Usually, there are warm-season grasses and cold-season grasses. Cool-season grasses are varieties that continue growing throughout winter and retain their color. They turn green and begin active growth early into the growth season mid-spring into the late fall when they go dormant. However, with regular summer watering, cool-season grasses can withstand the summer heat.
Warm-season grasses are varieties that are green and actively growing from late spring through to early to mid-fall when they become dormant and brown. These grasses do not thrive under shade. They prefer sunlight.
Can Warm Season Grasses Survive Cold Climates?
That a grass is tagged “warm-season” does not automatically mean it is intolerant to cold temperatures. Although some warm-season lawn grasses lack the cold tolerance temperament of cool-season lawn grasses, some are quite cold tolerant and can survive in a cold climate.
Warm-season, also known as C4 grasses or southern grasses, includes; Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, Centipede grass, Zoysia grass, Bahia grass, and Carpet grass. A few of these can retain their green color all year round even under cold climates.
Warm Season Grasses that can Survive Cold
#1. Zoysia Grass
Zoysia grass best thrive during the warm and heat season to provide you with a beautiful, dense lawn. As a perennial, zoysia comes back each year at the right season. The active growth of zoysia begins in the warmth of late spring and reaches its peak during the hot summer weather.
It can withstand drought, heavy foot traffic as well as other severe conditions. In its optimal growing zones, this robust grass can with very little input from you. A characteristic of Zoysia grass is that even when it is a warm-season grass, it has improved cold tolerance.
#2. Bermuda Grass
Bermudagrass (Cynodonsactylon) is common to tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is a perennial warm-season grass that provides you with a bright green turf grass when it resumes active growth from late spring through hot, humid summer temperatures.
Bermudagrass is more sensitive to cold temperatures than zoysia. This universal warm-season grass can also survive more frigid climates. In frost-free environments, and with the right brand, Bermuda grass will remain green all winter.
#3. St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass is coarse-textured with a dark green color, wide, flat blades that can shape into a thick grass blade that rounds at the top.
It is a warm temperature grass and is also one of the most shade-tolerant grasses of its warm season class. St. Augustine preserves its color longer than other warm-season grasses when exposed to cold climate conditions.
Lawn Maintenance Tips to keep your Warm Season Grasses Colorful through Cold Seasons
While it has been established that some warm-season grasses can survive cold seasons, you should understand that cold climate is not their growth season. As such, they need sufficient lawn maintenance to retain color during freezing temperatures.
#1. Prune Trees Around your Lawn
As sunlight is rare in winter, trees will block those invaluable rays of sunshine. Pruning will allow sunlight to penetrate the warm-season grasses and enable them to stay green and active in the winter period.
#2. Apply Fertilizer in Late Autumn and Mid-Winter
Applying a winter fertilizer in May will guarantee that your lawn has sufficient nutrients to survive the cold climate. Use a spreader when applying fertilizer, and be careful to apply only the recommended amount so as not to burn your grass. Apply another bout of fertilizer in mid-winter, around July. This boosts your lawn’s resistance to fungal diseases.
#3. Use a Pre-Emergent Herbicide.
Apply pre-emergent herbicides to prevent weeds from filling your lawn in winter. Weeds can stave off sunlight from your grass, and you should avoid this beforehand.
#4. Aerate the Lawn
The soil below your grasses can be easily compacted, make room for additional air for grassroots by aerating your lawn. With the help of a spade, pull out spikes of soil across your grass and create holes for planting seeds. Rent a motorized or manual aerator if your yard is huge.
#5. Prevent Salt Damage
Avoid your lawn coming in contact with de-icing products that contain salt. They can harm your grass when they leach into it. Salt on grasses can cause “physiological drought,” a condition that deters nutrient uptake and causes bald spots.
If, however, your lawn comes in contact with salt, water your garden thoroughly to flush the salt out and reduce damage.
#6. Rake Your Lawn Often
Even when pruned, trees still grow out new leaves. Rake out the leaves dropped by trees around the lawn to allow sunlight into your grass.
#7. Clear out Clutter and Debris
An essential part of maintaining a healthy lawn in winter is to remove debris, leaves, or toys from grass surfaces. These items can stifle the grass, create disease conditions, and invite insects, mice, and other damaging pests.
#8. Reduce the height of your mower by a step or two.
Overly long grass can smother itself, prompting diseases, and stand the risk of getting damaged from freezing and thawing conditions. Remember not to cut the grass so short. You could scalp it if too short, exposing the crown of the plant to extreme conditions.
#9. Minimize Traffic.
Dormant grass endures a moderate amount of traffic while beneath snow cover or exposed to the elements. A heavily worn grass will take time to green up in the spring and cause compaction.
#10. Monitor Climate Conditions.
Some warm-season grasses are tolerant of certain winter temperatures. However, certain conditions can be dangerous to them. Be alert to scrape away a bit of little-exposed ice in a low spot once a winter storm or deep freeze is looming.
Can warm climate grasses survive in cold climates? The answer is yes, so long as you choose any of the recommended grass types and follow the lawn care tips mentioned. The most adaptive warm-season grass is zoysia. If you are looking for a grass that can last all year round, you should consider it.