Growing Zoysia Grass: A Drought-Tolerant, Tough Turf for Your Lawn

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated May 3, 2022
Fresh green carpet grass
Photo: Don't be so sure that world is wind till you've checked it out / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images


  • Zoysia grass is a warm-season, drought-tolerant grass known for its dense, tough coverage.

  • This grass requires regular mowing and proper edging to prevent spreading.

  • You’ll need patience, as this lawn cover can take a few years to establish fully.

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If you’re not a grass geek, it’s understandable to ask, “what is zoysia grass?” These species can withstand heavy footfall and still look thick and impressive—perfect if you’re tired of your kids or canines ruining your meticulously maintained lawn.

Perennial warm-season grasses like zoysia are an ideal choice for (not so) green-thumbed gardeners because they are easy to care for if they get enough warmth and light, and you have the patience to waste while they establish. Plus, their drought tolerance makes them a suitable aid for conserving water in your garden.

Learn more about how to grow zoysia grass, along with tips for caring for this resilient lawn cover.

What Is Zoysia Grass?

Zoysia is a warm-season grass that typically greens up in mid-May before going dormant and turning brown after the first fall frost. The stiff, pointy, low-growing blades form a uniform, dense turf that’s hard for other weeds to penetrate. While it grows more slowly than other grass types, it spreads by above-ground stems called stolons and underground ones called rhizomes.

  • Common name: Zoysia grass

  • Botanical name: Zoysia spp.

  • Plant type: perennial turf grass 

  • Height: 4–6 in. tall

  • Sun exposure: full 

  • Soil type: well-drained

  • Hardiness zones: 5–10 (USDA) 

Is Zoysia Grass Good for Lawns?

Turfgrass is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution, and zoysia has its own list of pros and cons you should consider. Whether it’s right for your lawn depends on your climate, conditions, and landscape aesthetic.

Zoysia Grass Pros

  • Heat and drought tolerant (capable of growing in cooler middle-belt transition zones better than other warm-season grasses)

  • Dense carpet growth withstands high footfall

  • Resistant to pests and weeds

  • Longer active growing season and stays green much longer than many other warm-season grasses

  • Adaptable to most soil types

Zoysia Grass Cons

  • Can take two to three years to establish fully

  • Might creep into plant beds without decent edging

  • Looks untidy without frequent mowing

  • Not suitable for shady yards

Types of Zoysia Grass

This Asian native genus now grows widely in the United States. There are more than 10 species and many cultivars, including:

Zoysia Japonica

Most commonly used for turfgrass. It’s the fastest growing and most cold-hardy of the species. Look for those in the Meyer family if you want a wider, coarser blade and those in the Emerald family for a finer texture.

Manilagrass (Zoysia Matrella)

Boasts a fine, dense structure, but it isn’t as cold-tolerant as japonica, and it takes longer to establish.

Mascarene Grass (Zoysia Tenuifolia)

The finest and densest of all the widely available zoysia grasses, but it’s the least cold-tolerant and most high maintenance.

When to Plant Zoysia Grass

Green grass texture
Photo: EwaStudio / Adobe Stock

Be patient when planting zoysia grass—it typically takes a few years to establish fully. Growing from seed is tricky (and only possible with the commercially available species Zoysia japonica), so you might want to opt for planting plugs (small rooted pieces) or, if you have the budget, laying sod. For the best chance of success, plant at the end of April (after the last frost) through the end of June.

Place plugs eight to 12 inches apart and keep the area moist (but not soggy) with daily, light waterings for the first fortnight. You can pull back on your watering schedule as the plugs establish, but make sure to keep the first four inches of soil most when you irrigate and pull any weeds that could get in the way of growth. 

How to Grow Zoysia Grass

If you offer zoysia the right conditions, the grass is not difficult to grow or maintain. Follow these zoysia grass care tips to secure the greenest, most lush lawn on the block.


Zoysia requires full to partial sun. In the warmer southern states, zoysia grass still grows well in areas with some shade, but a full sun position in cooler transition zones is best to allow your lawn to thrive.


Once established, zoysia is excellent at conserving water. The deep root system and rolling grass blades of zoysia mean that it will remain green during short drought periods. However, it will turn brown over longer dry and hot periods, so you’ll want to provide a slow application of around 1 inch of water every week to quench its thirst.

Don’t panic if you forget to water it—your zoysia grass should turn green again during the growing season once you restart an irrigation schedule or when the rains arrive.


Adaptable to a wide range of soils, including sandy and clay, and copes with acidic and alkaline conditions. If needed, aerate your lawn to prevent compacted soil that could slow growth.


Like most lawns, fertilizing zoysia grass should happen between late May and late August to keep the grass healthy. Avoid fertilizing zoysia during early spring or late fall when it lays dormant.

Around 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet should be enough to promote lush color and coverage. Applying too much nitrogen will just encourage excessive thatch accumulation (a messy layer of organic material). 


In terms of grass cutting tips, weekly mowing of zoysia helps maintain a neat appearance, prevents thatch build-up, and encourages earlier greening. It can handle close mowing of around 2 inches or a bit less, but you’ll need good blades on your mower for this dense ground cover.

Zoysia Grass Yearly Schedule of Care

Zoysia has a pretty specific growing schedule. As a warm-season grass, its active growth starts in late spring and continues through summer. Still, zoysia is a perennial grass, so it will also require maintenance while dormant in the winter. Here is a brief overview of caring for zoysia grass year-round.  


As the grass comes out of dormancy and begins to green, you’ll want to seed patchy lawns⁠—just be sure the danger of frost has passed. Start mowing and give your lawn its first feed in late spring.


Weekly mowing in the summer helps keep your growing lawn looking tidy and, in dry periods, weekly watering helps the grass remain vibrant green. If your grass is slow to grow, this is the time to get out the aeration machine. 

Zoysia might also appreciate a second application of fertilizer towards the end of the summer to keep it green for as long as possible.


Continue mowing your lawn until the grass begins to brown as the temperatures drop. Rake away leaves and other debris to help retain a green color for as long as possible.


Take a rest from major lawn maintenance. When zoysia grass is dormant, it won’t need mowing, fertilizing, or supplemental irrigation. Keep the grass clear of winter debris, such as fallen branches, and watch for winter weeds.

If you’re still unsure if zoysia grass is right for you or need help getting your lawn started, call a lawn care professional near you.

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