Caring for your Zoysia Grass

Caring for your Zoysia grass is not hard to do, once you understand it’s specific requirements. In many ways, this slow-growing, hardy grass is easier to maintain than many types of grass. However, knowing a few tricks like when to water it and when to remove thatch will keep your Zoysia grass looking its best throughout the season.
This Zoysia grass lawn care guide covers most of the essential topics related to caring for Zoysia grass. For more details, see our other articles on Zoysia Grass including Fertilizing Zoysia Grass, Killing Weeds in Zoysia Grass, Planting and Growing Zoysia Grass and more.

When to Water Zoysia Grass

Knowing a little bit about the origins of this type of grass will give you insight into how to care for it. All Zoysia grass types are native to the Pacific Rim. The first type imported in the early 20th Century came from the Philippines and was called Manila Grass for decades. The point is, Zoysia grass is native to warm climates with higher than average temperatures rainfall. That is why it flourishes on the lawns and fairways of Florida and other southern states that get plenty of rainfall.

For watering, this means that your Zoysia grass lawn needs to be given plenty of water on a regular basis, as long as you don’t overdo it. The rule of thumb is to give your Zoysia lawn one inch of water per week. If your soil is sandy, water more frequently in smaller amounts. In unusually hot or dry weather, you may need to give it more water too. The goal is to irrigate the soil to a depth of 4-6 inches. Don’t be afraid to use a small hand shovel to probe the soil to find out how deep the water has penetrated.

The key is to learn what healthy Zoysia turf looks like. It should be a rich emerald green with straight, firm blades. With familiarity, you’ll learn to spot the signs of turf that is stressed for lack of water before the lawn is in jeopardy. The clues are easy to recognize. The rich green will take on a bluish hue. It won’t bounce back quickly when walked in – the footprints will continue to show. The leaves will look wilted or curled. When you see these telltale characteristics, give your Zoysia grass an inch of water and see how it responds over the next few days.

When to Fertilize Zoysia Grass

Fertilizing your Zoysia grass is essential to maintaining healthy turf. The best practice is to feed it after the first and last cuttings of the year and every 6-8 weeks in between. How many times you feed it in a year will depend upon the length of growing season where you live. This grass is most used in warmer climates but varieties have been adapted for planting in some cooler regions.

How to Mow Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass is ideal for golf courses because it thrives at a shorter height. Depending on the preferences you have for your own lawn, you can keep it between ¾” and 2”. Make sure your mowing blades are very sharp. Mulching the clippings is ideal but they can be bagged too. As with all types of grass, don’t allow clumps of clippings to remain on the turf because they will lead to conditions that damage the grass.

Thatch Control in Zoysia Grass

Thatch build-up is more common in Zoysia turf than in other types. Thatch will reduce the flow of air, water and fertilizer into the soil, hindering root development in the grass, so it must be controlled. If your turf has more than ½” of grass, it should be dethatched. This should be done before the grass greens up in the spring or at the height of the growing season as long as water isn’t in short supply. Consider renting a dethatching machine or having a local lawn care expert do it for you. After dethatching, fertilize the grass to help stimulate new growth. However, fertilizing too often is the main cause of thatch development, so stay on a strict fertilizing schedule or add an extra week between feedings. If you’re not fertilizing too often and mowing regularly, thatch should not become an issue again.

Overseeding Zoysia Grass

We address this topic here because overseeding Zoysia grass is somewhat common. However, we’ll say upfront that most experts DO NOT recommend you do this. Overseeding is popular because Zoysia, being a warm-weather grass, goes dormant and turns brown soon after the weather turns cold. Therefore, the practice of overseeding the grass with a cool season type such as Rye grass or Tall Fescue originated. When the Zoysia goes dormant, the cool season grass remains green.

Keeping an overseeded lawn healthy requires a complex fertilizing schedule, strengthening the Zoysia during the warmest part of the year, feeding the secondary grass in cool weather, and then bringing the Zoysia back to full strength the following spring. Zoysia can easily be damaged by this process, weakening it and making it susceptible to disease.

Summary

Zoysia grass will flourish when properly maintained. Caring for your Zoysia turf isn’t difficult as long as you know the basics. The lawn maintenance tips provided in this guide to caring for your Zoysia grass will keep your turf looking its best throughout the entire growing season.

Note: Zoysia grass is often written as one word – Zoysiagrass – by lawn care experts and botanists. We separate it into two words, as many do, for the sake of consistency and clarity.

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