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Zoysia Grass vs. St. Augustine Grass

A thick carpet of zoysia grass

Both zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass are warm-season grasses, but which one is a good turf grass for your setting? Although both grass types have their positive traits and drawbacks, one might be preferable to another once you learn about their characteristics. Learn about these grasses here.

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Similarities and Differences Between Zoysia Grass and St. Augustine Grass

Generally speaking (because some cultivars of each grass type might alter certain grass characteristics), zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass do share many traits, but there are, of course, some differences that you’ll want to learn about before making a choice between the two lawns. For instance, zoysia grass spreads very aggressively by both rhizomes and stolons. St. Augustine grass spreads by stolon. 

Although both St. Augustine and zoysia lawns are popular with golf courses, zoysia grass has the edge over a St. Augustine lawn when it comes to durability. If you need grass that can stand up to excess foot traffic, zoysia grass lawns provide a more robust defense than St. Augustine lawns. Let’s explore each versatile turf grass in detail:

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia lawns are found all over the Southern U.S. today. A perennial warm season grass, zoysia is highly regarded among property owners for its low maintenance care requirements, improved cold tolerance, durability, and lovely deep green or emerald green color (light green zoysia cultivar has an emerald green hue). Zoysia lawns have a smooth texture that feels like a soft carpet. It will thrive in clay, loamy, or sandy soils and is drought tolerant. Even though a zoysia lawn is less shade tolerant than a St. Augustine lawn, it will grow in transition zones, whereas As St. Augustine grass is confined to Florida and gulf states. Zoysia grass isn’t quite as drought resistant as a somewhat more versatile turf grass than St. Augustine grass.

St. Augustine Grass

A St. Augustine lawn is more shade tolerant than zoysia grass or Bermuda grass. Though its texture is more coarse than zoysia, its grass blades are wider. St. Augustine grass is unhappy in clay soils; it prefers loamy or sandy soil. St. Augustine has different growth habits than Zoysia; it only spreads by seed and stolon, and it may not fill in bare patches as aggressively as zoysia grass will–given optimum growing conditions. It will also resist drought conditions better than zoysia grasses.

Mowing Height of Cut Grasses

When mowing zoysia and St. Augustine grasses, take care to cut zoysia shorter (.5 to .2 inches). Consequently, it needs more frequent mowing than St. Augustine grasses which should be cut at the height of 2 to 4 inches. Zoysia will recover better than St. Augustine from a low mowing height. Like Bermuda grass, zoysia can be cut quite short. 

Weeds

St. Augustine grass has an edge over zoysia grasses when it comes to weed defense. Because St. Augustine spreads only via stolons, it tends to choke out weeds before they can get a strong foothold in the lawn. Still some common weeds that plague St. Augustine grass are chickweed, crabgrass, and poa annua. Chickweed can also be a problem for Zoysia grasses, which are also vulnerable to broadleaf weeds like clover and dandelion

When selecting a weed killer for your St. Augustine grass, be careful. St. Augustine grass is sensitive to certain chemicals that can damage your lawn. Choose a weed killer with the active ingredient atrazine. Be sure you apply a selective herbicide to zoysia grass so that you don’t kill it along with the weeds.

Lawn Funguses

Neither zoysia grass or St. Augustine grass is immune to fungal diseases. Some of the main diseases to watch out for in a zoysia lawn are brown spot and rust, and leaf spot infections. A St. Augustine lawn is vulnerable to diseases like brown patch fungus and grey leaf spot. You can reduce the risk of disease in both Zoysia grass and St. Augustine lawns by watering deeply in the morning; avoid watering in the evening. Moisture-loving funguses like brown patch are more likely to develop in lawns with poor drainage. Make sure your lawn drains well to avoid these lawn diseases.

Drought Tolerance

Both zoysia grass and St. Augustine lawns are drought tolerant, but St. Augustine grass is known to resist drought (maintain its good looks and dark green hue) better than zoysia. If you want your zoysia grass to remain green, be sure it has consistent irrigation (about one inch of water) every week. St. Augustine grass also prefers an inch of water a week, but it will tolerate less from an appearance perspective better than zoysia grass. 

Shade Tolerance

If your setting features moderate shade, you’ll want to choose a lawn with good shade tolerance like St. Augustine. Its shade tolerance is more robust than zoysia, which will tolerate some shade–but not as happily.

Zoysia Grass vs St. Augustine Grass FAQs

Which grass is better–zoysia or St. Augustine?

Zoysia grass / St. Augustine grasses are both attractive and similar in many respects. Both are drought tolerant and grow well in loamy or sandy soil. The key is choosing a lawn ideal for your needs and growing conditions.

What are the pros and cons of zoysia grass?

A zoysia grass lawn is dark green, soft, and can stand up well to foot traffic. However, it only tolerates shade moderately well and is vulnerable to billbug and chinch bug infestations. Zoysia grass lawns perform well in drought conditions but not as well as St. Augustine grass with its better drought tolerance properties. It has fairly low maintenance needs.

What are the pros and cons of St. Augustine Lawns?

St. Augustine grass features a lovely blue-green hue, is salt tolerant as well as drought tolerant and drought resistant so it’s ideal for growing in severe drought conditions, and boasts very good shade tolerance. It is not as robust to foot traffic as zoysia grass and only thieves in coastal climates like Florida and the gulf states. It also needs less frequent mowing than Zoysia grasses.

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