the best time to control white grubs because they are small and close to the soil surface. Mole crickets will begin to hatch in June. Use a soap flush technique to determine if mole crickets are present. For details on the soap flush technique, see EIIS/TO-1, Mole Cricket Management for the Home Lawn.

Weed Control: Apply postemergence herbicides as needed to control summer annual and perennial weeds.

Thatch Removal: Vertically mow to remove the thatch if it is more than ½ inch thick. It normally is best to vertically mow in spring whenever possible.

September Through November

Mowing: Continue to mow the lawn between ¾ and 2 inches. Raise the mowing height by ½ inch as winter approaches if the lawn will not be overseeded. Mowing height is usually raised in mid-September in the Piedmont and early October in other areas.

Fertilization: Do not apply nitrogen to zoysiagrass after the end of August. In sandy soils or when soil tests report deficient potassium (K) levels, apply 1 pound of potash (K2O) using muriate of potash (0-0-60), potassium sulfate (0-0-50), or Sul-Po-Mag (0-0-22).

Irrigation: Irrigate when 30 to 50% of the lawn shows sign of wilt. Dormant zoysiagrass may need to be watered periodically when windy weather prevails.

Weed Control: Apply preemergence or post-emergence herbicides as needed to control winter annual and perennial broadleaf weeds. Preemergence herbicides do not control existing perennial weeds. Apply postemergence herbicides only when weeds are present. Do not apply herbicides designed to control annual bluegrass if the lawn is to be overseeded with ryegrass.

Insect Control: Continue to monitor for white grubs and control if necessary.

Disease Control: Irrigate properly; overirrigation promotes disease.

December Through February

Mowing: Mow overseeded zoysiagrass at 1 inch before the grass gets taller than 1½ inch. Do not collect the clippings unless they accumulate heavily on the surface. Dormant zoysiagrass that has not been overseeded need not be mowed.

Overseed: Fertilization: Do not fertilize zoysiagrass that has not been overseeded. Apply ½ pound of N per 1,000 square feet in December and February, for overseeded zoysiagrass.

Irrigation: Dormant zoysiagrass may have to be watered periodically to prevent desiccation, especially when windy. Watering is particularly important for lawns that have been overseeded.

Weed Control: Apply broadleaf herbicides as needed to control winter weeds. Selective herbicides can be applied in November or December to lawns that have not been overseeded to control annual bluegrass (Poa annua) and several winter annual broadleaf weeds.


3 thoughts on “Zoysia Grass

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