University of Maryland Extension

Planting and Maintaining a Zoysia Lawn

lawnmower sitting on lawn

Key Points

  • As Maryland summers become hotter, zoysiagrass is an alternative to a tall fescue home lawn for the warmer regions of the state like the Eastern shore, Southern Maryland, and the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area.
  • Zoysia is a warm-season grass that goes dormant and turns tannish-brown in the fall through mid-May. 
  • One June application of fertilizer per year is usually sufficient to keep the grass healthy. 
  • Zoysiagrass is drought tolerant once it becomes established, which can take 2-3 years.

Why plant a Zoysia lawn?

  • Zoysiagrass is an excellent low maintenance lawn in full sun.

  • It spreads by stolons (stems that run above ground) and rhizomes (underground stems that take root as they grow) creating a dense groundcover that helps to keep weeds out. 

  • The blades are wiry and fine-to-medium textured and forms a cushiony lawn. 

  • Once established it is drought tolerant and not susceptible to diseases. 

Planting a zoysia lawn

  • Perform a soil test in preparation for starting your zoysia lawn. Otherwise, soil testing every 3 years is sufficient. 

  • Mid-May into June is the optimal time for planting.

  • Zoysia can be started from plugs (small pieces of rooted zoysia) or sod (expensive but the best option). Zoysia is difficult to start from seed. Seeds are difficult to find, expensive to buy, and are not as easy to plant as cool-season grasses like tall fescue. 
     
  • Plugs are planted like any other small plant. Small holes can be made with a trowel, small spade, or some type of bulb planter. They should be planted 6 to12 inches apart. The closer they are spaced, the faster they will fill in
  • Check (PDF) UMD TT-77 Recommended Turfgrass Cultivars for Certified Production and Seed Mixtures in MD for more information on zoysia cultivars. ‘Meyer’ is bred to survive cold winter temperatures and is the most popular cultivar planted in Maryland.

  • Irrigate immediately after plugging. Do not let the area dry out. Lightly water the area daily for about 2 weeks. When the weather is hot and dry, two or three light daily waterings may be required.

  • As the zoysia grows and matures, the frequency of watering is decreased, but the duration of watering is increased. The top 4-6 inches of soil should be moist.

  • It is important to keep weeds from becoming established between the plugs. Manage weeds by handpulling or cutting off at ground level using a hoe.

Seasonal Maintenance

Spring

  • Apply fertilizer after spring green-up according to the University of Maryland Extension lawn fertilizer schedule

  • Remove wild onions with a probe-type weeding tool after a rainstorm while the soil is moist. 

  • Thatch buildup can occur. Rent a core aerator or vertical mower to reduce thatch when the thatch layer exceeds 1/2 inch.

Summer 

  • The mowing height for zoysia home lawns is 1.5-2 inches. It is ½ - 1 inch for athletic fields. 

  • Zoysiagrass is very drought tolerant but if you notice grass blades wilting or turning an off-green color the lawn needs to be watered.

Fall 

  • Rake tree leaves and add them to your compost bin or run them over with a mulching mower and allow them to decompose in place on your lawn. However, they should not be deeper than about a 1/2 inch to avoid smothering the grass. 

  • Warm-season grasses will go dormant immediately after the first frost of the season. 

  • Never fertilize a warm-season grass like zoysia in the fall.

 

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