Will Grass Grow Through Sand Or In Sandy Soil | Sand Tolerant Grasses

If you’re one of the millions of people that live in either desert or coastal regions, you’ll be very familiar with sandy, gritty soil. Growing anything in soil that is mostly made up of infertile sand can be challenging, particularly when compounded by a common lack of rainfall. Drought-tolerant landscaping has become quite popular in these areas. But, what if you want to grow grass? Will grass grow through sand or in sandy soils?

Yes, certain sand-tolerant grasses will grow in this kind of environment. Especially when that soil has been amended with nutritional elements. And what a lush, emerald lawn! Many coastal golf course greens grow atop heavily sanded land. So, it can be done with a few simple tricks. 

Growing Grass In Sand Or Soil – What’s Better

Turfgrasses like St. Augustine or centipede will naturally grow better in soil vs. sand, simply due to soil containing far more inherent nutrients than sand. And its ability to retain moisture around the roots. Pure sand lacks this ability. 

Yet, at the same time, soil that’s too dense lacks the kind of healthy drainage vital to healthy wild grasses and lawns. Which is often the cause of lawn seeding and sod failure. Success will come when an 80/20 combination of both sandy loam and soil is used. 

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Benefits of Sand When Growing Grass 

Using sand in sod installations and lawn maintenance practices can be beneficial. Such as when leveling out uneven areas. Or if you have soil with high clay content, working in a bit of sand will improve drainage and aeration, over time. It is also worth adding grit or light gravel to improve drainage. 

But, sand alone will not retain moisture or nutrients. Adding too much, season after season will only decrease the health and vitality of your lawn. 

Germinating and Growing Grass Seed In Sandy Soil 

There are several grass seed varieties that will germinate and grow in sandy soil. These varieties don’t do well with soggy roots and prefer a well-draining foundation. Among these are creeping red fescue, zoysia, and bentgrass. Each of which we’ll discuss further, in a moment. Testing your soil for existing nutrients will guide you as to how it might need to be amended. 

Benefits of Adding Compost Or Topsoil To Sandy Soil

To remain lush and vigorously growing, sand-tolerant grasses still require a lot of moisture. Mixing well-rotted compost (without any fillers) or quality topsoil into the top 4-6 inches of your sandy base will not only improve moisture and nutrient retention but will develop its fertility over time. Creating an environment in which your lawn will thrive for years to come. 

Laying Lawn Turf On Top Of Sand 

Setting down sod over sand can be a quick way to get that established lawn look. But, unless you adequately amend the soil before installation, to accommodate the needs of your investment, it won’t last long.

Improving the soil, as mentioned above, will also serve to raise the soil’s pH level. Giving you the possible option to grow other types of grass down the road that wouldn’t have survived before. I suggest purchasing a soil test kit to check the soil pH and amend as necessary.

Growing Grass Through Sand Top Dressing 

Topdressing lawns with sand has been a long-standing practice for decades. When applied correctly, a light layer of coarse, large-grain sand will improve drainage and aeration, allowing grass to grow through. 

I don’t recommend using fine sand granules as these can easily fill air pockets in the soil and actually promote a soggy top layer that can cause a new lawn to fail.   

This practice is typically advantageous on lawn types that don’t form thatch. Which is a naturally occurring layer of both living and dead plant material that builds up over time. Topdressing thatching grasses can create a barrier that blocks nutrients and moisture from reaching the roots.  

Amount of Sand Required For Top Dressing Lawns 

When top-dressing your lawn, a good rule of thumb is to evenly apply ¼” of sand to a depth of 10mm across your lawn. This is even more effective when you aerate the turf prior to dressing, using something as simple as a pitchfork. This will allow the coarse sand to fill the holes and help to amend the soil and support healthy growth. 

Benefits of Using Sand As A Lawn Top Dressing 

The natural structure of sand makes it the perfect choice for loosening dense clay or silt loams. Supporting the kind of drainage and aeration that improves root development and prevents root rot, for a thriving, healthy lawn. Just remember that routine topdressing can in time become detrimental rather than beneficial. 

If you happen to live in a desert or coastal region, however, this may not be necessary. You may already be benefitting from all that naturally sandy soil. 

What Type Of Sand Is Best For Lawns 

Sharp sand is the most effective type to use as both a leveler when laying sod or as a top dressing. Unlike rounded beach sand, sharp sand is coarse-grained with jagged edges and is often used in large amounts in clay loams when amending soil prior to seeding.

Masonry sand and river sand are also common. River sand should be used sparingly, however, as this type tends to harbor a lot of weed seeds.  

Will Grass Grow Through Sand 

Just as with top dressing, grass will grow through sand as long as it has access to adequate moisture and nutrients.

Sand alone will not provide these, so it’s best to amend sand-heavy soil by working in compost or nutrient-rich topsoil and also fertilizing regularly with an all-purpose lawn fertilizer such as Simple Lawn Solutions Lawn Energiser.

This helps not only to improve the density and vigor of grass growth but also enriches the soil with nitrogen, iron, and micronutrients.

Simple Lawn Solutions Lawn Energiser Fertilizer

Sand alone will not provide these, so it’s best to amend sand-heavy soil by working in compost or nutrient-rich topsoil and also fertilizing regularly with an all-purpose lawn fertilizer such as Simple Lawn Solutions Lawn Energiser. This helps not only to improve the density and vigor of grass growth but also enriches the soil with nitrogen, iron, and micronutrients.

There are also certain grass varieties that offer far more success than others. These will be ones that thrive in sandy, well-draining soil like bahiagrass, bermudagrass, and bentgrass. We’ll be discussing these more in detail, in a moment.

ing Sand To Block Grass Growth 

Certain types of grasses and weeds are, by nature, survivalists. Aggressively growing and spreading by different means. While sand does not offer plants any nutrients or moisture retention, unfortunately, it will not stop unrelenting weeds or wild grasses from growing. 

To prevent growth between pavers, garden mesh combined with polymeric sand is typically used to block sunlight from existing plants and prevent new seeds from embedding themselves in these areas. 

Types Of Grass Seed That Grow In Sandy Soil 

Most grass types will grow in sandy soil provided that it has been amended to accommodate drainage and nutrition needs. However, this can be very costly, time-consuming, and a lot of effort. If you live in an area that has typically sandy soil, your best bet is to go with native grasses. Those that have adapted to thrive in a desert or coastal environment.

Fescue, Zoysia, Bermudagrass, Bentgrass, and Bahiagrass are five such types of grass that form deep root structures to capture and absorb water and nutrients far more effectively. Let’s take a look at each type a little more closely. 


This is a coarse, dense turf that has shown to be quite resilient in the kind of drought conditions often associated with sandy deserts and coastal regions.

Red and tall, fescue varieties are a great choice for areas shaded by buildings or large trees, as they don’t require a ton of sunlight. Creeping red fescue, in particular, demonstrates the most hardiness when grown in sand. And is a slow grower which means less mowing. 


Native to island terrains, this dense, “curly” sod contains a high percentage of natural silica. Combined with a deep-reaching root system, it can access and retain moisture within each blade for longer. Alleviating many environmental stress factors, like heat and drought, pests, disease, and nutrient-poor, sandy soils.

Being a perennial grass, it will change color with the seasons in colder areas. Then, return to bright green in spring. 

Bermuda Grass 

Bermuda grass is a familiar, perennial turf that can be found growing in almost any kind of soil.

These gray-green blades prefer the well-draining aspect of sandy soil and have proven to be very tolerant of every moisture level from drought to flooding. And temperature ranges from frigid winters to dry, hot climates. Yet, grows best in moist, humid environments. 


This creeping perennial is highly partial to and easily established in the heavily sanded soil of coastal regions. Long narrow blades thrive in the kind of well-aerated substrate that sand provides.

Not possessing the same deep root system as zoysia or fescue, it may require more watering in areas with low rainfall. But it can provide you with the same kind of lush, green lawn similar to many coastal golf courses. 


This deep-rooted perennial is the most tolerant on this list, making it the most sustainable in sandy, nutrient-poor soil. Low-growing and low-maintenance, it can tolerate both cold and warm climates.

Its flat blades become coarse and thick in northern winters to withstand harsh drops in temperature. Bahiagrass makes growing grass in challenging, sandy regions a breeze.