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In New Orleans, you don’t have to weigh the pros and cons of warm-season grasses against cool season. You are solidly in the warm/humid climate zone. Warm-season grasses are used to scorching sun and blistering heat and grow best in temperatures between 75°F and 90°F. Which warm-season grass will work best for you depends on how much traffic the lawn needs to withstand, how much time and money you are willing to invest in maintenance, and the environmental conditions, e.g., if the lawn is in the sun or shade.

Here is an overview of the warm-season grasses commonly used in New Orleans.

Bermuda Grass

Photo: gardeningknowhow.com

Bermuda grass is gray-green with rough-edged blades and purple stems. It adapts well to different soil types and grows aggressively, low to the ground, via both stolon and rhizomes for a thick lawn that withstands high traffic. It’s fine in the blazing hot sun and does well during drought periods. It doesn’t mind a bit of shade, but for Bermuda grass to really flourish, it needs the full sun.

It likes attention, and if it doesn’t get it, it’s going to become thin and weedy. You have to mow it frequently, give it lots of water and fertilizer and aerate it.

Carpet Grass

Photo: Aitor Morant

Carpet grass is light green and coarse and provides a moderately dense cover. Its leaves are blunt with rounded tips, and its flat stolons creep along the ground. Because it grows slowly, it takes a long time to recover from drought periods or from high traffic. It prefers full sun, but can tolerate some shade.

It’s popular here because it adapts well to the acidic sandy soils of New Orleans. Not all grasses do. It also establishes quickly from seed and has very low fertility requirements. The problem is the seed stalks that grow as tall as 12 inches. They look like weeds, and you have to mow frequently to keep your lawn well groomed.

Centipede Grass

Photo: Forest and Kim Starr

Centipede grass is lime green and makes a pretty and dense lawn. It also adapts well to acidic sandy soil. Since it spreads via surface runners, it grows slowly and is not for high-traffic areas. It’s fairly drought tolerant and is fine with some shade, although it’s better in full sunlight.

Centipede is one of the easiest of the warm-season grasses to maintain. It doesn’t need to be mowed or watered as frequently. Water only when it begins to look faded or wilted. It only needs to be fertilized once a year.

St. Augustine Grass

Photo: Jay Morgan

St. Augustine grass is blue-green with flat stems and broad leaves. It makes a very attractive, dense lawn that spreads rapidly by above-ground runners or stolons. It is the most shade tolerant of the warm-season grasses, but has little tolerance for traffic.

Maintenance is medium to high. It needs to be watered weekly to look its best, but will survive drought periods. It’s notorious for problems with thatch, and you’ll have to keep after it, renting vertical mowers or de-thatchers as needed.

Seashore Paspalum

Photo: Forest and Kim Starr

Seashore paspalum is a bright, attractive green with a medium to fine leaf texture. It has a dense root system and spreads aggressively by rhizomes and adapts well to salt-affected areas common in coastal regions. It tolerates a moderate amount of traffic and shade.

It’s low maintenance. It doesn’t have to be watered or fertilized often once it’s established. But it needs to be mowed frequently because it provides the best lawn when kept an inch high.

Zoysia Grass

Photo: Forest and Kim Starr

Zoysia grass gives you a lush lawn that is a rich dark green. It has a high tolerance for shade, but thrives in direct sunlight. It has a deep root system and, therefore, needs watering less frequently. It also only needs infrequent fertilizing and is exceptionally “traffic-friendly.”

It’s particularly susceptible to thatch. You need to mow it frequently to keep the height below two inches to reduce the chance of thatch developing. You should also plan on renting a vertical mower once a year.

 

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