How to Make Zoysia Grass Spread and Grow Thicker

Healthy, thick green grass is something that every homeowner wants for their yard. So, you’re understandably frustrated if your zoysia grass growth seems stunted.

I know what it’s like to plant zoysia seeds or sod, water and fertilize it well, and not see results.

The good news is that I learned a lot in my quest to discover how to make zoysia grass spread quickly, and achieve a thicker lawn, and I’ll share my findings with you here.

Understanding How Zoysia Grass Grows

Zoysia is a hardy grass that can tolerate heavy foot traffic and drought once it gets established. However, before I give you tips for helping your zoysia become thicker and spread faster, it’s crucial to know zoysia’s basic growing needs.

zoysia grass growing thicker.

Regional Climates and Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass originally comes from Asia, where it enjoys warm weather. Its ideal growing temperatures are from 80 – 95 °F, where it becomes a fast grower during this time. Nevertheless, unlike many warm-season types of grass, zoysia grass can handle cold temperatures.

Zoysia grass is ideal for growing in southern U.S. states or states where the weather transitions to colder winters. That’s because you’ll get to enjoy a longer period of green grass before it goes into a dormant state and turns brown. 

Zoysia Ideal Soil Conditions

Below will explain the soil requirements for your zoysia grass to ensure its optimum growth. 

Soil Type

You may not have to jump through hoops to amend your soil before planting zoysia grass seeds—it excels in many different soils ranging from partially sandy to partially clay. However, if your soil is clay or sandy, you’ll need to amend it with silt to ensure the water doesn’t drain too quickly or too slowly.

Soil pH

Zoysia’s ideal soil is slightly acidic, with a tight-ranging pH of 6.0 – 6.5. If you test your soil and the pH is too high, you can use sulfur to lower it; five pounds of sulfur fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of your lawn should do the trick. In contrast, applying crushed agricultural limestone to your grass will help increase the pH.

Dormancy

If you live in the northern U.S. but have relatives in a southern state and compare photos of your grass taken on the same day, you might wonder why their grass is green while yours is brown. The reason for this is that zoysia grass goes into a temperature-dependent dormancy state.

Once fall comes around and the temperature drops below 55 °F, zoysia turns dormant, and its blades become brown. So, this means that people with zoysia grass in the south will get to enjoy green grass that starts earlier and lasts later in the season than those in the north.

Zoysia Grass Growth Rate

Zoysia starts out with a slow growth rate but grows faster after having a couple of years to establish itself. That said, researchers discovered that certain zoysia grass cultivators have faster growth rates than others, with the El Toro and Meyer varieties being the quickest.

When planting zoysia grass by seed, you can expect it to germinate within 14 – 21 days. At that point, it’ll slowly spread throughout your yard, eventually forming a thick layer of grass. That said, because of zoysia’s relatively slow growth rate, some people choose to layout zoysia grass sods. I’ll talk more about this soon.

How Does Zoysia Grass Spread

Zoysia grass spreads through a combination of stolons and rhizomes, something unique to this grass as certain other varieties only spread via one method. As a result, once established, zoysia grows thicker and spreads faster than many other kinds of grass.

Furthermore, because of zoysia’s spreading method, it’s a favorite grass among people who have children, host parties or have other heavy foot traffic through their lawn. It’s hard to beat this grass up, as its rhizomes and stolons make it return time after time.

Rhizomes Vs Stolons

Rhizomes are an underground system of stems that grow new lateral shoots and adventitious roots. In contrast, stolons are above-ground stems that grow horizontally along the ground, periodically creating new growth from the stem itself. 

The biggest difference between the two is that rhizomes remain part of the central stem, whereas stolons branch away from the stem. 

Making Zoysia Grass Thicker and Spread

By now, you’re probably itching to know how to make zoysia grass spread quickly. While there isn’t a replacement for patience and time when it comes to planting zoysia seeds, I’ll share some top tips below to help your current grass spread better and thicker.

Remove Thatch Build Up

Grass of many kinds, including zoysia, has issues with thatch, a layer of living and dead plant matter that becomes tightly packed where the grass blades meet the soil. As a result, water, air, and nutrients from fertilizing can struggle to reach zoysia’s roots.

For this reason, removing thatch build-up is one of the most common issues in well-established lawns. So, to improve your zoysia’s ability to become thicker and spread more easily, borrow a dethatching machine or vertical mower from your local garden store. Alternatively, if you have a small yard, you can get some exercise by using a hand rake.

Aerating the Soil

You may not think of air as important for root growth and spread, but it’s critical to the health of your zoysia grass. Roots receive oxygen via air in the soil, which helps the plant remove carbon dioxide. Furthermore, air helps prevent fungus growth.

When soil becomes packed down via mowing, foot traffic, and rain, air can’t reach the soil. Therefore, if you sense that your zoysia’s lack of spreading is from needing aeration, use an aeration machine on your lawn. You can often borrow these from plant nurseries. Using an aerator will poke holes in the soil, letting oxygen reach the roots.

Deep Watering

Strong root growth is crucial for zoysia grass. Although this grass species handles drought well, deep watering becomes even more important if you live in an area that frequently undergoes drought. Deep watering is the concept of dousing your lawn in lots of water on occasion instead of watering lightly every day.

As a result, it forces zoysia’s roots to grow longer to reach for water, making them more resistant to droughts in the future. When deep watering your zoysia grass, ensure your lawn receives an even soaking of water until the soil is wet 2 – 3 inches deep.

High Phosphorus Fertilizing

If you’re under the impression that all nutrients are good for zoysia grass, I’m about to change your mind. A mild to high phosphorus content in the soil can make it difficult for zoysia to consume the micronutrients it needs to survive, especially iron and zinc. 

When looking at fertilizers for your zoysia grass, you’ll want to purchase one with 0% phosphorus. You’ll be able to tell this from the three-series number on the bag, which indicates the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels. So, for example, a 15-0-15 fertilizer is an excellent fit for zoysia grass.

Mowing

Unlike more sensitive grasses, you can take a large, heavy lawnmower onto well-established zoysia grass with little concern over it creating issues. However, what you do after you mow could be the reason for reduced zoysia spread and thickness.

You should always go back through your lawn after mowing and pick up the clumps of cut grass it leaves behind. Otherwise, disease and fungus can build up, killing the live grass growing beneath it.

Any leftover clumps of mowed grass can also block out sunlight—something that zoysia needs for six hours a day. When mowing, you should also ensure that you don’t cut more than ⅓-inch of the blade height.

Weed Management

Given how tightly packed its roots and stems grow, weeds are less of an issue with zoysia grass than certain other grasses. Nevertheless, clover, dandelions, and wild onion are some of the many weeds that can crop up in your grass.

To manage weeds without harming your grass, using a phosphorus-free fertilizer can help the roots and stems grow even tighter together. 

Alternatively, you can apply a specifically manufactured pre-emergent for zoysia grass in the spring and fall. Doing so will quite literally nip the problem in the bud before those pesky weeds appear.

How Long for Zoysia Grass to Spread

Although zoysia grass seeds germinate in 14 – 21 days, it can take up to three years for this grass to spread enough where it gives your law that full, soil-free look you’re going for.

For this reason, some people choose to use zoysia grass sodding sheets. These aren’t a perfect way to cheat on eliminating the wait for your grass to spread, as they’ll still take one to two years to fill in.

However, sod sheets are an excellent (but more expensive) option if you want to fast-track your way to a full-looking lawn. Of course, even the best sod won’t help a situation if you plant zoysia in unsuitable growing conditions.

Fixing Patches in Zoysia Grass

If you came here because your well-established zoysia grass is patchy rather than because you’re trying to help your zoysia seeds or new sod spread faster, I’ve got the following three solutions for you.

Seeding Zoysia

Seeding zoysia is often the most cost-effective way to fill in patchy spots, especially if your patchy spots span the width of your multi-acre lawn. To start, you’ll need to figure out your planting window based on the USDA zone you live in. 

Most zoysia varieties grow in USDA zones 6 – 10. That means you’ll need to plant between March 15th – May 20th, depending on your zone number. Then, loosen the patchy soil and sprinkle a thin, even layer of seeds before covering them with ⅛-inch of dirt, sand, or mulch lawn clippings. Finally, keep the soil moist at all times until the grass sprouts take hold.

Zoysia Sod

Sod is a great option to fast-track your zoysia grass growth, assuming you have large patches of bald grass. When choosing sod, make sure to select the same zoysia grass variety as your current grass. The Zoysia japonica variety is the most popular, with grasses like El Toro, Meyer, and Zenith falling under this category.

Then, remove rocks, sticks, and any remaining grass from the patch. If the soil is hard, you should use a tiller or rake to loosen it. Finally, roll out the sod and keep it watered until you see lots of above-ground stolon spread, which is a sign that the roots took hold. 

Zoysia Grass Plugs

Zoysia grass plugs are the same thing as sod, except you’ll cut the sod slabs into smaller pieces to accommodate tiny or oddly shaped patches. 

As with laying down sod, you’ll want to clean up the patchy area of debris and old grass before setting down the plug. Amending the soil if it has a high clay or sand content can also help your plug achieve more success than your older grass. Of course, it’s also necessary to keep your plugs well-watered to ensure the roots take hold.

FAQs How to Make Zoysia Grass Spread

If you still have questions about Zoysia grass, I’ve got you covered with the details below.

Final Thoughts Make Zoysia Grass Thicker and Spread

Zoysia is an excellent grass to plant. It’s versatile, withstanding warm and cold temperatures well, and it can handle the trampling of heavy foot traffic.

Nevertheless, this grass has a slow start to its life cycle, causing some people to wonder how to make Zoysia grass spread quickly. While time plays a huge role, following the recommendations I shared here will ensure your grass has the best chance possible to spread and fill in with thickness.