Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), a warm-season grass, handles heat, drought, salt and is used extensively throughout the Sun Belt region. It spreads by above- and below-ground runners, thriving in almost any type of soil in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10. Although higher quality Bermuda grass is established from sod, plugs, or sprigs, seed versions of the grass have improved significantly over the years. This has reduced the hassle and expense of establishing a Bermuda grass lawn.
Common Bermuda Grass
Common Bermuda grass, also called Arizona common, is the lowest quality of all the Bermuda grasses. This grass establishes easily from seed and does not grow as quickly as other Bermuda grasses, which means it requires less mowing. But its light green color, lack of density and coarse leaf texture does not create an attractive lawn. It is also more prone to invasive weeds because common Bermuda grass does not create a thick turf.
Since the 1980s, research has led to new, higher-quality seeded Bermuda grasses -- known as improved seeded. Grasses in this group create dense, dark green turf that handles foot traffic. These grasses are used when a better-looking grass is desired without the maintenance and workload required for hybrids. "Princess" Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon "Princess") is one of the best in the group, producing a turf quality similar to "Tifway" (Cynodon dactylon "Tifway"). Other improved seeded varieties include "Blackjack" (Cynodon dactylon "Blackjack), "Cheyenne" (Cynodon dactylon "Cheyenne"), "Sahara" (Cynodon dactylon "Sahara"), "SunStar" (Cynodon dactylon "SunStar"), and "Yuma" (Cynodon dactylon "Yuma").
Introduced in 1960, "Tifway" is considered the industry standard for Bermuda grass. "Tifway" and similar hybrids produce lush, dense, dark green, fine-textured lawns that are more disease-resistant than other varieties. Because hybrids produce no viable seed, they must be established by vegetative means. This means you need to grow your lawn from sod, plugs or sprigs. To maintain their high quality appearance, hybrids need to be mowed short and up to twice per week, and have increased watering and fertilizer needs. Besides "Tifway," other common hybrids include "FloraTex" (Cynodon dactylon "FloraTex") and "GN-1" (Cynodon dactylon "GN-1"). "FloraTex" has lower fertilizer and water needs than "Tifway" and has extended fall color and earlier spring green-up. "GN-1" is darker with a wider leaf texture than Tifway.
Although an smart choice in the right location, Bermuda grass does have a few drawbacks. During periods of rapid growth, a minimum of twice weekly mowing may be needed to prevent scalping. For varieties than are maintained at 1 inch or less, a reel mower is the better way to cut the grass. The grass can also be invasive to flowerbeds and it tolerates shade poorly. After the first frost, the grass goes dormant and turns brown -- remaining that way until spring.