An Extra-Easy Zoysia

Selected cultivars, including 'Zorro', are superior to the species.

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Zoysia is a warm-season perennial grass that spreads by rhizomes to form a dense, low mat. Typically slow-growing, it does best in full sun or partial shade. Various cultivars are also traffic tolerant and so are often recommended for golf courses and public grounds. Usually zoysia is established via plugs or sprigs. As a warm-season grass, it turns brown after the first fall frost and stays brown until spring green-up. Selected cultivars are superior to the species.

In national testing, 'Zorro'--a fine-textured cultivar that's relatively heat- and drought-tolerant--ranked tops among other zoysia cultivars for quality. It became the turf of choice for Alan King, landscape architect of the HGTV Dream Home 2005. "I was looking for a grass that would take both sun and shade, has a low to moderate water requirement, slow growth rate, fine texture, is deep emerald green, has a high tolerance to traffic and is cold hardy. In other words I wanted the perfect grass and I was not optimistic."

But when King learned about the high performance of 'Zorro', he had his answer. "'Zorro' is distinguished from other Zoysia grasses [because of] its good tolerance to low light conditions, high turf quality, rapid recovery from damage and resistance to several insect, mite and disease pests. Like other Zoysia cultivars, 'Zorro' is more expensive than either St. Augustine or Bermuda grass. This additional cost, however, is quickly overcome in low maintenance cost as well as its superior livability."

Other superior zoysias include 'El Toro', 'Emerald', 'JaMar', 'HT-210' and 'Miyako'.

Because zoysias tend to become very dense, thatch buildup can be quite significant. Depending on how often they've been watered and fertilized, dethatching every two to three years is usually a necessity. Keep them closely mowed (about two inches) to further reduce thatch accumulation. Zoysias do best where the growing season is long and hot.

--M.H., gardening editor, HGTV.com

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