The Most Common Grass Types—Plus, Where They Grow and How to Help Them Thrive

These are the blades you're most likely to see in the North, South, and everywhere in between.

Like other plants that succeed or fail depending on whether they're suited for your climate, different types of grass thrive in different parts of the United States. Most can be classified as warm-season grasses or cool-season grasses, which indicates their propensity to grow either in the warmer South and southeastern parts of the country or the cooler, wetter North. Whether you're looking for a picture-perfect lawn (and you have the time to spend on maintenance to get it) or want a backyard space that's durable enough for soccer training and games of fetch with your dog, choosing the right lawn for where—and how—you live lets you turn your backyard into an outdoor oasis all year long.

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Cool-Season Grasses

The grasses that thrive in the northern regions of the United States are able to withstand cold temperatures and a variety of soil conditions; they're also often grown together in blended bags of seed, adding to the resilience and beauty of your lawn. "If you own a snow shovel, you probably have cool-season grasses in your lawn," says Craig Elworthy of Lawnbright. "Most lawns, and most seed sold in bags, are a mix of several grass types; most lawns in the country have a mix of cool-season grasses."

Single grasses or blends have similar care and maintenance requirements, says Jason McCausland, national technical coordinator for Weed Man. "No matter your grass type, regular mowing is essential during the hot summer months," he says. Keep the height between 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches for ideal color.

Water regularly for 30 to 45 minutes, preferably in the morning, so the grass can dry during the day. "The keys to proper watering are timing, consistency, and duration," says McCausland. "If your lawn experiences drought conditions or summer dormancy, it's important to continue watering. The lawn will bounce back with an improvement in weather conditions." As for winter care? These grass types are expected to go dormant and turn yellow or brown to protect against harsh conditions in the winter months, but watering isn't usually required due to colder, wetter conditions, McCausland explains.

Perennial Ryegrass

perennial ryegrass lawn


Emerald-green ryegrass is recognizable in part by its glossy blades and the springtime magenta tones at the base of established patches. "The leaf blades are rolled in the bud, the tip is pointed, and it has a shallow, fibrous root system that makes it well-suited for quick germination and establishment," says McCausland. "Many of the college and professional sports fields in the northern United States will use perennial rye mixed with Kentucky bluegrass because their fields take a beating. It's quick to germinate and quick to recover and re-establish itself when damaged or stressed."

Tall Fescue

tall fescue grass

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Hardy tall fescue can withstand droughts and plenty of wear and tear, making it an increasingly popular choice for northern lawns. "It has a deep green color and a fine-textured appearance that makes it very attractive," says McCausland. "The blades of turf type tall fescue are narrow and have a slight curl or twist to them, giving the grass a slightly wispy look."

The grass turns dark green in the fall and lightens in the winter when it's dormant. "It thrives in naturally irrigated, full-sun environments, and can grow from the northernmost parts of the country to the south with relative ease," says Elworthy. "It's best for families that use their lawns heavily, families with pets, and properties with full sun."

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass

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Though Elworthy describes Kentucky Bluegrass as "one of the most high-maintenance grass types" because of its generous water and fertilizer requirements and thick thatch layer, it does offer durability: "The biggest benefit of this grass type is that it spreads laterally, and can repair itself," he says.

The dark green, glossy leaves, with their "pronounced, boat-shaped leaf tip" thrive in full sun—but not in the heat. "It is commonly used because of its tolerance to cold temperatures, good wear tolerance, and attractive appearance," says McCausland. "It features a fine texture and soft feel, which makes it a popular choice for lawns and sports fields."

Fine Fescue

fine fescue grass

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Sharp-pointed fine fescue grass has a ridged inner surface and a strong propensity for survival, even in areas without full sun: their "superb shade tolerance and ability to recuperate from stresses" mean they are often mixed with tall fescue to keep a yard's shadiest spots green and growing, according to the agriculture team at North Carolina State University Extension TurfFiles. While fine fescue grasses benefit from extra water during an extreme dry spell, they typically do not need regular watering once established.

Warm-Season Grasses

These grasses, common in the southern United States up to North Carolina and the border of California and Nevada, are typically cut to a height of 1 to 3 inches. "Watering habits are very similar to cool-season grasses, but with some slight variances," says McCausland. "Most warm-season grasses may require some water through the cooler months of the year if there has been a continued pattern of dry and/or windy conditions."

Bahia Grass

bahia grass lawn

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Coarse bahia grass, which grows in clumps or bunches in the southeastern part of the country, is made of long, tapered, light green leaves. "Bahia grass has a deep root system that can reach up to 6 feet in depth, which allows it to tolerate drought conditions better than other grasses," says McCausland. "It grows best in full sun and is tolerant of a wide range of soil types."

Bermuda Grass

bermuda grass against sidewalk

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Coastal Bermuda grass, which ranges in color from light to dark green, grows well in conditions that are hot and humid. "Bermuda grass grows low to the ground and forms a dense, compact mat," says McCausland. "It has a bright, vibrant color that stands out from other grasses; the leaf blades are usually smooth on top and have a rough texture on the underside."

Centipede Grass

centipede grass

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The short, narrow leaves of centipede grass—about 1/3 of an inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long—grow from a reddish-brown stem that spreads horizontally across the ground. "Centipede grass has a low-growing, creeping growth habit and forms a dense turf—it has a unique, coarse feel when walked on," says McCausland. "Centipede grass is well adapted to a hot and humid climate and is commonly found in the southeastern United States. It prefers slightly acidic soils with a pH of 5 to 6."

St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine grass

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Warm, humid parts of the country, including Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, and California, are home to St. Augustine grass. The slightly rounded, broad, and flat blades are long and narrow—a 1/2 inch wide or less and about 6 inches long—and range in color from light green to greenish-blue. "It has a coarse texture with leaves that feel somewhat stiff to the touch and grows in a dense, low-growing mat or carpet-like appearance," says McCausland.

Zoysia Grass

zoysiagrass lawn


Thick, soft zoysia grass creates a dense carpet of blades for barefoot days and summer picnics. The narrow, flat-leaf blades are less than 1/8-inch wide, and create a deep root system based on dense, slow growth. 

Transition Zone Grasses

Some warm- and cool-season grasses can also grow successfully in the transition zone, which bridges the two areas. "The transition zone tends to be a bit of a challenge, simply because the specific types of grasses will vary depending on factors such as soil type, climate, and local growing conditions," says McCausland. "To maintain a healthy lawn in the transition zone, some may choose to plant a mix of warm-season and cool-season grasses. This strategy ensures that the lawn stays green and lush year round, with the cool-season grasses taking over during the cooler months and the warm-season grasses thriving in the summer." 

Grasses that are popular choices here include Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, tall fescue, Bermuda grass, and zoysia grass. However, if you choose to blend cool- and warm-season grasses, can expect more year-round maintenance—since one grass is active while the other is dormant, says McCausland. "Warm-season grasses such as Bermuda and zoysia grass thrive in hot summers, but go dormant and turn brown during cold winters," he says. "Cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fescue, on the other hand, prefer cooler temperatures and stay green throughout the winter, but may struggle during hot summers."

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