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How to Choose Grass Seed (Types of Warm & Cool Season Lawn Grass)

Jonathan green turfpro sodmaker

To grow a healthy, green lawn, you have to start with the best grass seed for your setting. In fact, grass seed is an umbrella term for many different grass species. Choosing the right type of grass is actually dependent on many different factors such as the climate, level of foot traffic, amount of sunlight, and so forth. The grass seed for most of North America are cool season grasses, but if your property is in the deep south or along the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll want to choose warm season grass seed. 

Table of Contents

Types of Grass Seed

As you consider your landscape and the type of lawn to install, you may want to choose blended seed mixtures that contain more than one type of grass seed, especially if you want to grow a robust lawn that’s better able to withstand conditions like lawn disease and pests. Planting the same grass species may leave your lawn more vulnerable to weeds, disease, and pests because of its lack of biodiversity. On the other hand, some people prefer single-species grass seed for the uniform look of the grass blades and for the particular qualities that grass brings to their landscape. When choosing blended seed mixtures for a lawn that’s already a mixed grass type, try to match the current mix you have.

Grass Seed Varieties: Cool Season Grasses

Cool season grasses are ideal for areas that experience extreme climate fluctuations like freezing winters and hot summers. If you live in a climate that has four distinct seasons with temperature extremes, cool season grass seed is probably the right grass seed for your property. Here are some popular cool-season grasses to consider:

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Kentucky Bluegrass (KGB)

With its dark green leaves and terrific growth habit, Kentucky bluegrass is ideal for climates with cool temperatures. In fact, it stands up reasonably well to cool temperatures and hot temperatures. It also tolerates foot traffic and drought conditions well. It is not, however, fond of shade and has low shade tolerance. With its aggressive growth habit, KGB establishes itself in lawns easily from grass seed. It’s often added to seed mixtures used at parks and athletic fields because of its ability for self repair and low maintenance needs.

  • Dense growth
  • Excellent ability to self-repair 
  • Survives cold temperatures
  • Recovers from dormancy
  • Shallow roots
  • Cannot survive in shade
  • Germinates slowly
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Turf Type Tall Fescue (TTTF)

Tall fescue is a cool season grass that tolerates shade, heat, and cold extremely well. Popular in northern climates, it’s also popular in the south where warm-season grasses reach their climate limit. Tall fescues are able to tolerate shade better than fine fescue types and Kentucky bluegrass lawn grasses. Growing in clumps, tall fescue develops a deep root system, which enhances its resilience, especially in challenging growing conditions like drought and shade.

  • Heat, drought, and shade tolerant
  • Withstands wear and tear 
  • Extensive root system
  • Bunch forming growth
  • Limited self-repair ability
  • Susceptible to disease
  • Suffers without water

Where Cool Season Grasses Perform The Best

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Perennial Ryegrass

Also a popular cool season grass, perennial ryegrass is known for its ability to stand up to heavy foot traffic. Although its ability to withstand extreme temperatures varies by type, it is known to tolerate light shade well. Although perennial ryegrass is a cool season grass, it’s often used to keep winter lawn green in the south. Many property owners with warm season grasses will add perennial ryegrass seed to their existing lawns annually because it supports the look and health of their existing lawn and grows quickly.

  • Germinates very quickly
  • Nurse plant
  • Strong wear and tear tolerance
  • Maintains color in winter
  • Grows in thin
  • Cannot survive extreme weather
  • Limited capacity to self-repair

Grass Seed Varieties: Warm Season Grasses

Warm season grasses grow well in the southern regions of the U.S., especially in the deep south and coastal areas. But which warm season grass seed should you choose? Again, you’ll need to choose the best warm season grass or warm season grass seed mixtures for your setting. Warm season grasses can withstand extreme heat and do their peak growing in the summer. They tend to turn brown during the winter, which is why many property owners will add cool season grass seed like perennial ryegrass to their grass for a year-round green lawn. Here are some warm season grass seed types to consider:

Bermuda Grass

This warm season grass tolerates heat, foot traffic, and drought conditions. It also tolerates salt well, which makes it a popular option for coastal areas. Bermuda grass does have high maintenance needs but it will remain green provided it’s planted in an area that doesn’t receive frost. Bermuda grass is a popular turf grass for golf courses.

Centipede Grass

Only suitable grass seed for the southeastern region of the U.S., centipede grass is warm season grass that tolerates partial shade well along with high heat. This grass type prefers a sandy, high alkaline soil and plenty of irrigation. It is not known for its drought tolerance.

St. Augustine Grass

Ideal for subtropical settings like Florida, St. Augustine grass is one of the most popular warm season grass. This warm season grass originates in the tropics, so it’s ideally suited to hot, humid conditions. This turf grass also tolerates salt well and needs infrequent mowing, which makes it a popular type of grass for people who want a low-maintenance warm season lawn.

Considerations for Choosing Grass Seeds

Before planting grass seed, you should consider several important factors that can impact your choice:

Sun / Shade

Most types of grass require plentiful sun. If you have a shady landscape, it’s crucial to choose the right grass seed for this condition. If the area is extremely shady, most grass types won’t thrive there, and you may want to consider an alternative ground cover that tolerates shade.

Climate

Climate will dictate whether you plant cool season grass seed or warm season grass seed. What’s the temperature range and average precipitation? Some types of grass can stand up to extreme heat while others can’t. Conversely, some types of grass can tolerate freezing temperatures while others will not.

Water / Irrigation

Some turf grasses boast excellent drought resistance–others need plenty of rainfall or irrigation to thrive. Choose grass seed that’s suited to your area’s average precipitation levels.

Foot Traffic

Some turfgrasses are well known for their ability to stand up to heavy foot traffic. These grasses are often used or featured in grass mixes for athletic fields and yards with kids and pets.

Planting Seeds vs Plugs / Sod

People who want an immediate new lawn often opt for sod. However, there are some types of grass seed that germinate and grow quickly. Grass seed is less expensive than plugs / sod, but for erosion control, sod is often the best option. 

Grass Seed FAQs

How do I know what type of grass seed I need?

When choosing grass seeds, consider your climate and current lawn needs. If you only need to fill in some bare patches, you might opt for a lawn repair mix of grass seed. For a new lawn, choose grass seed that is a match for your setting.

Does the type of grass seed matter?

Yes, the type of grass seed you choose matters if you want a healthy lawn / lush lawn for your landscape. Learn about each grass seed type before planting any grass seed. Some turfgrasses have a fine to medium texture. Others may feature a blue-green hue. Others have high maintenance requirements. Choose quality grass seed that’s best for your landscape needs and preferences.

What is the best grass seed for a new lawn?

The best grass seed, whether bahia grass, centipede grasses, Kentucky bluegrass, or zoysia grass, is always grass seed that’s suited to your growing conditions. Any type of grass may turn into a beautiful lawn with the proper maintenance and optimum growing conditions.

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