Have you ever wondered if bermudagrass is right for your lawn? Bermudagrass is popular among southern homeowners and sod growers because of its high durability, heat and drought tolerance, and ability to recuperate from high traffic and heavy use.
Dubbed “The Sport’s Turf of the South”, bermudagrass is commonly found on sports fields, golf courses, and lawns throughout southern states in the U.S. Its popularity extends beyond the United States, however, as it is found in over 100 countries in tropical and subtropical regions around the world.
Bermudagrass may not be for everyone, however, as it requires a high amount of maintenance to keep it looking great. If you live south of the transition zone and are looking for durable, heat-tolerant grass to plant in your yard, read on to see if bermudagrass is right for you!
Table of Contents:
- Perennial, warm-season grass
- Excellent heat and drought tolerance
- Requires full sun
- Higher maintenance than other warm-season grasses
- Super resilient and can quickly recuperate from heavy use
- Ideal for southern lawns
- Has the fastest growth rate of warm-season grasses
- Works well for lawns in coastal regions
Bermudagrass (C. dactylon (L.) Pers.), is a perennial, warm-season grass that grows back year after year. Despite its name, bermudagrass, (commonly misspelled as bermuda grass), wasn’t found in Bermuda but instead originated in tropical regions of Africa and India.
While the exact date that bermudagrass was introduced to the United States is unknown, it was established as the primary grass of the South in 1807. It is also known by other names, such as couchgrass or wiregrass.
Bermudagrass is a light to dark green warm-season grass that is most identifiable by its fine-textured, pointed leaf blades and fibrous root system, which is made up of above-ground stems known as stolons and underground stems known as rhizomes. The stolons and rhizomes help bermudagrass to spread rapidly and aid in its excellent ability to self-repair.
Due to its quick spreading habit, it can also be considered an invasive weed to garden beds and crops such as corn, cotton, and sugarcane.
Well-maintained bermudagrass produces a dense turf that tolerates heavy traffic well, making it suitable for golf courses, playgrounds, and parks. Due to its high-wear tolerance, it can recover quicker from damage than other warm-season grasses.
- Fastest growth rate of any warm-season grass
- Capable of surviving extreme heat and drought
- Tolerates high traffic, and fills in bare spots quickly
- Grows well in most soils, including clay and sandy soils
- One of the only warm-season grasses that can be started from seed
- Great for sports fields and playgrounds
- Salt tolerant, suitable for coastal regions
- Often spreads to undesired locations like garden beds
- Difficulty growing in shade
- Goes dormant and brown in the winter
- Requires regular fertilization and mowing
While bermudagrass is great for many southern homeowners, its drawbacks can be deal breakers for others. Similar to many plants that originate from tropical locations, bermudagrass is limited to where it can be grown due to its sensitivity to cold climates and will go brown and dormant in freezing temperatures.
Most varieties cannot withstand the winter temperatures north of the transition zone, however, will stay green when located in frost-free southern climates.
Although Jonathan Green does not sell bermudagrass varieties, we do specialize in cool-season grasses. For bermudagrass lawn owners in the south who experience frost but wish to keep their lawn green year round we recommend overseeding with cool-season ryegrass.
Bermudagrass’ extreme heat, sun, and drought tolerance make it a great grass choice for those with full sun lawns in the south. The roots of bermudagrass can grow up to six feet deep, reaching into the soil to absorb moisture, and helping the plant to withstand periods without water.
If you have a bermudagrass lawn, remember it needs less water than other turfgrasses, so do not overwater it. Furthermore, ensure your lawn has good drainage to avoid water pooling and harming your lawn.
Many homeowners with active kids and pets may prefer bermudagrass for its ability to aggressively spread, and quickly fill in thin areas. However, those who prefer a low-maintenance lawn may struggle with the grass growing into their garden beds and other undesirable locations. For this reason, it is often considered a weed. Because of its fast growth rate, this turfgrass needs high levels of nitrogen and requires regular mowing to maintain its attractive appearance.
The best time to plant bermudagrass is between late spring and early summer, once the threat of spring frost has passed. Reach out to your local extension office for exact dates on the first and last frost of the planting season.
Bermudagrass germinates best when soil temperatures are between 65 – 75°F and daily temperatures are consistently above 80°F. It will grow and maintain its green color throughout the summer and go dormant in the winter. The roots and rhizomes, however, will continue to grow several weeks after the grass blades stop growing.
Because it is a warm-season grass, bermudagrass grows best in areas that experience high average daily temperatures, and mild winters.
Bermudagrass is usually grown in states south of the transition zone and in areas where average daily temperatures are consistently above 75°F.
Bermudagrass requires many hours of sun to grow and doesn’t tolerate shade very well. It has excellent heat, drought, and salt tolerance and thrives best in areas with full, direct sunlight and good drainage.
Water your bermudagrass lawn deeply and infrequently, at least twice a week. Due to its drought tolerance, bermudagrass can handle hot, dry climate conditions well and requires a minimal amount of water to keep it green and healthy. Your lawn should get about 1 inch of water per week, including rainfall.
Bermudagrass can tolerate having its grass blades cut quite short, which is why it is often found on golf courses and sports fields. While cool season turfgrasses like tall fescue at three inches, bermudagrass can be mowed down to one inch and still flourish.
Due to its quick-growing habit, you may need to mow twice a week during its peak growing period (late spring to early summer). Make sure that you are not taking off more than one-third of the grass blade when mowing. Like all other grasses, bermudagrass prefers to be cut with sharp blades to prevent shredding or tearing of the blades.
Bermudagrass requires regular feeding during its growing seasons due to its excessive growth rate. During periods of active growth, bermudagrass needs about 2 – 4 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 sq. ft. Apply nitrogen-rich lawn food, such as Veri-Green Lawn Fertilizer anytime in the spring or fall as long as air temperatures are not above 85°F.
The turf use and soil type also greatly influence the amount of fertilizer required. Golf courses and sports fields need a high-nitrogen fertilizer, while sandy soil requires light, but frequent applications of nitrogen due to its inability to retain nutrients.
Thatch is a buildup of dead grass and debris that accumulates above the soil and beneath the crown of grass blades. Thatch can prevent your lawn from accessing fertilizer and other necessary nutrients, like water and sunlight. Bermudagrass’s excessive growth rate makes it more susceptible to thatch buildup, so it is important to dethatch bermudagrass lawns one to two times a year.
The best time to dethatch is when it enters its active growth period from late spring to early summer. You can use a thatch rake or a strong metal rake to remove thick layers of thatch and prevent it from coming back by bagging grass clippings after mowing.
Overseeding Bermudagrass in Winter
Bermudagrass is unable to grow in cold climate conditions and will go dormant in the winter when air temperatures drop below 32°F. However, this doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with a brown lawn throughout winter!
To keep a vibrant, green lawn year-round, you can overseed bermudagrass with cool-season grass seed, such as perennial ryegrass, in late fall. You want to overseed for winter preferably about thirty days before the first fall frost.
Because overseeding involves spreading seed over existing grass, you should keep in mind that the seed will be competing with the grass for necessary sunlight, moisture, and nutrients needed to grow. You can limit competition for sunlight by mowing the existing lawn shorter (about one inch) and bagging your clippings prior to spreading the seed.
Jonathan Green Touch-Up™ TRI-RYE Perennial Ryegrass contains quick-germinating, turf-type perennial ryegrass to perfectly complement fast-growing bermudagrass. It provides a lush, green carpet during the winter and recedes in the spring when warm-season grasses begin to grow again. Use Touch-Up™ TRI-RYE Perennial Ryegrass to help your bermudagrass lawn maintain its green color throughout the cold winter months.
If you want a lawn that is heat and drought-resistant, with the ability to withstand high traffic, bermudagrass may be the best choice for you.
Bermudagrass is a great option for homeowners that live south of the transition zone and want a lawn that can endure the heat that southern summers bring. Though high maintenance, with devoted care and attention this resilient, warm-season grass will result in a quality lawn you can be proud of!
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