7 Best Grass Seed For Sandy Soil

If your lawn’s performance has historically fallen short, it’s possible that the soil underneath is to blame. Even with perfect maintenance, low-quality soil can take a major toll on the health and appearance of traditional turf grass.

One factor affecting soil quality in many lawns is sand content. I, myself, have lived somewhere with very sandy topsoil and know first-hand just how hard it is to grow and maintain a healthy lawn under such circumstances. 

With that all said, planting a grass type suited to sandy conditions can make a world of difference in your lawn’s success. There are actually a surprising number of popular grass cultivars that do well in sandy soil. In this article, I’ll share the best grass seed for sandy soil as well as some of my favorite tips for planting grass in sandy areas.

Best Grass Seed For Sandy Soil

Though cultivating a healthy lawn over sandy soil is easier than you might think, the tips and tricks in this article are indispensable to achieving the best results possible. If you’re on the hunt for quick, no-nonsense advice, however, here is the grass seed I recommend most for sandy soils:

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Overall Best Grass for Sandy Soil

Cool-Season — Tall Fescue

A cold-hardy, transitional grass species that offers great drought tolerance and moderate shade tolerance with minimal irrigation.

Warm-Season — Bermuda Grass

A subtropical grass species with an extremely deep root system that can survive all but the most extreme droughts.

Choosing Grass For Sandy Soil

There are dozens of popular turf grass varieties on the market for homeowners to choose from. Each type of grass offers different benefits and excels at growing in specific conditions. If you’re working with sandy soil, you’ll want to select grass that is known to grow well in such conditions.

I find that learning what makes grass suited to certain growing conditions is a great way to take some of the mystery out of planting and maintaining a lawn in sandy soil. It will also help you narrow down which grass varieties are the best choices for your property and their unique traits.

Here are the top factors I look at when selecting grass for sandy soil:

Drought Tolerance

Sandy soil will not hold onto water as well as other soil compositions. So the ideal grass type for a sandy area is one that naturally tolerates drought conditions.

You should prioritize a drought-tolerant grass variety even if you live in an area where actual drought is rare. These grass types will be much better adapted to sandy soil than those not tolerant of drought.

Water Frequency

Within the same vein as drought tolerance is how often a particular turf grass must be watered. Generally, the less drought-tolerant your chosen grass variety, the more often you will need to water it. However, the two are not entirely interchangeable.

I like to think of drought tolerance as a plant’s ability to survive extended periods without sufficient water. The grass may still go dormant during this time but will recover as soon as the water is once again available.

Meanwhile, watering frequency has more to do with how often grass must be irrigated to maintain optimal health and appearance.

Since sandy soil does not retain water well, you should expect to water more often than recommended for your chosen grass type. Take this into consideration when planting a lawn over sandy soil, as you will need to fit watering sessions (if necessary) into your lawn care schedule.


Sandy soil is far from ideal for the most popular turf grasses. For the best results, you want to ensure your lawn is planted with a particularly hardy grass type.

Hardiness simply refers to how well a given grass type can tolerate and adapt to non-ideal growing conditions. A hardy grass variety will offer a greater margin of error when grown in sandy soil.

Root Structure

The best grass for sandy soil is one that grows very deep roots. Turf grass typically develops roots that penetrate between 6 and 24 inches into the soil. However, some species produce roots that reach or exceed 5 feet.

A deep root system is less vulnerable to things like changing moisture levels and lack of nutrients within the very top layer of soil. Lawns with deep roots are also better adapted to survive drought and extreme temperatures.

Growth Rate

A rapid growth rate is highly desirable when starting a lawn from seed. Fast growth not only produces quicker results but also reduces the risk of soil erosion in the interim.

Sandy soils are particularly prone to erosion, so I recommend selecting grass that will germinate and establish quickly to prevent run-off or wind damage to the ground’s surface.

Tolerance To Shade And Temperature

Sun exposure and temperature are two very important factors for any lawn. There’s little you can do to change these factors, so it’s important to tailor your grass selection to suit your property instead.

Again, sandy soil sets most grass types at a natural disadvantage. You can offset this by choosing a grass type precisely suited to the amount of shade and average temperatures within your lawn.

Salt-Water Tolerance For Coastal Regions

If you live near the ocean, you will need to account for salt exposure when selecting a grass seed. Saltwater is notoriously harsh on many plants. The same is true of salt in the air. 

I don’t recommend trying your luck with a grass variety not well-suited to coastal growing conditions. This is especially true when planting over sandy soil, which is already less-than-ideal for most grass species.

7 Best Grass For Sandy Soils

I’m well aware of the struggles that come with growing turf grass in sandy soil. The worst is when you encounter overly sandy soil in an area you’d least expect it! Fortunately, the right grass seed can make a world of difference in the success of your future lawn.

After researching and reviewing some of the most popular grass varieties for both warm and cool climates, I’ve narrowed down the top 7 options for sandy growing conditions:

1. Tall Fescue

  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Water Requirements: Low
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Shade Tolerance: High 
  • Cold Tolerance: High 

Tall fescue is a cool-season turf grass that grows well in USDA zones 3 through 8. Because of its heat and drought tolerance when compared to other cool-season varieties, tall fescue is frequently regarded as a transitional grass that thrives in both cool and warm climates.

Tall fescue flourishes in the average residential lawn even with heavy foot traffic and wear and tear. However, it doesn’t self-repair well and bare patches must be reseeded as they form. 

With roots that regularly reach 2 to 3 feet beneath the soil’s surface, tall fescue is renowned for its drought tolerance. It’s frequently touted as an eco-friendly option for home lawns that require as little as 1 inch of water per week to survive.

2. Bentgrass

  • Drought Tolerance: Low
  • Water Requirements: High
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Shade Tolerance: Moderate
  • Cold Tolerance: Moderate

At a glance, bentgrass seems like a poor choice for use in sandy soil. However, this turf grass is surprisingly well-suited to sandy conditions, including those found in coastal regions.

While bentgrass excels in sandy soils, it’s not often recommended for residential lawns. Instead, it is a popular choice for golf courses and similar sporting areas. Bentgrass requires a high degree of maintenance that few homeowners can provide. I generally only recommend bentgrass for specialty landscaping projects — it’s not ideal for the typical backyard.

One of the reasons bentgrass is not recommended for home lawns is that it must be maintained at a very short height. According to Oregon State University, bentgrass is typically kept at a height of .5 inches and must be mowed several times per week.

If you are interested in planting bentgrass, keep in mind that it performs best in temperate, humid climates. It won’t thrive in particularly dry, hot, or cold conditions.

3. Zoysia

  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Water Requirements: Low
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Shade Tolerance: Low
  • Cold Tolerance: Moderate

If you’re in need of warm-season grass that grows well in sandy soil and can easily take a beating, I recommend looking into zoysia grass. Zoysia grass doesn’t just tolerate sandy soil. It actually prefers it.

Zoysia grass forms a dense carpet that spreads nearly as fast as it grows upward. It forms a tough barrier against sand-loving weeds that may try to invade your lawn.

This grass will perform best when planted in fast-draining soil — i.e., that which is rich in the sand — but otherwise tolerates a range of pH and nutrient levels. Zoysia roots tend to grow up to 2 feet long and can access moisture and other resources deep below the surface.

There are, of course, a few potential drawbacks to zoysia grass. It does not tolerate shade and will grow thin and scraggly if sunlight is sparse. Zoysia grass is also more widely available as sod than as seed.

4. Bermuda Grass

  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Water Requirements: Low
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Shade Tolerance: Low
  • Cold Tolerance: Low

Bermuda grass is a heat-loving variety that is extremely popular throughout the southern United States. It grows in USDA zones 7 through 10 and requires full sun to truly thrive.

Healthy Bermuda forms a thick blanket using a combination of rhizomes and stolons (horizontal stems). Like zoysia grass, Bermuda is excellent at choking out competing weeds.

Bermuda grass is known as one of the most drought-tolerant turf grasses available. Its roots regularly reach up to 6 feet in length and can hold the plant over in times of extreme drought. While Bermuda grass may go dormant during an extended drought, it generally retains its green color much longer than other warm-season varieties.

5. Bahia Grass

  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Water Requirements: Low
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Shade Tolerance: Low
  • Cold Tolerance: Low

Bahia grass is a lesser-known option that is well-adapted to hot, humid climates. While this grass species do better in partial shade than many other warm-season varieties, it still prefers full sunshine by a significant margin.

The reason I recommend Bahia grass for sandy soil is that it is surprisingly tolerant of poor growing conditions. This grass develops an extensive root system that can reach 8 feet below the ground’s surface, allowing it to survive heat and drought with ease.

You won’t need to water a Bahia lawn very often to see good results. Too much water can actually weaken this drought-tolerant grass. Also, Bahia grass is generally slow to germinate and establish when grown from seed.

6. Centipede Grass

  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Water Requirements: Low
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Shade Tolerance: Moderate
  • Cold Tolerance: Low

Centipede grass is extremely popular throughout the United States’ southeastern region. It grows well in the acidic, sandy soil found along the Gulf Coast and adjacent areas.

For warm-season grass, this variety is relatively shade-tolerant. But you shouldn’t expect a miracle — centipede grass will seriously struggle in full shade.

If your native soil will support it, centipede grass is one of the most low-maintenance options available. It requires minimal mowing and fertilization throughout the growing season and won’t succumb easily to heat or drought.

One thing to note about centipede grass is that it doesn’t respond well to a number of common herbicides. Keep this in mind if weeds are a frequent problem on your property.

7. Seville St. Augustine

  • Drought Tolerance: Low
  • Water Requirements: Moderate
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Shade Tolerance: Moderate
  • Cold Tolerance: Low

Seville St. Augustine is a dwarf cultivar with a finer texture than traditional St. Augustine grass. Due to its dwarf growth habit, it prefers to be kept notably shorter than other cultivars.

Seville St. Augustine is popular because of its moderate shade tolerance — something not often found in warm-season grass types — and ability to grow in salty coastal regions. It is also well-adapted to sandy soils with a variety of pH levels.

In my experience, the primary drawback of Seville St. Augustine is its lack of drought tolerance. This cultivar has naturally high watering needs which are only exacerbated by sandy soil. Take this into account when deciding if Seville St. Augustine is the ideal grass for your lawn.

Verdict: Best Grass Type For Sandy Soil

As you can see, there are a number of quality grass species well-suited to growing in sandy soil. However, they will not all perform equally on your lawn.

If I could only pick two varieties to recommend here, I’d suggest looking further into tall fescue (if you live in a cool-season climate) or Bermuda grass (if you live in a warm-season one). These turf grasses both offer great drought tolerance and perform well even in sandy conditions.

Growing Grass In Sandy Soil

If you’ve planted grass seed in the past, you know that high-quality seed is only a piece of the puzzle. Preparing the soil and caring for the area post-seeding are just as, if not more, important to success.

Once you’ve selected an appropriate grass seed for your lawn, follow these steps to ensure the best results regardless of your soil’s sand content:

Preparing the Soil

I highly recommend conducting a soil test before planting grass seed no matter the assumed quality of your lawn’s native soil. However, it’s especially important when working with subpar soil such as that which is rich in sand.

A simple soil test will reveal which nutrients are within the soil and in what quantities. It can also tell you the soil’s pH level and give recommendations for amending the area if needed.

After completing a soil test, you can improve the topsoil by incorporating 2 inches of organic matter. Aged compost is an excellent option. Work this material into the top 6 inches of native soil.

As you incorporate your chosen organic matter into the soil, I also suggest keeping an eye out for large debris. Remove all rocks, sticks, trash, and any other obstacles from the top several inches of soil.

Planting and Germinating Grass Seeds

Sow your chosen grass seed according to the distributor’s guidelines. Use a rake to gently work the seed into the top layer of soil. Do not bury the seeds too deep as this may delay or prevent germination. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to see 50% of the seeds at all times.


Water the grass seed several times per day until it germinates and grows at least an inch. The soil’s surface should be consistently moist as you wait for the seeds to germinate.

Keep in mind that sandy soil dries much faster than other soil compositions. If the grass seed dries out completely, germination will be slowed or fail. Seeding straw may be spread over the grass seed in a thin layer to slow evaporation.


Apply a starter fertilizer with the grass seed according to your soil test results. Most starter fertilizers can be applied immediately before or at the same time as grass seed.

Continue fertilizing with a mature lawn formula after the grass is 6 to 8 weeks old. 

First Mow

For most grass species, I recommend that you begin mowing when the young grass is about 3 inches tall. This typically happens approximately 2 months after planting but may vary with grass type and growing conditions.

FAQs Best Grass Seed For Sandy Soil