You may never have thought about what kind of grass your lawn has, but picking the right grass that can thrive in Alabama’s humid summers, high rainfall, and frequent dry periods, as well as your lawn’s particular needs, can save you a lot of time, effort, money, and grief. Which grass is right for your Alabama lawn?
Table of Contents
- 1 What To Know About Grass In Alabama?
- 2 9 Types of Grass in Alabama
- 2.1 1. Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum)
- 2.2 2. Bermuda Grass (Cynodon spp.)
- 2.3 3. Buffalo Grass (Buchloe dactyloides)
- 2.4 4. Centipede Grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides)
- 2.5 5. Seashore Paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum)
- 2.6 6. St Augustine (Stenotaphrum secundatum)
- 2.7 7. Zoysiagrass (Zoysia spp.)
- 2.8 Annual Ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum)
- 2.9 8. Creeping Bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera)
- 2.10 Heat-Tolerant Bluegrass (P. pratensis x P. arachnifera)
- 2.11 9. Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea)
- 3 Warm-Season Grasses For Alabama
- 4 Cool-Season Grasses For Alabama
- 5 The Best Grass Picks For Alabama Lawns
- 6 Common Lawn Weeds In Alabama
What To Know About Grass In Alabama?
Hot And Humid Summers
Wherever you live in Alabama, you’re going to have hot and humid summers. If you’re planting in full sun, go with a warm-season grass, as they have higher heat tolerance. In part shade, you can go with heat-hardy cool-season grasses like fescues.
Cold Winters In The North
Northern Alabama is in the transition zone, with both hot summers and cold winters. You need a grass that can withstand both, and that can be difficult as few warm-season grasses can survive the colder winters, and few cool-season grasses can survive the summer heat. Look for cultivars that have been bred to withstand heat and cold.
High Salt In Coastal Areas
If you live in the coastal areas in the south, then you’ll need grass that can withstand a high amount of salt.
High Rainfall And Seasonal Droughts
Rainfall patterns and distribution vary in Alabama, meaning that while you’ll get a lot of rain over the year, you’ll also experience seasonal droughts. Choosing a drought-tolerant grass will help you lower your water bills and help your turfgrass survive when you’re not able to water. Sandy soils will need to be watered more often than other types of soil.9 Types of Grass in Alabama
9 Types of Grass in Alabama
While Bahiagrass excels as for erosion and dust control along highways, this warm-season grass is also a great option for a low maintenance lawn. The two main varieties are Argentine and Pensacola, with Argentine being more popular as a turfgrass because of its uniform look and fewer seed heads. But don’t overlook Pensacola, with its higher resilience to drought, stress, heat, and cold.
Advantages of Bahiagrass:
- High drought tolerance, meaning you won’t need to irrigate your lawn during dry periods.
- Requires little nitrogen, only needing 1 or 2 applications per year.
- Has the highest resistance to insects and disease of all the warm-season grasses.
- Tolerates part shade, needing only 4 hours of sun per day.
- Easy to establish a new lawn from seed.
- Grows well in nutrient-poor soil.
Disadvantages of Bahiagrass:
- While it grows best in sandy soils, its low salt tolerance makes it unsuitable for coastal regions.
- Low cold tolerance, making it unsuitable for Northern Alabama. Pensacola has higher cold tolerance.
- Produces tall Y-shaped seed heads every 1 – 2 weeks throughout the summer heat. If you find them unattractive, you’ll need to mow often. Argentine produces fewer seed heads.
- Seed heads are tough, making them difficult to mow. You’ll need to keep your blades sharp.
Heralded as the Kentucky Bluegrass of the south, this warm-season, high maintenance grass is most often picked for its dark green, medium textured leaves and short mowing height. You can find two different classes in Alabama: Seeded Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon) and Hybrid Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon x Cynodon transvaalensis).
The main advantage to Seeded Bermuda is that, like the name implies, you can establish it through seed. Seed prices vary depending on the cultivar, but you can also find blends with 3 to 5 different cultivars for added resilience.
Hybrid Bermudagrass is a cross between the Seeded Bermudagrass and African Bermudagrass. It has a finer texture than Seeded and doesn’t produce as many seed heads, but you can only start a new lawn with sprigs, plugs, or sod.
Advantages of Bermuda Grass:
- Attractive dark green grass that you can mow golf course short (1 to 2 inches).
- Grows aggressively through both stolons and rhizomes.
- Handles moderate foot traffic and can repair itself quickly.
- Thrives in high heat and high humidity.
- Has some drought-tolerance.
Disadvantages of Bermuda Grass:
- High maintenance. It needs to be mowed, fertilized, and dethatched often.
- Requires a lot of nitrogen, as many as 5 to 6 applications per year.
- Fast, aggressive growth through rhizomes and stolons means that it will become your biggest weed as it invades your garden beds and neighbors’ yards.
- Prone to thatch problems because of its fast growth through stolons.
- Cannot handle shade – full sun only.
- Needs a lot more water than many other grasses.
You may have heard that the North American native Buffalo Grass can make an amazing, extremely drought tolerant lawn. That’s true – but only in arid regions. Alabama’s humidity and rainfall levels cause Buffalograss to struggle against weeds. This low maintenance grass becomes a high maintenance one. Best to give this grass a miss.
Centipede Grass is a warm-season turfgrass known for its iconic apple-green color and its nickname the “Lazy Man’s Grass” because you barely need to fertilize, mow, or water it. In fact, you’ll hurt it if you try to give it too much love.
Advantages of Centipede Grass:
- Extremely low maintenance grass: you only need to fertilize it once per year (compost is great for this) and you only mow it infrequently because of its slow growth.
- Needs low amounts of water on a frequent basis and bounces back from drought.
- Few thatch problems due to slow growth.
- Loves sandy, acidic soil.
Disadvantages of Centipede Grass:
- Vulnerable to nematodes, Centipede Grass Decline (caused by overfertilization, too much thatch, or other stresses), and iron chlorosis (also caused by overfertilization).
- Sensitive to post emergent herbicides (not a problem if you’re using organic practices).
- Susceptible to cold, so avoid use in Northern Alabama (TifBlair has higher cold tolerance).
- Recovers slowly from wear and other damage because of slow growth.
- Requires frequent, shallow waterings.
- Applegreen color is seen as less attractive than darker green, but still makes a nice looking lawn.
Originally hyped as a miracle grass that can be watered with seawater (don’t do that), Seashore Paspalum is still an amazing grass under the right conditions. Used since the 1950s in golf courses, it’s a high-quality turf that competes with Bermuda and Zoysia while still being low maintenance.
Advantages of Seashore Paspalum:
- A high-quality, attractive turfgrass that’s low maintenance.
- The highest salt tolerance of all grasses and makes an excellent choice for coastal areas (especially combined with sandy soil).
- High drought tolerance, low water needs, and tolerates poor quality water (but not ocean water – don’t do that).
- Low nitrogen needs, and this grass benefits from paying more attention to calcium and other micronutrients more than nitrogen. Best grown in nutrient poor soil.
- Mows the shortest out of all grasses at 1 inch.
Disadvantages of Seashore Paspalum:
- Needs to be kept short, or it becomes prone to disease. You also need to keep mower blades sharp to cut through it.
- Grown in soil with higher nutrition and more frequent rainfall or irrigation, it struggles against weeds and Bermudagrass.
- More expensive to start a new lawn, but maintenance costs are far lower than many other grasses.
- Low resistance to insects.
St Augustine is a warm-season grass that’s adapted well to subtropical regions like Florida, but outside of that region, has mixed results. Centipede looks very similar with similar needs, but is lower maintenance.
Advantages of St Augustine:
- Good salt tolerance and is great for sandy soil, making it a suitable choice for coastal areas.
- Tolerates part shade, needing only 4 hours of sun per day.
- Grows well in hot and humid conditions.
Disadvantages of St Augustine:
- Poor cold tolerance limits it to southern areas. Some cultivars like Raleigh have higher cold tolerance.
- Requires a lot of maintenance, from high nitrogen needs (3 to 4 applications per year), supplemental irrigation (needing more water than Bermuda), and annual dethatching.
- All St Augustine cultivars are vulnerable to chinch bugs. Those cultivars that initially saw resistance have since lost it.
- Prone to many diseases without effective controls, particularly St Augustine Decline. Choose a SAD resistant variety like Floratam.
- Can only establish a new St Augustine lawn from sprigs, plugs, and sod, making it more expensive than grasses with seed available.
- Sensitive to many common herbicides.
Not only is Zoysiagrass one of the most attractive grasses available, Zoysiagrass has adapted throughout the entire Alabama state. Zoysia encompasses three main varieties – Zoysia japonica, Zoysia matrella, and Zoysia tenuifolia. Most turfgrass used is Zoysia japonica, and popular cultivars include Emerald and Meyer.
Advantages of Zoysiagrass:
- Very attractive grass, with green or dark green color and medium to fine texture, depending on the variety and cultivar.
- The best cold tolerance out of all the warm-season grasses, making it suitable for Northern Alabama.
- Tolerates part shade, needing only 4 hours per day. Any more shade than that, though, and it’ll thin out.
- Has excellent wear resistance, so your kids can run over it all they want.
- Low water needs, making it excellent for those dry periods.
Disadvantages of Zoysiagrass:
- Has high nitrogen needs, requiring 3 to 4 fertilizer applications per year.
- Requires a medium amount of maintenance – more than low maintenance grasses like Centipedegrass, but less than high maintenance grasses like Bermudagrass.
- Most cultivars can only be established with plugs, sprigs, or sod, making it more expensive. Few cultivars have seed available.
- Slow establishment means it’s harder to start a new lawn. It may take more than one growing season to become fully established.
- Thatch can be a problem, especially with its dense growth, but since it grows so slowly, it won’t be as much of a problem as fast-growing grasses.
Annual Ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum)
If you’re looking for winter greenery in your warm-season grass, go with Annual Ryegrass. If you’re looking for a temporary groundcover, then either Annual Ryegrass or Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne) works great. This far south, Perennial Ryegrass isn’t actually perennial as it can’t handle the heat.
Advantages of Annual Ryegrass:
- Germinates in only 3 to 5 days, making it an excellent temporary groundcover either to temporarily cover an area or when starting a new, slow establishing lawn to prevent weeds from taking over.
- Annual ryegrass seed is inexpensive.
Disadvantages of Annual Ryegrass:
- Only grows during the cooler winter temperatures.
Creeping Bentgrass is a cool-season grass used for golf courses in Northern Alabama, but since you need a high level of skill and a lot of money for upkeep, it’s not suitable for residential lawns. There are plenty of other attractive grasses better suited for your lawn.
Heat-Tolerant Bluegrass (P. pratensis x P. arachnifera)
While Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis) is a no-go for Alabama (it will not survive the summer heat), you can use Heat-Tolerant or Hybrid Bluegrass. This grass is a cross between Kentucky Bluegrass and Texas Bluegrass.
Advantages of Heat-Tolerant Bluegrass:
- Very attractive turfgrass, with a blue-green color and fine texture.
- Can blend with fescues for more resiliency.
- Added cold tolerance and enhanced heat tolerance make it a good choice for North Alabama.
- Some drought tolerance.
- Stays green during the cooler months.
Disadvantages of Heat-Tolerant Bluegrass:
- Humid conditions cause more disease problems.
- Will go dormant in the high summer heat unless irrigated.
- High water needs means you’ll need to irrigate it during dry periods.
- High fertilizer needs means you’ll need to fertilize 4 to 5 times per year.
- Prone to thatch problems.
Tall Fescue is one of the few cool-season grasses that does well in Northern Alabama. Look for blends with newer cultivars with a higher heat tolerance, like Roman, Warhawk, and Rhizing Moon.
Advantages of Tall Fescue:
- Attractive grass with medium to dark green color and medium texture.
- Can tolerate winters too cold for warm-season and summers too hot for cool-season grasses. Great for the Tennessee Valley region.
- Part shade tolerance. Being planted in part shade helps Tall Fescue endure the long, hot summers.
- Grows well in just about any soil and pH range, and does well in heavy clay soil.
- Requires a low amount of water with some drought tolerance during cooler weather.
- Only requires 2 to 3 applications of nitrogen per year.
- Tolerates a medium amount of salt
- Start from seed with a fast establishment rate, and seed is relatively inexpensive.
- Stays green during the cooler winter temperatures.
Disadvantages of Tall Fescue:
- Further south, Tall Fescue suffers from the extreme heat and humidity.
- Clump growth habit makes a less uniform grass that’s too bumpy for sports like soccer. Becomes “clumpy” when grass thins out under extreme heat, and will require overseeding. Some newer cultivars grow with rhizomes instead for a more even lawn, and so can self-repair.
- As a cool-season grass, it goes dormant in the heat. You will need to water it often to keep it green, or less often to help it with heat stress.
Warm-Season Grasses For Alabama
|Bahiagrass||Bermuda||Centipede||Seashore Paspalum||St Augustine||Zoysia|
|Adaptation||Central, South||North, Central, South, Coastal||Central, South||North, Central, South,
|Central, South, Coastal||North, Central, South, Coastal|
|Color||Light Green||Dark Green||Apple Green||Dark Green||Medium Green||Dark Green|
|Establishment Method||Seed, Sod||Seed, Sprigs, Plugs, Sod||Seed, Plugs||Sod
Seed available for some cultivars
|Sprigs, Plugs, Sod||Sprigs, Plugs, Sod
Seed available for some cultivars
|Nitrogen (lb/1,000 sq ft)||1 – 2||4 – 5||0 – 2||1 – 2||3 – 4||1 – 2|
|Mowing Height (Inches)||2 – 3||1 – 2||2 – 3||1 – 2||2 – 3||2 – 3|
Cool-Season Grasses For Alabama
|Heat-Tolerant Bluegrass||Tall Fescue|
|Establishment||Fast (Slower Than Tall Fescue)||Fast|
|Establishment Method||Seed, Sod||Seed, Sod|
|Nitrogen (lb/1,000 sq ft)||4 – 5; High||2 – 3; Medium|
|Mowing Height (Inches)||2 – 3||3 – 4|
The Best Grass Picks For Alabama Lawns
Best Picks For Shade:
- Tall Fescue (North Only)
Best Picks For Salt & Coastal Locations:
- Seashore Paspalum
Best Picks For Northern Alabama:
- Tall Fescue
- Heat-Tolerant Bluegrass
Best Picks For Low Maintenance:
- Seashore Paspalum
Best Picks For Low Water Usage:
- Seashore Paspalum
- Tall Fescue (North Only)
Common Lawn Weeds In Alabama
The best defense against any weed is a thick, healthy lawn. Rhizomatous species (including all the warm-season grasses and bluegrass listed here) are great at this, especially those that grow quickly, but clump-growing species (like Tall Fescue) may need to be overseeded to fill in gaps.
Don’t over fertilize or overwater in the hopes of creating a thicker, healthier lawn. Only fertilize and water as much as your lawn needs, and no more. Weeds will take advantage of the excess resources.
When weeds pop up, it’s important to identify them first so you can choose the most effective treatment. Only use herbicides as a last resort.
- Annual Bluegrass (Poa annua): Annual Bluegrass pops up during the cooler winter months and spreads by seeds. You’re not likely to eradicate it completely , but you can control it. When there’s just a few plants, dig it up before it can get established. In large patches, you may need to apply a herbicide in the fall. To prevent its spread, mow frequently above the height of your grass (where only the Annual Bluegrass pops up) and collect the cuttings with a bag attachment.
- Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major): If Broadleaf Plantain pops up in your soil, you know that you have compacted soil. To get rid of the plant, it’s best to hand pull it or use a weed pulling tool. To prevent more, core aerate your soil to ease the compaction. But you may wish to keep it around your sidewalks – if you get a bug bite, tear open a plantain leaf and rub the sap on the bite for immediate relief.
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): The best way to get rid of dandelions is by digging out its deep taproot before it goes to seed. It’ll regrow so long as its taproot survives. Dandelions are edible and make a tasty wine (if you don’t use chemical interventions, that is).
- Clover (Trifolium spp.): Clover pops up in soil that’s low in nitrogen, where it’s able to convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates that plants can absorb. If you don’t mind the look, feel free to leave it in. Otherwise, make sure you’re adding enough nitrogen for your lawn.
- Common Chickweed (Stellaria media): Chickweed likes neutral pH soils with high nitrogen and moist conditions. Pull back on your fertilization and watering schedule. Use less frequent, deeper waterings and let the soil dry out in between.
- Common Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album): The easiest way to get rid of Lambsquarters is by frequent, weekly mowing. If you’ve been letting your lawn get a little long, then take a few passes. They’ll disappear after a month of mowing.
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