Improved varieties of zoysia grass are deep green and fine-bladed.

The Disadvantages of Zoysia

by Lynn Doxon

Zoysia grass (Zoysia spp.) comes from China, Japan and Korea and is well suited to the narrow transition zone that stretches across the U.S., roughly between Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, California. This is roughly U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10. When established, zoysia forms a dense, spongy turf that is drought-tolerant. Although it can form a beautiful summer lawn, consider its disadvantages, particularly north of the transition zone.


Zoysia seed sprouts slowly and you can't buy seed for the fine-textured lawn varieties. For this reason, you'll need to plant it from sprigs, plugs or sod. Under ideal conditions, sprigs or plugs will form a solid lawn in one season. More often it takes two to three years. During this time weeds can take over between the patches of zoysia and prevent it from fill in completely. In some areas zoysia sod is available, but sod is the most expensive way to establish a lawn.


Because it is so dense, zoysia requires more regular mowing than other turf species and frequent dethatching. Zoysia is drought-tolerant because the leaves fold and become dormant sooner than other species. So, it survives dry periods but is less attractive during the drought. During the growing season it needs about 1/2 inch of rainfall or water per week. Zoysia grass grows in sunny areas only. It is hardy to only about minus 10 to minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit and will not survive the winter in cold climates.


Zoysia grass has a long dormancy period during the winter when it is brown and dry. Winter annual weeds may grow in the lawn while it is dormant. The grass is also flammable while dormant and can become a fire hazard. Foot traffic damages the grass during the winter and it recovers slowly. If it invades an area with cool-season grass it will go dormant much earlier than the cool-season grass, making it look like there are dead spots in the lawn.

Eliminating Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass has a deep root system and is difficult to eradicate once it is established. It may invade flowerbeds or a neighbor's lawn and will be difficult to remove. If zoysia is mixed with cool-season grass, fertilize only in September and October and raise the mowing height to 3 inches. The cool-season grass will gradually take over the zoysia patches.

About the Author

Lynn Doxon has a Ph.D. in horticulture, is a retired cooperative extension specialist and teaches courses in urban farming. She is the author of three books: "The Alcohol Fuel Handbook," "High Desert Yards and Gardens" and "Rainbows from Heaven." Doxon wrote the Yard and Garden column for the "Albuquerque Journal" and numerous magazine and newspaper articles and cooperative extension service guides.

Photo Credits

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