How to choose the right grass for a care-free lawn

Grass species differ in their growth habits and texture. Find the types that are likely to thrive in your climate, and you'll be on the way to growing a care-free lawn. Here are some tips on choosing the right kind of grass for your lawn.

How to choose the right grass for a care-free lawn

Growth habits of grasses

Different species of lawn grass vary in their growth habits.

  • Spreading, or sod-forming grasses send out stems called rhizomes that creep either slightly above or below ground level, forming a new plant wherever they root. These grasses, including cool-season bluegrass and warm-season zoysia, eventually knit together tightly into a thick turf.
  • Bunch grasses grow only from the crown and form upright tufts, yet the individual plants grow so close together that they appear to be joined even though they are not.
  • Common tuft-forming grasses include tall fescue, which is becoming increasingly popular because of its hard-wearing capability.
  • Cool-season perennial ryegrass and transition-zone buffalo grass are primarily tuft-forming grasses, although they do spread modestly after becoming established.
  • Sod-forming grasses can be planted by installing individual sprigs or small plantlets called plugs, but this is rarely done in Canada. Most lawns are started from sod, which is rolled-up sheets of ready-to-plant grass with roots intact, which is harvested fresh from special local sod farms.
  • Tuft-forming grasses are usually planted from seed, although they are also often available as sod.

Selecting grasses

Grasses are divided into two groups — cool-season and warm-season — based on the type of weather they prefer.

  • Cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass and fine fescues, grow best in temperatures of 15° to 24°C (59° to 75°F) and often go dormant or semi-dormant in hot weather.
  • Warm-season grasses, including St. Augustine and Bermuda grass, grow in temperatures of 26° to 35°C (79° to 95°F) and always go dormant in winter.

Most of Canada grows the cool-season varieties, but the warm-season grasses can also be grown in the warmest parts of Ontario.

Grasses are also classified by appearance.

  • Finebladed grasses, such as cool-season bentgrass, have blades less than six millimetres (0.2 inches) wide. These usually can't tolerate heavy traffic and are used to create a display lawn as velvety as a putting green.
  • Grasses that can stand more traffic have blades ranging from medium to coarse and are best suited to children's play spaces, garden paths, and other heavily-used lawn areas.

Read the label

When buying lawn-grass seed, check the label to see which grass species and variety names are listed, as well as the germination rate. Also look at the date, to make sure you are getting fresh, viable seed, and that the weed-seed content is less than one per cent.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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