One of the challenges of lawn maintenance is keeping your lawn green, or at least alive, through the cold of winter and the heat of summer. You can increase your lawn's ability to withstand harsh weather with various cultural techniques, such as irrigation and soil improvement, but you also need to choose the grass species that are most tolerant of extreme temperatures.
Cool-Season vs. Warm-Season
Most of the common lawn grass species are categorized as warm-season grasses or cool-season grasses. In general, warm-season grasses have poor cold tolerance and cool-season grasses have poor heat tolerance. Some turfgrass species are tolerant of heat and cold; nonetheless, you will have more heat-tolerance with the warm-season grasses and more cold-tolerance with the cool-season grasses. This means that you should favor cool-season species if your winter weather is more extreme than your summer weather, and you should favor warm-season species if your summer weather is more extreme than your winter weather.
Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is a cool-season grass that is also tolerant of heat and drought. Though it survives as far north as U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 2, tall fescue is not considered as cold-hardy as other cool-season grasses because it tends to thin out somewhat during harsh winters without adequate snow cover. The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service rates tall fescue "good" for cold tolerance and "good" for heat tolerance, whereas the other cool-season grasses are rated "marginal" for heat tolerance.
Buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides) is native to the North American short-grass prairie region, which extends as far south as Texas and as far north as Canada. This warm-season grass survives into USDA hardiness zone 4. Buffalograss is the only species rated "excellent" for both heat tolerance and cold tolerance by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. But this resistance to extreme cold does not mean that buffalograss remains green and lush throughout the fall and winter. Like other warm-season grasses, buffalograss turns brown as cold weather sets in and does not green up again until temperatures are consistently warm in mid to late spring.
Zoysiagrass (Zoysia spp.) is another warm-season grass that is somewhat tolerant of cold temperatures, though not as tolerant as buffalograss -- it is recommended for USDA hardiness zone 6 and perhaps for zone 5. The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service rates Zoysiagrass "excellent" for heat tolerance but only "favorable" for cold tolerance. Zoysiagrass, however, has advantages over buffalograss that make it more practical for some lawns: it withstands more foot traffic and it is more tolerant of light shade.
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