Kansas City, MO lies within the Transition Zone on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. What this means to you and your lawn is that because winters are cold and harsh and summers are hot and dry, choosing which type of grass to plant for your lawn can be a challenging decision. Grasses most commonly used in Missouri are turf-type tall fescues because they have best adapted to the Missouri climate. Typically from what we’ve seen is that cool-season grasses that are well adapted to heat and drought perform the best in the region.

There are two primary types of grasses; warm-season grasses and cool-season grasses. Warm-season grasses enjoy temperatures of 80 – 95 degrees fahrenheit and typically have a winter dormancy period of 3 – 5 months depending on the location. Cool-season grasses enjoy temperatures of 60 – 75 degrees fahrenheit and have the most active growth rates from the late summer to early winter and early spring to early summer. Compared to cool-season grasses, warm-season grasses usually have less pest problems, better water efficiency, and are obviously less sensitive to summer heat.

For the purpose of this post we are going to focus on tall fescue (the cool-season option) and zoysia grass (the warm-season alternative).

Tall Fescue

fescue-grass
Photo: Flickr / Noble Fountain

As pointed out by Black Gold, Tall Fescue is generally the best grass to plant in the midwest.  Here’s what they have to say:

“The cool-season bunch grass is easy to grow, while also being adaptable and disease resistant. It’s broad, coarse, deep green blades look good all season long, and it can also withstand the moderate heat and drought of summer. It also takes lots of foot traffic.”

Tall fescue is a cool-season grass that resists heavy foot traffic and summer heat, making it a great general purpose grass for Missouri. There are over 100 cultivars of turf-type fescues that are differentiated by leaf texture and plant density. The primary reason for this grass’ toughness is its relatively deep root system, allowing the grass to be more drought resistant by being able to find water deeper in the soil profile. It thrives in full sun to moderate shade and prefers to be mowed a little on the high side. It’s a bunch type grass that grows through rhizomes (below-ground stems) so thatch build up shouldn’t be a huge issue with this type of grass. Consider this grass if you’re looking for a low to moderate maintenance lawn.

Leaf Texture: Moderate to Coarse
Establish Rate: Moderate
Nitrogen Use: Moderate to High
Water Use: Low to Moderate
Drought Tolerance: Excellent
Salinity Tolerance: Low
Shade Tolerance: Good to Excellent
Mowing Height: 2 to 3 inches

Zoysiagrass

zoysia-grass
Photo: Flickr / Forest and Kim Starr

Zoysia, a warm-season grass type, is the most cold hardy of the group and least likely to be damaged or killed by a harsh winter. Compared to bermudagrass it’s an extremely slow grower, though recent improved varieties have been introduced that establish much quicker than their predecessors. Most lawn care professionals recognize this grass for its dense canopy, making it naturally weed resistant. The dense canopy also helps its resistance to heavy foot traffic, also making this grass a fairly hardy one. It has average shade tolerance but it does best in the sun. If proper fertilization practices are in order then it also won’t likely produce a significant layer of thatch. Be warned that zoysiagrass requires a very sharp mower blade to provide a high quality cut. Consider this grass if you’re looking for a higher quality, low maintenance lawn.

Leaf Texture: Fine to Medium
Establish Rate: Slow to Moderate
Nitrogen Use: Moderate
Water Use: Moderate
Drought Tolerance: Excellent
Salinity Tolerance: Good
Shade Tolerance: Moderate to Good
Mowing Height: 1 to 2.5 inches

We’ve done the research and these are best adapted warm-season and cool-season grasses to the Kansas City, MO climate.

Have questions about lawn care? Visit our Kansas City lawn care page or share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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