Southwestern Missouri sits in a transitional plant hardiness zone that covers the central portion of the United States. Situated in zone 8, it experiences occasional hard freezes during the wintertime but also sees hot weather in the summer months. Because of its location, neither cool-weather grasses nor warm-weather grasses have the edge. For best results, most residential and commercial lawns are blends of warm- and cool-season grasses.
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Kentucky bluegrass is a cool-weather species. Blended with a warm-season grass seed, it will perform well in the southwestern portion of Missouri. Kentucky bluegrass grows via rhizomes and produces new shoots primarily in spring and early summer. It needs regular watering to remain green but will go dormant during times of extreme heat and drought. Mow to a height of about 1½ to 2½ inches for best results. In southwestern Missouri, Kentucky bluegrass produces leaves and shoots all year. Blend it with drought-resistant Bermuda or zoysia grass to keep it green when water is scarce or rationed.
Zoysia grass is a slow-growing but aggressive drought-resistant species. It works well in southwestern Missouri, where summers are prone to drought and heat. The Compadre cultivar of zoysia grass germinates more quickly than its slower counterparts. Whereas regular zoysia grass may take an entire summer to fully establish, Compadre establishes itself in one to two months if watered properly. Zenith is another cultivar of zoysia grass. While Zenith is slow-growing, it requires little maintenance, has high disease and drought tolerance, and seldom needs mowing. Both the Compadre and Zenith varieties of zoysia are hardy turf grasses that withstand heavy use well. For best results, start seed in weed-free and grass-free soil. If you plan to mix your zoysia with tall fescue, establish the zoysia first, then plant the tall fescue in the late summer or early fall. If you plant them together, the zoysia grass seed might not establish itself.
Bermuda grass, like zoysia grass, is a warm-weather species that is drought-resistant. It establishes itself quickly and can choke out weeds and other unwanted grasses. After the seeds germinate, it spreads by rhizomes and stolons, and tends to be invasive if not controlled properly. Bermuda grass is used widely as a turf for sports fields, golf courses and residential lawns due to its ability to withstand heavy traffic. Despite its ability to withstand drought conditions, it needs water at least once a week to stay green. Bermuda grass requires full sunlight and does not tolerate shade well. In southwestern Missouri, seed your lawn in late spring to early summer. Water the seeds daily until they germinate. Once germinated, maintain moisture until the grass fully establishes. If you blend warm- and cool-season grasses, overseed your Bermuda lawn with Kentucky bluegrass or perennial rye grass for a green lawn year-round.
Fescues are the primary grasses in Missouri lawns due to their adaptable nature. Tall fescue is a cool season grass that is also drought resistant. It has a coarse to medium texture and makes a good general purpose turf grass. Despite its identification as a cool weather grass, tall fescue tolerates high temperatures well. When properly watered, tall fescue thrives in most Missouri weather conditions.
Fine fescues come in a variety of cultivars. While tall fescue is a coarse turf grass, fine fescue types are less tolerant of heavy traffic. Some varieties of fine fescue perform well in shady lawns, such as Chewings, Red, and Creeping. Depending on the variety, some fine fescues grow in bunches and do not creep, whereas other varieties do. Most fine fescue cultivars thrive in poor, sandy soils with dry conditions. Blended with perennial ryegrass, a lawn with fine fescue will become more wear tolerant and disease and insect resistant.