6 Grasses for Low-Maintenance Drought-Resistant Lawns

Decorative green grass of Zoysia tenuifolia in the park
Zoysia grass if you must.

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For all those of you who insist on green lawns, for your kids to play on or your dogs to roll in, you still don't have to lay down a carpet of thirsty bluegrass, which is the most commonly planted lawn grass in the U.S. According to a NASA study on lawns, 50,000 square miles of grass covers the United States, which the EPA estimates accounts for about one-third of Americans' water usage.

There are plenty of good alternatives to the classic green lawn. For example, xeriscaping and edible landscaping are excellent eco-friendly options. However, if green blades are your preferred lawn decoration, there are ways to be more environmentally conscientious about it besides just avoiding pesticides.

In San Antonio, Texas, for instance, an ordinance requires residential and commercial builders to now install turfgrass with summer dormancy capabilities selected for their ability to survive with little or no water for extended periods. Opting for a drought-tolerant grass is a good way to reduce the environmental impact of your lawn.

Drought-Tolerant Lawn Grass Options

Here are just a few of the specific varieties of grass that can tolerate drought. Before you make your decision, be sure to do your research on how the particular variety performs in your local climate.

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass is highly flexible. Loves sun and shade. Slow growing. Tolerates traffic. Produces lush carpet. El Toro, Empire, Jamur, and Palisades most drought-resistant.

Bermuda Grass

Loves the sun, responds well to watering, good traffic tolerance, but needs lots of mowing. Many varieties are drought-tolerant. Best in sub-tropical southern zones.

St. Augustine Grass

Floratam is the most drought-tolerant variety. Generally, it prefers dappled shade. Need trees? Ask your local municipality if it's giving them away. For example, Los Angeles's City Plants program gives residents up to seven free shade trees. Water-wise arbors here are crape myrtle, London plane, and silk tree.

Buffalo Grass

Midwest prairie native needs full sun but so-so with traffic. Warm-season but tolerates cold. Low rainfall and slow grower. Most are drought-tolerant.

Bahiagrass

Decent choice for infertile soil. Requires full sun. Provides a course but thick covering.

Fescues

Cool-season grasses suited to northern climates. Absorb water well after a drought.

Establish Your Turf

Determine if cool or warm season grass is best for your location. Keep in mind, not all varieties of warm-season species are drought-friendly. Check with a local nursery or master gardener for natives. The key is deep roots and deep watering. Over-watering can damage roots.

Be conservative when watering your yard, even if you're growing food. Try drip irrigation and harvest rainwater instead of using the tap.

Those other things to do: make it a smaller patch of lawn by surrounding the plot with drought-tolerant plants and ground covers. Might be a good time for thyme, and at the risk of another pun, think sedum.

View Article Sources
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  2. More Lawns than Irrigated Corn.” National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  3. Statistics and Facts.” Environmental Protection Agency.

  4. Drought-Tolerant Grass.” San Antonio Water System.

  5. Carolina Lawns: A Guide to Maintaining Quality Turf in the Landscape.” North Carolina State University.

  6. Bermuda Grass.” Texas A&M University.

  7. Question about St. Augustinegrass Cultivars.”  Texas A&M University.

  8. Bahiagrass for Florida Lawns.” University of Florida.

  9. Overwatering.” Missouri Botanical Garden.