Houston's warm and humid climate gives residents a long list of grasses to choose from. The gulf coast city has soil that is acidic with sandy patches in some places, making growing a healthy lawn challenging. However, universities and sod companies often bring forth hybrids and improved grasses for every type of soil. Before choosing your grass, consider the soil type and how much traffic it will receive.
Stenotaphrum secundatum, or "St. Augustine" grass, is one of the most widely used grasses in the state of Texas. Home and business owners appreciate its quick, carpet-like growth and thick blades. It is easy to maintain and does well with rainy weather. Do not plant it in areas that are prone to flooding, however, because it cannot tolerate standing water for long periods of time. St. Augustine is a warm-weather grass that grows in most soil conditions and has a good tolerance for shady areas. It does not hold up well under heavy traffic or sports use.
Agricultural scientists developed several cultivars of St. Augustine with varying degrees hardiness. Varieties include Palmetto, Floratam, Del mar, Raleigh, Amerishade and Sapphire. Floratam is the variety most Houstonians use in their lawns due to its coarse texture and vigorous growth.
Cynodon spp., or "Bermuda" grass, is an aggressive warm-weather grass. It is the preferred grass of choice for sports fields due to its tough nature and ability to grow quickly. It grows quickly from seed, spreading by rhizomes, stolons and seed. The roots go deep, and therefore it is drought resistant. It requires long periods of full sun, warm temperatures and mild winters. Golf courses, football fields and pastures as well as residential lawns are examples of places where Bermuda grass can grow. It does not perform well in shady areas, so if your lawn is mostly shaded, Bermuda will not thrive. The cultivar "Common Bermuda" is widely used in residential lawns and grows in most soil conditions. TifDwarf is a low-growing variety that is designed for heavy traffic, low mowing and salty soils.
Eremochloa ophiuroides, "Centipedegrass," is native to China and Southeast Asia. It is a creeping low-growing grass that spreads via stolons. It is well-adapted to acidic soils and soil with poor fertility. It does well with little maintenance and requires less mowing than other grasses. If too much nitrogen is present in the soil, however, it can cause the grass to grow more quickly and encourage problems with insects or disease. It performs best in full sun but will tolerate moderate shade conditions. Its root system is not as deep as Bermuda, but its low growth makes it a good choice for water conservation and drought conditions. The cultivar TifBlaird has a higher cold tolerance than its relative, Common Centipede. This variety also grows more quickly from seed than does Common. This is an advantage if you need your lawn established soon after seeding.
Zoysia japonica, "Zoysiagrass," is native to China, Japan and other parts of Asia. Since 1895, it has been a mainstay in many lawns throughout the nation. It is another creeping, low-growing grass that requires little maintenance. It is heat resistant and a slow, but aggressive grower. It will compete effectively with weeds, eventually choking them out. Its blades are coarse and not pleasing on the bare feet, so it is not a good choice if you want a grass that feels soft under the feet. However, its even, carpeting quality make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye and therefore, it is a good choice for ornamental lawns. Zoysia grows by both stolons and rhizomes. It will turn brown after the first hard frost, but is one of the first to green up when the weather turns. Several cultivars of Zoysia are available, such as Emerald, Cavalier and Zeon, which has a softer, more pleasing leaf blade.