Guide to Des Moines Grass Types

des moines mansion

Are you looking to seed your Des Moines lawn this season? You may be asking yourself what the best kind of grass for our climate might be.  Here in Iowa, cool season grasses thrive best.  These varieties perform well in the spring and fall when temperatures moderate, and can hold up under Iowa’s more mild summers. Here are our recommendations for the best grass types to plant in Des Moines.

1. Kentucky Bluegrass
Mowing height: 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches

Kentucky BluegrassOne of the most common grass types found in Iowa, Kentucky Bluegrass is well-adapted to Iowa’s unique soil and climatic conditions. It tolerates both full sun and partial shade, producing a dense mat under many challenging situations. Kentucky Bluegrass can also tolerate high foot traffic well, producing underground rhizomes that allow it to repair damaged areas with ease. Because it is a naturalized plant here, it competes well with weeds and holds up against both disease and frigid winter temperatures.

Recommended: Scotts Turf Builder Kentucky Bluegrass Mix Grass Seed

2. Fine Leaf Fescue
Mowing height: 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches

fine leaf fescueFine Leaf Fescue requires very little water, making it a good choice for drought-prone regions. Additionally, it does not need to be fertilized and can grow in partial or even full shade. However, It’s a good idea to mix this species with another, like Kentucky Bluegrass, if you’re trying to plant grass in a sunnier area. Fine Leaf Fescue doesn’t hold up well under wet soils or intense heat, and is not a good choice if you anticipate having excessive foot traffic on your lawn. This grass is a great alternative to try when all other grass types have failed.

Recommended: WaterSaver Grass Mixture with Turf-Type Tall Fescue

3. Perennial Ryegrass
Mowing height: 1 ½ to 2 ½ inchesPerennial Ryegrass

You can plant Perennial Ryegrass in Iowa, but you need to be careful doing so, as it isn’t the best at responding to cold temperatures. It holds up well to heavy foot traffic but is a bunch grass that is slow to recover from damage, as it does not have any rhizomes. It is also vulnerable to many diseases. If you plant Perennial Ryegrass, consider overseeding with another variety for added insurance. It is, however, a good grass choice when you are trying to repair a damaged area of your lawn.

Recommended: Scotts Turf Builder Perennial Ryegrass Mix Grass Seed

4. Tall Fescue
Mowing height: 2 to 3 inchestall fescue

Tall Fescue has been around forever, but the turf-type variety of this grass is a newer invention. It offers a delicate, soft texture that is appealing to the eye. Additionally, it holds up well under high shade, heavy foot traffic, hot temperatures, and dry conditions. That being said, since it is also a bunch grass, it struggles to recover when damaged and will instead require frequent reseeding.

Recommended: Pennington Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue Grass Seed

5. Bentgrass
Mowing height: ¼-¾ of an inchcreeping bentgrass

There are two common types of Bentgrass: Creeping and Colonial. While these aren’t the most popular grass types in Iowa, they are good alternatives to the more traditional options. Both offer beautiful leave textures and establish quite rapidly. They do not require frequent fertilization and can tolerate soils with high salinity. On the contrary, most types of Bentgrass require large amounts of both sun and water, offering low drought tolerance as a result.

Recommended: Highland BentGrass Seeds

6. Rough Bluegrass
Mowing height: 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches

Rough Stalk Bluegrass Grass Type

via Purdue Turf Tips

This grass type establishes slowly but offers excellent shade tolerance in return. Rough Bluegrass has high use of both water and nitrogen, meaning you will need to water and fertilize frequently. As a thin textured grass type, it’s a good choice for mixing with other cool-season grasses for a more diverse lawn.

Though rare, some Iowa homeowners may also choose to plant a warm-season grass type. Common warm-season blends include Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, and Centipedegrass. Try to avoid planting a lawn that is solely warm-season in Iowa but instead use warm-season grass types as an option for overseeding.

Need help choosing the right grass for your lawn? Visit our Des Moines lawn care page for more information!


Rachel Vogel