Both Zoysia and Bermuda grass have long been popular choices in the United States for lawns, parks, and sporting fields.
Each grass is known for growing in warm and hot climates and for its ability to withstand drought. Either grass type would be a great choice for a lawn that receives lots of sunlight, high temperatures, and dry conditions. But what’s the difference and which is best for you? To answer that question, I’ve decided to compare Zoysia grass vs Bermuda grass.
Below is all you need to know about these grass types, including their pros and cons, growing patterns, and other factors that will help you pick the best turf for your lawn.
- Zoysia Grass Vs Bermuda Grass
- Comparison Chart
- Zoysia Lawn Characteristics
- Bermuda Lawn Characteristics
- Verdict: Zoysia Vs Bermuda for Lawns
Zoysia Grass Vs Bermuda Grass
Overall, Zoysia and Bermuda have a lot in common. However, they also have some vital differences that can impact your decision to plant one versus the other.
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The main similarity between these grasses is that they thrive in warm climates — most notably those in the Central and Southern United States. Both types of grass prefer warm-to-hot summers and relatively mild winters. Neither grass performs well in cool weather.
Their deep roots make them more resistant to drought and stressors like foot traffic from sporting activities. They also both enjoy the same pH range and require the same amount of weekly watering for optimal growth.
Because of the vigorous spreading habits of these two turf grasses, many areas categorize them as invasive. I strongly recommend researching your region’s response to Bermuda or Zoysia grass before planting either one.
Zoysia grass is more shade-tolerant than Bermuda. If you have trees or large shrubs in or around your lawn, Zoysia will perform much better on average.
Zoysia grass also spreads less aggressively than Bermuda grass. While both types of grass are considered invasive in parts of North America, Zoysia is more easily contained.
Bermuda lawns do have a few crucial advantages over Zoysia lawns. Overall, it is considered the more resilient of the two grass types. Bermuda has more extensive, deeper roots, allowing it to recover from stress and damage more efficiently.
This robust root system makes Bermuda even more drought-resistant than Zoysia grass.
|Transition and warm-season zones.
|Transition and warm-season zones.
|Soil Type and pH
|6.0 to 7.0 pH. Clay soils with high organic matter content and good aeration are ideal.
|6.0 to 7.0 pH. Sandy and clay soils with good water drainage and aeration. Can withstand slightly more alkaline soil.
|Heat and cold tolerance
|Medium cold tolerance and medium-to-high heat tolerance.
|Medium cold tolerance and high heat tolerance.
|High drought tolerance.
|Very high drought tolerance.
|Low-to-medium shade tolerance.
|Very low shade tolerance.
|Medium-to-high foot traffic tolerance.
|Very high foot traffic tolerance.
|Heaviest maintenance during late spring/early summer.
|Heaviest maintenance during the summer months.
Zoysia Lawn Characteristics
Zoysia grass originated in Asia and is specifically native to Korea, China, and Japan. It was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s.
Zoysia became widespread due to its dense, vibrant appearance and weed-resistant properties. It does not lend itself to long periods of cold or snowy weather. However, it can hold its own for short snaps of chilly temperatures — I’ll touch more on that later.
As a warm-season grass, Zoysia grows best in temperate or hot climates and can tolerate varying degrees of humidity. Tropical and subtropical climates are ideal.
In the United States, Zoysia grass grows in the so-called transition and warm-season grass zones. Preferring the warmer seasons, it grows best in summer and spring.
Soil Type and pH
Zoysia grass will grow in a variety of soil types, including heavy clay soil. However, overly compacted soil hinders the growth of its roots. In heavier soils, aeration is vital. Use light-to-medium density soil for optimal growth.
The ideal soil pH for Zoysia grass is neutral or slightly acidic, or a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.
Heat and Cold Tolerance
As mentioned above, Zoysia grass prefers warm to hot climates and frost-free soils. Southern/tropical regions work best for this reason. Weather above 80 degrees and soil temperature that maintains a range of 64 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
Zoysia grass is relatively tolerant of cold conditions and goes into a dormant state during mild winters. Freezing or below-freezing temperatures do not suit zoysia grass.
Zoysia has a relatively high tolerance for drought conditions. It retains moisture well. As little as an inch of rainfall per week encourages deep roots to form.
This turf remains green during short droughts but will turn brown and enter a dormant state during prolonged droughts.
Zoysia tolerates small amounts of shade, with some varieties being more shade-tolerant than others. A healthy Zoysia lawn will grow in dappled sunlight or partial shade. In general, however, all Zoysia grasses prefer full sun and will not perform well in full shade.
Zoysia grass holds up extremely well to foot traffic. Its dense growth allows it to withstand high amounts of wear and tear.
However, this grass isn’t ideal for football or soccer fields where the soil is regularly compacted and disturbed. Cleats and roughhousing do not suit Zoysia lawns and will cause irreversible damage.
Level of Maintenance
Because of its drought tolerance, Zoysia grass requires less watering than other grasses. About an inch of water per week is sufficient in most climates.
The most crucial times for maintenance are during the spring and the summer months when Zoysia grows most vigorously. In warm weather, use a high-nitrogen fertilizer or a special Zoysia lawn fertilizer ensure vibrant color and continued health.
Although Zoysia is not high maintenance, you should still perform routine tests to ensure the grass is healthy and growing properly. Test the soil periodically to ensure its pH is within the healthy range of 6.0 to 7.0.
Mow Zoysia grass once a week or when it grow taller than 1.5 inches. Collect the mowed grass for composting or disposal for the best results.
Bermuda Lawn Characteristics
Bermuda grass is another a warm-season grass suited for prolonged sunlight and hot weather.
This grass is native to parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Bermuda arrived in the United States sometime in the late 1700s or early 1800s. It’s been grown in the Southern United States ever since.
Bermuda is found in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide and is renowned for being very resistant to drought. It’s commonly used on pastureland.
The roots of Bermuda grass can grow up to 6 feet deep. Because of this, it can withstand heavy wear and tear.
Bermuda is also known for spreading remarkably quickly and adapting to various weather conditions.
Bermuda grows in tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world. Just like Zoysia, it is considered invasive in parts of the United States. It grows primarily in the lower parts of the transition zone and throughout the warm-season zone in the South United States.
Like Zoysia grass, Bermuda goes dormant in the winter months and turns brown under extreme stress.
Soil Type and pH
Bermuda prefers well-aerated soil that drains quickly. It grows best in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. However, some Bermuda varieties can tolerate more alkaline soils with pH levels slightly below 6.0.
Sandy soil is ideal for Bermuda. But it also grows in clay soil as long as the pH, aeration, and climate are appropriate.
Heat and Cold Tolerance
Most Bermuda varieties don’t handle cold temperatures well. This grass usually only grows in areas where winters are mild.
During winter months in the transition zone, Bermuda lawns enter a dormant state that lasts until the warmer months return.
Any time the soil around Bermuda grass reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit, it will enter this dormant state. During dormancy, growth will slow down or stop completely and the grass will lose its green color.
Bermuda grass thrives in warm and hot temperatures. The grass grows best when temperatures are on average above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It thrives in hot temperatures between 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
For germination purposes, Bermuda seeds require soil temperatures of between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Like Zoysia grass, Bermuda does best when given 1 to 1.5 inches of water a week. It is generally quite drought-resistant and recovers easily once watered.
During long periods of drought, the grass will enter a dormant state. Because of its deep roots, Bermuda is renowned as potentially the most drought-resistant warm-season grass.
Bermuda grass will not thrive in shady conditions and requires 8 to 10 hours of sunlight daily to stay healthy. This attribute is the major caveat of Bermuda lawns in areas with larger shrubs and trees that may block the sun and stifle growth.
Do not plant Bermuda in wooded areas or landscapes with copious vegetation. Shade inhibits its growth and overall appearance.
Tolerance To Foot Traffic
The deep roots of Bermuda grass allow it to withstand and quickly recover from high foot traffic. Research from the University of California found that hybrid Bermuda turf was the most able to recover from severe disturbance among all California turf grasses.
This durability makes Bermuda ideal for sporting fields, parks, and golf courses where there are frequent and intense disturbances.
Even if the grass blades are heavily damaged, the root system is able to regrow as long as the other conditions are appropriate.
Level of Maintenance
Bermuda grass grows at an optimal rate in the summer, when heat and sunlight are highest. Therefore, this is the time of year that requires the most maintenance. But, like Zoysia, it does not require extravagant care.
Bermuda lawns need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. Limited watering allows the deep, drought-resistant roots to flourish. When Bermuda starts growing, it grows fast!
Begin mowing this grass in early spring to keep it looking healthy and for maximum growth. Aim to keep grass blades at a height of1 to 2 inches.
Remove mowed grass and use it for composting or dispose of it. This process allows the Bermuda grass to maintain healthy growth and lessens the chance of fungal infections. You should mow the grass at least once a week during the peak growing season.
Start a feeding schedule in late spring once the growing season has begun. Use a specific fertilizer for Bermuda grass for the best results. Fertilizing can continue throughout the growing season and into fall or winter.
Test the soil periodically to ensure the pH stays between 6.0 and 7.0 for optimal growth conditions. It’s a good idea to apply a pre-emergent to bermudagrass in fall or late winter.
Verdict: Zoysia Vs Bermuda for Lawns
While both grass types can be used in Southern regions of the United States, choosing between Zoysia and Bermuda grass ultimately comes down to location and personal property needs.
For example, if you need warm-season grass that grows in an area with some shade, Zoysia grass is the better choice.
If shade is not an issue and you need a type of grass that will thrive in an open field with moderate to severe traffic and drought, Bermuda may be the better choice.