The best grass species to plant in Indiana are cool-season types. These grasses are cold-tolerant and are able to survive the relatively cold winters even in the northern parts of the state. Cool-season grasses thrive when temperatures are cool and rainfall is plentiful, and they grow most vigorously in the spring, early summer and fall. When temperatures are high and moisture is scarce in the middle of the summer, cool-season grasses often go dormant.
Warm-season grass species that are well suited to warm Southern climates generally do not do well in Indiana because they are not cold-tolerant enough to make it through Indiana winters. The only warm-season grass grown in southern Indiana is Zoysiagrass (Zoysia japonica, hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9). The grass is very invasive and has a long period of dormancy from fall into mid-spring. It has a high tolerance to drought and heat and stands up well to Indiana's hot summers.
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Among cool-season grasses, one of the species most commonly grown in Indiana is Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis). It is an adaptable species that can tolerate significant variations in temperature, moisture and sunlight exposure, and it is able to withstand Indiana winters. It is winter-hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 to 7, so it is suitable for all parts of Indiana, where the climate ranges from USDA zones 5b to 6b.
Another cool-season grass that does well in Indiana is tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea). Like Kentucky bluegrass, it is hardy in USDA zones 2 to 7, but its deep root system allows it to be more tolerant of heat and drought, making it a good choice for the warmer climate of southern Indiana. In the northern part of the state, tall fescue may thin out and form clumps rather than a thick, dense turf.
Fine Fescues and Ryegrass
Fine fescues (Festuca spp.) tolerate drought and shade better than most other cool-season grasses, but they are less tolerant of heat and traffic. Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) is not as tolerant of drought, but it holds up well under heavy foot traffic. Fine fescues are hardy in USDA zones 2 to 7, and perennial ryegrass is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 7.
The distinct characteristics of these species make them good choices for use in seed mixtures with species like Kentucky bluegrass, where the combination of species will result in a turf that performs well in a range of conditions and seasons.