Proper Grass for your Northern Virginia Lawn

Grass types are important.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed at the selection of grasses available on the market.  If you’re seeding an established yard, you’ll need to know what type of grass you have.  If this is a new yard, you want to know what type of grass you should plant.  And to maintain a lawn, you’ll need to know what type of grass you have when choosing fertilizers. Fortunately, here at LawnStarter, we like making lawn care simple for you.  Let’s clear this up for you.

For starters, there are two broad categories of grass: warm season and cool season.

  • Warm Season Grasses:  These types of grass thrives in warm, sunny climates and go dormant (stop growing and turn brown) during the winter.  It grows best in the warm season, seen in the diagram below.  These are generally grown in the southern regions of the country.

  • Cool Season Grasses:  Yep, you guessed it.  They grow in the cooler areas of the country.  In cool climates, they stay green year round.  Cool season grasses are generally blended.


But what about this “transition zone”?

You will notice that Virginia falls in the warm/cool transition zone.  In the Washington DC metro area, we are blessed with 4 distinct seasons.  But, with cold winters and hot humid summers, it makes lawn care in Fairfax County kind of tricky.

The simple answer is that it’s best to stick with cool season grasses here.  Most lawns have a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and tall fescue.  It’s resilient enough to last all seasons, although it often goes dormant during hot summers.

This is not only a practice done by most knowledgeable lawn care professionals but is recommended by the Virginia Tech Turf Grass cooperative extension1.

Recommended Kentucky bluegrass: Scotts Turf Builder Kentucky Bluegrass Mix Grass Seed

Recommended ryegrass: Scotts Turf Builder Perennial Ryegrass Mix Grass Seed

Recommended tall fescue grass: Pennington Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue Grass Seed

Other Things to Know

  • Growing Season:  Cool season grasses grow best in the Spring and Fall, and typically slow down during summer.  Because of this, always seed and fertilize in the Spring or Fall (Fall is preferred).

  • Mixtures:  Cool season grasses are typically planted in mixtures.  The classic combo of bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue is designed to offer the best resistance to foot traffic, extreme weather conditions, and shade.  This is different than warm-season grasses, as they should not be blended.

  • Patchiness in Summer:  Because cool season grasses are planted as a blend when some species will go dormant before others during the summer.  This can make your lawn appear patchy.  Don’t worry, this is completely fine!  Your lawn will return to normal soon.

To take care of your lawn in Washington DC, whether you live in Mclean, Burke, Springfield, Falls Church, Arlington, you’ll probably want to seed your lawn with the standard blend of cool-season grasses.




Scott Johnson

Scott is a research analyst and writer for the LawnStarter blog. He's a lawn care expert, avid gardener, and dog lover.