Zoysia sod is one of the most frequently installed turfgrasses throughout the southern two-thirds of the U.S. Known for its ability to thrive in cold and hot climates as well as sun or shade, zoysia sod is a very adaptable turfgrass variety due to its extensive root system.
But what makes this type of grass so appealing to homeowners? If you’re looking to install a new lawn and you’re considering zoysia grass sod as a potential option, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we talk about some of the main characteristics of zoysia grass, its history, some of the most common zoysia cultivars and how to install and care for it.
Check out other grass types here.
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In this article, you will find…
About Zoysia Sod and Its History
Zoysia grass can be found throughout the southern two-thirds of the United States as it performs well in the heat and endures cooler weather. As a warm season grass variety, it tolerates shade in southern areas of the United States.
This perennial turfgrass produces both stolons and rhizomes that grow horizontally above and below the ground, helping it survive through periods of drought, heat and other environmental stressors.
Zoysia usually goes dormant fairly quickly once the first freeze of the year occurs, however, it is also one of the first to turn green once spring comes around.
As a warm season variety, zoysia is native to southeastern and eastern areas of continental Asia such as Japan, Korea and China. There are genuses of eight species named after Austrian botanist Karl von Zois, and three of the different species are common in the United States.
These three types of zoysia grasses are: Zoysia japonica, Zoysia matrella and Zoysia tenuifolia.
Pictured above from left to right: Zoysia japonica, Zoysia matrella and Zoysia tenuifolia.
Each of these three zoysia grass types differ by cold tolerance, texture and aggressiveness. Zoysia made its first appearance in America when botanist C.V. Piper brought it over from Manila.
However, Zoysia japonica specifically was introduced to the United States in 1895 when it was brought in from the Manchurian Province of China.
Zoysia Sod Characteristics
Zoysia grass creates a thick, soft surface that chokes out weeds and produces stolons that creep along the surface of the soil and expand horizontally.
It has a stronger, medium-thick grass blade with a soft feel and adapts to a wide variety of soil conditions including sandy soils, clay soils and loamy soils with alkaline and acidic soil pH ratings.
As previously mentioned, zoysia does well in drought conditions. It may turn a straw-like brown when enduring drought, but this doesn’t mean it’s dead—in most cases, once irrigation returns, it will turn green again.
Zoysia has the capacity to establish a deep root system, which is why it is able to endure environmental stressors. Its deep roots allow it to absorb moisture from deeper soil locations in comparison to other varieties of grasses.
Pictured above: Images demonstrating zoysia roots, specifically roots of EMPIRE® Zoysia, in a root study conducted in 2010 to measure root length.
Although it produces some seed, zoysia seed is hard to produce, expensive to buy and does not germinate well.
If zoysia sod isn’t an option for you, consider looking into zoysia grass plugs. Zoysia plugs are little pieces of turf you can “plug” into your lawn that will then expand over time to fill in bare or damaged spots. They’re also useful for starting a completely new lawn.
Zoysia grass can be found along the coasts of the United States as it is very salt tolerant.
Zoysia Grass vs. Bermuda Grass
Although both types of turfgrasses can be found throughout the southern two-thirds of the United States, they’re often installed for different purposes since they offer different characteristics.
For example, bermuda grasses usually rank higher in wear tolerance, injury recovery and drought tolerance, which is why they are frequently used on sports fields and golf courses.
Zoysia grass can also be found in golf courses, but they are typically located in the collars and fairways to provide a textured look to the course whereas bermuda grasses can be found in the tees where the balls are hit.
Bermuda grass has a very soft texture with really fine, hair-like grass blades.
Zoysia grass blades typically range from 5–7 mm in width with the finer-bladed zoysias that have a matrella background that have 2-mm blade width. Matrella is a breed of zoysia grass that has very fine grass blades. Bermuda grass blade widths can range from about 1.5–1.7 mm.
Wider-bladed zoysias like EMPIRE are also highly shade tolerant but come second to the finer-bladed varieties. Bermuda grass is not a very shade tolerant grass in comparison to St. Augustine or even zoysia. However, the most shade tolerant bermuda grass available is Celebration®.
Pictured above from left to right: EMPIRE Zoysia, a wide-bladed zoysia grass and Celebration Bermudagrass. See the differences in the shape and width of the grass blades.
Bermuda grasses require more maintenance in terms of mowing or edging because they will encroach your driveways, sidewalks, roads or garden curbing.
Zoysia grasses, in comparison, generally require less water and have fewer pest concerns. Finer-bladed zoysias, like Innovation® Zoysia, are more tolerant of cold temperatures and can thrive in the transition zone.
Finally, bermuda grass tends to perform a little bit better in both drought tolerance and drought resistance, which is why it can perform so well in hot, dry climates.
Learn more in Turf Wars: Zoysia vs. Bermuda Grass.
Zoysia Grass vs. St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass is another commonly used turfgrass—especially in southern coastal regions. St. Augustines have a much thicker blade than zoysia grasses. Zoysias have a thick, soft carpet with a stronger, medium-thick grass blade that produces a soft feel.
Both zoysia and St. Augustine grasses are pretty shade tolerant compared to other turfgrass varieties. However, St. Augustines are the most shade tolerant warm season turfgrass varieties available.
CitraBlue® and Palmetto® St. Augustine are the best grasses for shade. When it comes to zoysia varieties, zoysia is still pretty shade tolerant for a warm season grass, but zoysia shade tolerance ranks second to that of St. Augustine’s. Finer-bladed zoysias, such as Innovation and CitraZoy®, are more shade tolerant that the thicker-bladed zoysias like EMPIRE.
Learn more in Turf Wars: Zoysia vs. St. Augustine.
Common Types of Zoysia Grass
- Excellent wear tolerance
- Chinch bug resistant
- Excellent drought tolerance
- Performs well in hot, humid climates
- Low maintenance
- Adapts to many various soil types
- Dark-green color
- Excellent cold tolerance that allows it to grow up into the transition zone
- Excellent shade tolerance
- Excellent fall color retention and spring green-up
- Doesn’t wilt or leaf curl during prolonged periods of drought
- Low maintenance
- Improved disease tolerance to large patch
- Wear tolerant
- Thrives in a variety of soil and climate conditions
- Reduced thatch build-up compared to other extremely fine-textured zoysia grasses
- Slow growing
- Dark-green in color
- Exceptional cold tolerance
- Grows well in partial shade
- Drought tolerant
- Low maintenance
- Good shade tolerance
- Heat tolerant
- Salt tolerant
- Medium-green color
- Thrives in the heat as well as the southern parts of the transition zone
- Shade tolerant
- Dark-green color
- Great shade tolerance
- Excellent fall color retention
- Hunting billbug, fall armyworm and large patch resistance
El Toro Zoysia
- Light-green color
- Medium blade
- Handles a lot of traffic
- Requires less mowing
Advantages of a Zoysia Lawn
- Very drought tolerant: due to its deep root system, zoysia can survive prolonged periods of drought.
- Reduces mowing: due to its rhizomes and stolons, zoysia’s lateral growth means it grows tall very slowly—this means less mowing.
- Thrives in cold and heat: zoysia loves the heat and some cultivars can survive below zero temperatures.
- Thrives in sun or shade: zoysia thrives in the sun and some cultivars survive in the shade with at least three to four hours of sunlight.
- Exhibits a finer texture and a soft feel,
- Chokes out crabgrass and weeds all summer long: due to its deep roots and thick carpet, zoysia chokes out weeds and keeps them from germinating in the first place. This also reduces money spent on herbicides.
- Never needs replacement: zoysia heals itself. With the use of lateral growth, zoysia’s rhizomes and stolons help to withstand heavy traffic and will fill in if damaged. In comparison, St. Augustine and centipede grass only have stolons that grow above the ground, meaning zoysia grass has a greater ability to recover from damage.
- Good for slopes, high traffic areas and bare spots,
- Limits erosion,
- Grows in a variety of soil types,
- Does well in winter dormancy: zoysia will go dormant after the first frost and turn brown until soil temperatures reach 50 degrees again. Zoysia’s dormancy helps it withstand winter cold and come back full and green in the spring.
Disadvantages of a Zoysia Lawn
- Temperamental color: your lawn can go from brown to green with the first sign of cooler weather,
- Slow growing: zoysia has a slower growth rate in comparison to other grasses, making it slow to recover from high traffic stress in comparison to other grasses,
- Zoysia Patch or Rhizoctonia Large Patch: zoysia is prone to zoysia patch disease,
- Thatch: zoysia is also prone to thatch problems.
How to Lay Zoysia Sod
Installing zoysia sod is not really all that different from installing some other type of sod. The steps for laying zoysia sod are as follows:
- Test Your Soil
- Learn About Zoysia Maintenance (to make sure this is really the type of grass you want)
- Measure Your Planting Area
- Kill and Remove Old Grass
- Prep Soil and Level
- Lay and Roll Out New Sod
- Water and Fertilize
We recommend using Lawnifi’s® New Lawn Starter Box, which comes with three bottles of liquid fertilizer. To learn more about installing zoysia sod and the New Lawn Starter Box, click here or refer to our zoysia installation guide.
New Lawn Starter BoxProduct on sale
How to Care for Zoysia Grass
Proper maintenance helps guarantee the best possible outcomes with zoysia sod care. Different types of grasses grow differently and have slight differences in what they require for maintenance.
Take a look below to see a summary of zoysia best practices and be sure to check out our Zoysia Grass Care Guide for more information. Please note that different cultivars of zoysia, like EMPIRE, Innovation, CitraZoy or Geo® Zoysia, have their own set of maintenance requirements as well.
- Mowing: 0.5–2 inches; mowing heights vary by cultivar
- Irrigation: 1-inch of water per week including
- Fertilizer: Lawnifi Annual Program
- Weed Control: Use a pre-emergent in the spring and fall seasons to prevent weeds; apply a post-emergent herbicide as needeed
- Insect Control: Use a broad-spectrum insecticide for general insect control. If you have an issue with billbugs, click here.
- Disease Control: Apply a systemic fungicide at the beginning of the spring and fall seasons to prevent disease outbreaks.
Fertilizer for Zoysia Grass
Selecting a fertilizer for your zoysia lawn can initially seem like a daunting decision—but it doesn’t have to be! The best thing you can do is collect and submit a soil analysis to your local extension office or land-grant university.
A soil test will tell you exactly which nutrients are currently in your soil and which nutrients your grass needs. This will give you an overall better understanding of which fertilizer you need to select. Understanding N-P-K ratios and how to read a fertilizer label will also help you during the selection process.
Generally speaking, nutrient requirements may slightly alter depending on location, climate and soil conditions. However, we like to suggest the Lawnifi Fertilizer Program.
Lawnifi has a family of both liquid and granular products to choose from. The Spring, Summer and Fall Fertilizer Boxes come with three bottles of liquid fertilizer each that are designed to give your lawn the nutrients it needs each season.
The New Lawn Starter Box contains three bottles of liquid fertilizer filled with nutrients to help your new zoysia sod root down and establish your lawn successfully.
Lawnifi Foundation is a slow-release granular fertilizer option that comes in a 25-pound bag and lasts for three months. With a 29-0-5 NPK formulation, Lawnifi Foundation is the perfect granular fertilizer for lawns and gardens. The two percent iron included in Lawnifi Foundation’s mixture helps plants carry oxygen throughout the leaves, roots and other parts of the plants to promote a green, healthy zoysia lawn.
Pests That Love Zoysia Grass
Zoysia grass is a living product, so it’s going to have issues with pests to some degree. All turfgrasses have problems with pests at one point or another—it’s just a part of nature. However, there are a lot of strategies you can take to prevent damage or treat current infestations.
One of the key pests for zoysia grass lawns are billbugs—both the hunting billbug and the bluegrass billbug depending on your geographic location. Billbug damage can be difficult to identify because it looks really similar to drought-stress.
To rule out drought-stress, perform a “tug test”. Locate a damaged spot and pull up on the center of the spot by grabbing the base of the blades.
If the turf comes up easily, search in the top layer of soil for billbug larvae. If none are visible, you will want to continue your investigation by digging a hole that is 4–5 inches deep with a hand trowel (so it can be easily replaced) to continue your search.
Common Zoysia Grass Diseases
As a warm season grass, zoysia can experience disease outbreaks from a fungus anytime of the year, but the most common times are the spring and fall seasons as temperatures transition from cold to hot at the beginning of the year or hot to cold as we move towards winter.
Some of the more common diseases spotted in zoysia lawns are:
- Large patch
- Zoysia patch
- Leaf Spot
- Pythium Root Rot
If you suspect disease damage in your lawn, apply a systemic fungicide and follow label instructions. For more information, refer to our disease identification blog or our article on Lawn Disease Control.
Common Zoysia Grass Weeds
Like other types of grass, zoysia grass can experience numerous types of weeds. Some broadleaf weeds, or weeds with thicker, wider leaves, are:
Common grassy weeds, or those that resemble grass blades, are:
- Poa annua
- Bermuda grass
Pictured above from left to right: (Row 1) clover, dandelion, chickweed, henbit, (Row 2) spurge, Poa annua, crabgrass and a bermuda grass seed head.
The key to weed control is using a product that’s labeled to control the type of weed you’re seeing. If you know you have weeds in your lawn but you aren’t sure what they are, our weed identification article is for you.