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How To Grow A Successful Zoysia Lawn: A Step-By-Step Guide


Growing a zoysia lawn

Zoysia is a beautiful, thick, deep green turf grass that is easy to maintain in the right climate.

Whether you’re establishing a new lawn or troubleshooting an old one, our ultimate guide to Zoysia has everything you need to know to grow a healthy, low-maintenance, weed-free turf.

This guide covers the following:

Establishing a New Zoysia Lawn

Zoysia is a warm-season grass that also thrives in most of the transition zone. Zoysia is the turf of choice for salty, coastal soils or areas near salted roadways.

Although zoysia is a slow starter, once it is established, it can choke out most weeds, and quickly repair damage due to cold temperatures or traffic.

Zoysia Varieties

There are three main varieties of zoysia; Z. japonica and Z. matrella are turf varieties, while Z. tenuifolia is a groundcover or ornamental grass.

Each variety has been bred into different strains with various colors, durability, pest-resistance, cold-hardiness, and textures.

Zoysia’s weak link is its cold tolerance. The cold-hardiness of each lawn will vary depending on snow cover, rainfall, organic matter in the soil, thatch layer, and the slope of your lawn.

Zoysia japonica (Cold-tolerant to 20o)

Z. japonica, also known as Japanese lawngrass or Korean lawn grass, is the most cold-hardy (source) and shade-tolerant variety of zoysia. This turfgrass has a coarse texture and is extremely durable.

While most Z. japonica cultivars can only be propagated vegetatively, there are some cultivars that can be grown from seed. However, zoysia grows best from sprigs, plugs, or sod, even if seed is an option.

Z. japonica is coarse and dense, so it can be difficult to mow. If possible, use a reel mower (link to Amazon), and keep the lawn below 2” throughout the growing season.

You can also use a rotary mower, but you should sharpen the blades once a month during the growing season.

Meyer

Meyer is one of the more popular strains of Z. japonica due to its vigorous growth habit and rich, deep green color. While Meyer is advertised as a quick-growing cultivar, it is slow to establish.

Meyer is more pest resistant than some other Z. japonica cultivars. The most common pest issue with Meyer is white grubs (source).

You can plant Meyer from seed, but vegetative planting yields faster growth and denser turf. Meyer is a good option throughout the transition zone and on into cooler or shadier parts of the deep south.

Empire

Empire must be propagated by sprig, plug, or sod. Empire is softer and more dense than Meyer, and it requires fewer fertilizer applications.

This cultivar is less shade tolerant than other Z. japonica cultivars. The lack of shade tolerance makes Empire more susceptible to brown patch; a fungus that thrives in humid, shady parts of the lawn.

Empire is chinch bug resistant, which makes it a good choice for lawns in the transition zone with very dry summers.

Belair

Belair, also known as El Toro, is one of the most cold-hardy and shade-tolerant cultivars of Z. japonica. This cultivar was developed in California, and it is extremely drought-tolerant.

Belair is good for lawns in the transition zone and shady lawns in the deep south.

Zoysia matrella (Cold-tolerant to 23o)

Z. matrella, also known as Manila grass,has a fine texture, low growing height, and dense growth habit. It is less cold tolerant than Z. japonica, but it can be found as far north as Connecticut along the coast.

Z. matrella can tolerate light frost, although it may suffer after a few hard frosts. It’s dense growth habit and aggressive growth habit allow it to heal from winter kill and heavy foot traffic if it has enough sunlight and moisture.

While Z. matrella is aggressive, and can choke out most weeds, it takes a few years for this turf to become established. During this period, Z. matrella cultivars are more high-maintenance.

Zeon

Zeon is a deep green, soft turf with vigorous growth. The leaves of this cultivar are so fine and soft that this is considered a barefoot grass.

Zeon has moderate shade and drought tolerance. It is resistant to most pests and diseases, and it is more durable than most other cultivars.

Zeon is considered to be one of the best overall zoysia cultivars, with its only real drawback being a slow establishing period and limited availability.

Diamond

Diamond is one of the few turf grasses suitable for putting greens. It is one of the most shade tolerant cultivars, and it can handle extremely short mowing heights.

The downside to Diamond is that it is one of the most high-maintenance turf grass options for a lawn. This cultivar has a sophisticated, manicured look, but it requires frequent mowing, consistent irrigation, and a detailed pest management and fertilization schedule.

However, if you want a pristine look and are willing to put in the extra time and effort, Diamond is an excellent option for a clean-cut lawn.

Cavalier

Cavalier is also used for golf courses, but as a fairway or tee box grass. Cavalier has exceptionally long, fine leaves, which makes it one of the tallest zoysia cultivars.

Cavalier grows into a thick, lush, deep green carpet. It is a durable grass which can repair itself quickly and withstand heavy traffic.

Cavalier has a moderate pest resistance, but its aggressive nature is able to choke out most weeds. Choose this grass for low-maintenance, high-traffic lawns.

There are many other zoysia cultivars that have been developed to tolerate different growing conditions. Before you choose the cultivar for your lawn, research the varieties and cultivars that do well in your area.

Soil Preparation

Soil preparation for zoysia will be similar to most other grasses. The goal of soil prep is to remove as much of the past lawn as possible, including the root system, and to develop a weed-free soil bed for the new grass.

Zoysia should be planted in mid spring to early summer, but it can be planted up to 60 days before the first frost. Earlier planting dates will give the turf more time to fill in and create a deeper root system before winter.

Step 1

Kill old turf/weeds. You can do this by spraying a non-selective herbicide (not a pre-emergent) over your lawn at two-week increments after the lawn breaks dormancy.

This will ensure you have killed the grass, and it will give weed seeds time to germinate and be sprayed, which helps to eliminate weeds in the future.

Instead of Roundup, consider an organic non-selective herbicide like Weed Warrior (Link to Sunday Lawns).

Chemical-free: The fall before planting, spread tarps or solid plastic film across your lawn and anchor them with stakes. You can also use layers of cardboard or other solid materials that will block the sun.

The grass and weeds will slowly die due to lack of sunlight, moisture, and airflow. You may need to wait until later in the year before you move on to step 2.

Step 2

Rake up and remove all dead plant material and rocks. In most cases, dead plant material is good for the soil. However, grasses and weeds can come back if you simply till them under.

It is best to remove as much plant material as possible before moving on to step 3.

Disposing of plant material: If you sprayed your lawn, it is best to take the dead plant material to a local yard waste dump. Residual chemicals can stick around in compost if you were to try to add them to your compost pile.

If you did not spray your lawn, you can compost the dead plant material.

However, you will want to make a new, separate compost pile and only use this compost in areas where you don’t mind some weed seeds or a few sprigs of old lawn grass coming back.

Step 3

Mark underground lines and till the soil. Be sure to mark gas lines, water lines, and electrical lines with spray paint or flags. Rent (or buy) a heavy-duty tiller. Set the tiller as deep as possible and till up the lawn. Till when the soil is moist; not dry and not muddy

You do not have to till the soil into dust. Just break up the soil into clods and try to get a nice, even, soft seedbed. Do not walk on prepared soil.

Step 4

Spread a 3”-6” layer of compost over the soil and till it in. This will provide a healthy foundation for your turf that improves water retention, drainage, nutrient content, and overall health.

Most future turf problems can be solved in the beginning by preparing a healthy foundation. Just be careful to not overwork the soil.

Your soil is now ready to plant.

Seed

Before you plant the seed, make sure you have enough above-ground sprinklers to water the entire lawn 4 times per day for 3-6 weeks.

If you have an irrigation system, you will need to schedule 4-5 sessions each day that are long enough to get the soil wet, but not so long that water begins to run off and wash away the seed.

Follow the directions on the back of your seed bag to determine how much seed to plant. Adding extra seed to an area will not help it fill in faster. It will only cause competition for resources, which will result in unnecessary seedling death.

Lightly rake seeds into the top ¼” of soil.

Water 4-5 times per day for the first 4 weeks, then gradually start reducing your irrigation schedule as the grass begins to thicken. If your seedlings are growing during the heat of summer, you may need to irrigate more often and for a longer period of time.

Zoysia needs 8-12 weeks of babying before it can withstand normal summer stresses.

If you mixed compost into the soil, your lawn will not need to be fertilized until the following year. Consider a natural lawn fertilizer if you have pets and children playing in the yard.

Mow the lawn when it is over 2” tall, and mow it at least once before dormancy. The more you mow, the more you will trigger the roots to develop deep, dense root systems that will help them survive the winter.

Sprigs

Sprigs are 4”-6” sections of rhizomes and stolons without a root system. Sprigging is similar to seeding, but it has a higher success rate.

You will need approximately 1 bushel of sprigs per 100 square feet of lawn area. Before planting, make sure you have an irrigation plan to maintain consistent moisture for at least 6 weeks.

Option 1: Spread and bury the sprigs by hand. Put sprigs in a wheelbarrow or bucket and walk across the lawn planting sprigs every 6”. Bury 2/3 of each sprig with a few inches of soil.

Option 2: Spread the sprigs across your lawn and till them in on a shallow setting.

Option 3: Rent a roller. Spread the sprigs across your lawn 6” apart, and press them into the soil with a roller. This option is best for sandy or loose soils, as it can cause compaction in clay.

Option 4: Let the sod company sprig your lawn. This is obviously the most expensive option.

Once your sprigs are planted, you need to water them immediately. Sprigs will go from green to brown in the first few weeks; this is normal. Just keep watering.

Water 4-5 times per day, like you would with seeds, and keep watering until you see active growth.

Back off to 2-3 times per day until the sprigs have filled in most of the lawn. If you back off too soon, weed seeds will germinate in the bare patches of soil. Consistent moisture will help produce weed-free coverage.

Plugs

Plugs are 2”-4” cores of sod with a root system, rhizomes, stolons, and leaves. This method of planting has a high success rate. You can use plugs to establish new lawns, or to fill in bare patches of an existing lawn.

Purchase Zoysia plugs from a reputable farm that ships plugs guaranteed to grow or replaced free (link to Zoysia Farms).

The closer you space plugs, the faster your lawn will fill in. You can use as many as 4 plugs per square foot or as few as 1 plug per square foot. However, the fewer plugs you use, the more likely weed seeds will take over the bare patches of your lawn before the zoysia fills in.

Plant plugs at the desired spacing across the lawn. Lightly tamp plugs into place, but do not stomp on them. Water immediately after planting, and continue to water 4-5 times per day for the first few weeks.

Once the plugs begin active growth, gradually back off on irrigation until the turf has filled in. Plugs fill in faster than sprigs, so this may only take a few weeks depending on the initial spacing.

Sod

zoysia sod

Sod is the best way to get a weed-free, full-coverage new zoysia lawn. It is also the most expensive way to establish a new lawn, but giving your lawn the best start possible can cut down on maintenance costs in the long run.

Spread sod over your lawn, making sure to cut away holes for your irrigation system and any access covers. Lightly tamp sod into the soil and water immediately.

Keep sod consistently moist for the first few weeks after planting. With sod, the soil doesn’t dry out like it would with seed, sprigs, or plugs, so you may only need to water 2-3 times per day, depending on the time of year.

Once the lawn begins active growth, slowly back off on irrigating until you are able to mow.

At this point, you should be able to resume a normal irrigation schedule, but keep a close eye on fresh sod and irrigate more often if necessary.

Maintaining an Established Zoysia Lawn

While zoysia is considered a low-maintenance lawn, it still needs routine care and attention if you want a lush, weed-free carpet.

You can let zoysia go without mowing for a few weeks at a time, allow it to go dormant during dry spells, and forego fertilizing and weed control.

Zoysia will tolerate poor growing conditions. However, this will result in a sub-par lawn that can create and compound problems.

Irrigation

Zoysia should get .5”-1” of water per week. If you live in a humid climate, you may only need to irrigate a few times during the summer. If you live in a dry climate, you will likely need to water once per week to prevent your lawn from going dormant.

Your lawn will not suffer from going dormant. It will green up as soon as you apply water. The only problem with summer dormancy is that it gives weeds and other grasses the opportunity to invade your sleeping turf. Preventing drought dormancy is one of the best ways to prevent weed infestations.

In some climates, you may need to irrigate occasionally over the winter during extended dry periods.

Mowing

Mow zoysia at ¾”-2”, depending on the cultivar. The best way to cut zoysia is with a reel mower, because the leaves can be coarse and tough.

Reel mowers are the easiest tools to use on low-growing grasses, because they cut blades of grass, while rotary mowers can tear and pull grass and damage the crowns. Reel mowers are the only way to cut extremely low lawns.

You can use a rotary mower on zoysia, but make sure the blades are sharp, and never cut off more than 1/3rd of the top growth to prevent shock.

Begin mowing in the spring as soon as the lawn is above 2”, and continue mowing until the lawn goes dormant for the winter.

Fertilizing

Zoysia can grow in poor soils with low fertility. However, for an attractive stand of healthy grass, you will need to fertilize during the summer to help encourage deep root growth and improve durability.

Fertilize with 1lb of nitrogen per year, split up into 2-3 applications over the spring and summer. Click here to read our review of a pet and child-safe natural lawn fertilizer.

Obtain a soil test (link to Amazon) each spring to test for other nutrients in your soil. Amend with specific fertilizers as needed.

If you topdress with compost each spring, you may not need to fertilize at all.

Below is quick and easy reference calendar for the essential maintence of zoysia. You can also download a copy for free if you’d like:

Zoysia fertilization and insect control calendar. Includes pre-emergents, post-emergents, mowing, irrigation, dethatching, and aeration schedules.

Pest & Disease Control

Healthy lawns have fewer pest and disease problems. Dethatch, aerate, and topdress in the spring to build up a healthy soil that fights off infections and infestations.

Mow weekly with sharp blades when the grass is dry. This will encourage deep, healthy root growth. Irrigate weekly early in the morning, and allow the turf to dry out before you water again. This will prevent stress from over and under watering.

If you have consistent pest problems, spray preventative pesticides each spring and fall, depending on the pest’s lifecycle. Most diseases are caused by microclimates in your lawn, so it’s best to treat these as they come.

Soil Improvement

Soil maintenance and improvement is the most overlooked factor in a healthy lawn. If you’re able to start from scratch and establish a new lawn, you can get a head start on soil improvement by mixing in a thick layer of compost to your topsoil.

If you already have an established zoysia lawn, you can build up your soil over time through consistent dethatching, aerating, and topdressing.

Dethatching

Zoysia is a dense turf, and with inconsistent mowing, it can build up a thick thatch layer. Thatch under 1/2” thick is healthy, and this can be maintained through frequent mowing with a reel mower. However, if you mow every 10-14 days, you’re more likely to leave long grass clippings that don’t break down as quickly.

Dethatch in the spring after the first mowing.

If the thatch layer is over ½” thick, rent a power rake at a hardware store and follow the directions to dethatch your lawn.

Irrigate your lawn thoroughly the day before power raking. Do not dethatch if your lawn is muddy.

Rake up and remove dead plant material.

Aerating

Aeration allows oxygen into the soil, which helps encourage root growth and water infiltration.

With zoysia, you want to rent a core aerator and put it on an aggressive setting. The more cores you remove from the lawn, the more compost you can rake in later. This helps to prevent compaction and improve water retention, which lowers your water and fertilizer bill.

Aerate the day after dethatching, when the soil is still bare and moist. Do not remove cores after aerating. Cores will break down and return nutrients to the soil.

See Does Lawn Aeration Really Work? Side By Side Comparison

Topdressing

After aerating, you can incorporate compost directly into the soil. Spread a ¼”-½” layer of compost over the lawn and rake it into the holes left by the aerator.

Compost is a soil conditioner, so it improves the soil along with adding nutrition. As you continue to build up the soil each year, you can cut back on fertilizing and rely on the compost to provide nutrition.

Irrigate after topdressing to help the lawn begin to recover from dethatching and aerating.

Climate and Soil Preferences

Zoysia can tolerate most soils and climates as long as the winters are not too cold. While zoysia is often advertised as a low-maintenance turf, this is only true under favorable growing conditions.

Zoysia prefers hot, dry summers, mild winters, and slightly acidic soils. As the climates become more humid, or the soils are more alkaline, zoysia becomes an increasingly more high-maintenance turf grass.

Soil

Zoysia is an average grass that prefers average soil.

Low Fertility/Sand

Soils that are low in nitrogen are usually loose, sandy soils that can’t retain water. Zoysia can handle low nitrogen, but it may lose its deep green color and appear more yellow.

The good thing about these soils is that you can incorporate aged manures and compost for fertility, and the loose texture will leave plenty of wiggle room for zoysia’s dense root system.

Nitrogen washes out of the soil easier than most other plant nutrients, so sandy soils are unable to hold on to synthetic fertilizers, even if they have a slow-release formula.

The best remedy for sandy, nitrogen-deficient soils is topdressing and leaving grass clippings on the lawn.

Zoysia that is suffering from low nitrogen will be more susceptible to pests, have a lighter color, and fill in slowly.

Average Fertility/Loam

Zoysia thrives in average soils. As a soil becomes more dense, it is able to hold on to more nutrients, especially nitrogen. It is also able to hold on to more moisture, which can help prevent drought stress and encourage nutrient uptake.

Average soils are crumbly without being sandy. They hold shape, but can’t be molded.

These soils are usually a balance of different soil textures with a reasonable amount of organic matter.

Average soils can support zoysia without much chemical intervention. Continue to aerate and topdress in the spring to build healthy soil, but resist fertilizing unless your soil test shows low nitrogen levels.

High Fertility/Clay

While it may seem like more is better in terms of soil fertility, large amounts of nutrients come at a cost with soil texture. Dense, clay soil can hold on to large amounts of nitrogen due to the fact that water cannot drain freely into the subsoil.

Clay soils either resist water or if they become saturated, they hold on to excess moisture for too long.

Clay can be so dense that nutrients are not able to move into the root zone of a plant. So, although the roots are surrounded by nitrogen, they are unable to absorb it, which essentially results in low fertility conditions.

See Best Fertilizer For A Clay Soil Lawn: Why Ingredients Matter

Clay soils must be aerated and topdressed for grass to be able to absorb nutrients; whether they are nutrients from compost or from synthetic fertilizers.

Quick-release fertilizers may result in a few weeks of sudden growth, but this only attracts pests and diseases without encouraging long-term results.

Zoysia is one of the recommended grass species for clay soils due to its ability to tolerate compacted soils and low fertility. Zoysia has a deep, strong root system that can penetrate compacted soils and withstand the drought stress that is a common side effect of clay soil.

However, compacted soil is never an ideal growing condition for grass.

Learn more about establishing zoysia in clay soil.

Temperature

Zoysia prefers hot summers and mild winters. Although zoysia is an aggressive grass that can heal from winter kill, this can slow down the turf’s ability to choke out weeds during the summer and repair high-traffic areas.

If your lawn does have significant winter kill, you can plug your lawn after it breaks dormancy to help fill in bare patches.

Consistent cold stress can attract pests and diseases to your lawn, so if you find yourself constantly repairing winter damage, it may be time to invest in a more cold-hardy lawn.

Sunlight/Humidity

Zoysia is one of the most shade-tolerant warm-season grasses, although tolerance does not mean preference.

Zoysia can tolerate light to moderate shade, depending on other factors like temperature and humidity.

Zoysia is able to handle shade better in hot, dry climates where fungus spores cannot spread easily.  Moist, shady environments, whether hot or cool, will result in diseases for zoysia lawns.

Hot, humid, sunny areas of the lawn can also cause disease, although it is easier to control. Always mow when the lawn is dry, and mow lawns in humid climates at a shorter height to encourage evaporation.

Common Pests and Diseases

Zoysia is able to resist most pests and diseases if it is maintained properly. Preventative insecticides will help keep grub populations under control, and most other pests are easy to identify and treat on an as-needed basis.

Almost all common lawn diseases are the result of abnormal weather conditions or unfavorable microclimates within your lawn. These can be fixed by changing your irrigation and mowing schedule, and spraying fungicides when diseases get out of hand.

Most pests and diseases can be controlled before they do much damage. Zoysia is an aggressive grower, so most lawns can fully recover after a full growing season.

Learn more about identifying and treating specific pest problems here.

Chinch Bugs

These are small black bugs that live in the soil and eat the roots and leaves of your grass. Chinch bugs are attracted to drought-stressed and nutrient-deficient lawns. They will cause large brown patches in your turf, starting at a border of the lawn and working deeper into the center.

The first step is to irrigate your lawn. This can help deter them from doing further damage.

Pull up a tuft of grass to inspect for chinch bugs. If you find them, spray at 2-week intervals with a selective insecticide. Most bugs should be gone by the third application.

For a chemical-free treatment, try spreading diatomaceous earth (link to Amazon) over the infested area. If the area continues to grow larger, you will have to use a chemical treatment.

Fertilize after you have treated for chinch bugs to encourage zoysia to fill in any bare spots.

Grubs

These are one of the most common and frustrating lawn pests. While zoysia can tolerate a few grubs per square foot, an infestation can kill large patches of turf before you notice too much damage.

Unlike chinch bugs, grubs are more common in well-irrigated lawns.

Grubs are the larvae of Japanese beetles, and they feed on grass roots from July-September before they morph into adults. Lawns infested with grubs will slowly thin out and lose vigor, even though they are well-irrigated.

Soon, the lawn will have dead patches of grass that pull up like a loose carpet.

Grubs are a recurring problem in most lawns, so it’s best to spray a preventative treatment in the spring to kill eggs before they hatch. If you can keep the grub population to a minimum, the aggressive nature of zoysia will allow it to outgrow the damage from remaining grubs.

If you have a large infestation, apply an insecticide at the rate and frequency directed by the pesticide manufacturer.

The pesticides used to treat grubs can be strong, so wear thick-soled shoes and gloves during application, and keep kids and pets off the lawn.

Hunting Billbugs

Damage from hunting billbugs looks like a hybrid between grub damage and drought damage. Billbugs feed on the crown and stolons of the grass, which are responsible for above-ground growth.

Billbugs are brownish beetles with an elongated snout. They are most active after sunset or before sunrise.

You will begin to notice billbug damage in early summer, when some patches of the lawn look like they never broke dormancy. If you can easily pull stolons and runners out of the ground, and they look dead and hollow, you have billbugs.

Spring and fall damage is usually caused by adults, while summer damage is caused by larvae. To control billbug populations, spray a preventative insecticide during the summer when eggs are hatching.

To control an existing billbug population, spray an insecticide that targets the adult beetles just after sunset, when they are most active.

Brown Patch

Brown patch is the most common fungal disease that affects zoysia lawns. This fungus is most prevalent during mid-summer, when temperatures are in the mid 80s and the mornings are still damp and humid.

Brown patch starts as a dark green, wet area of the lawn that slowly grows a small, yellow/orange ring around the perimeter, leaving dead grass at its center. Blades of grass in the center will easily pull off the crown.

The best way to prevent brown patch is to avoid overwatering, and to irrigate first thing in the morning, to give the leaves time to dry off and prevent splashing the fungus onto healthy patches of grass.

When you mow a lawn with brown patch, make sure you mow when the lawn is dry and bag the clippings. This will prevent spreading the fungus to the rest of the lawn.

Over-fertilization in the spring can contribute to brown patch. Topdressing with compost is a good way to provide slow-release nitrogen, and in most lawns, this can replace annual fertilization.

If brown patch is severe and corrected maintenance practices are not helping, spray a fungicide to kill off the remaining spores.

If brown patch is a problem each spring, you may need to spray a preventative fungicide to keep spores under control.

Leaf Spot

Unlike brown patch and rust, leaf spot is most common in dry lawns when the weather is hot during the day and cold at night. Leaf spot is difficult to identify without close inspection of an infected leaf.

Brownish gray lesions along the leaf blade indicate leaf spot, which is relatively harmless. However, if you do not change your maintenance practices at this point, leaf spot can melt out, which means the small lesions will grow and kill the blade.

Most turf diseases are caused by poor irrigation and mowing schedules. Irrigate once per week in the morning, to allow leaf blades to dry out before cooler nighttime temperatures.

Mow zoysia weekly to remove infected blades and to encourage deep root growth. Bag infected clippings and dispose of them. Mow in the afternoons when the blades are dry to prevent spreading the disease.

If you cannot control leaf spot by changing your maintenance practices, you may have to spray a fungicide. Most leaf spot infections will go away as soon as the nighttime temperatures warm up and the humidity drops. However, severe infections should be treated to prevent melting out.

Rust

Zoysia is one of the grasses that are most susceptible to rust. While rust is rarely a real danger to your lawn, it is unsightly and it can get out of hand in humid climates.

Rust looks like a rusty, powdery coating on a patch of grass. It is most common in cool, shady, moist areas of the lawn.

Rust spores are always present in a lawn, but they take 1-2 weeks to infect and damage a blade of grass. Lawns with adequate sunlight, irrigation, and fertilization will grow enough to be mowed weekly, which removes the spores before they can do any damage.

Grass in shady, moist areas of the lawn grow much slower, so rust spores are able to infect blades of grass and spread to neighboring patches of grass.

Let the area dry out, and mow to remove as much of the infected grass as possible. Bag the clippings, and dispose of them in plastic bags. Try pruning the surrounding landscape to allow sunlight into the area.

Irrigate less frequently, and make sure you are only watering in the mornings, to allow the blades time to dry out during the day. Mow consistently, and fertilize in the summer to encourage faster growth.

If these control methods do not resolve your rust problem, you can spray a fungicide on the affected areas.

Zoysia vs. Weeds

Zoysia is a dense grass, and under the right conditions, it can choke out most weeds and other grasses without too much chemical intervention.

However, poor soil, drought stress, winter kill, and high humidity can slow down zoysia’s aggressive growth, giving weeds a chance to invade bare patches of soil.

Some weeds can be controlled with preventative sprays, but other, invasive warm-season grasses are more difficult to remove.

The best way to prevent weed infestations is to follow a maintenance schedule that gives your lawn a healthy foundation with strong roots.

Crabgrass

Crabgrass spreads through rhizomes, stolons, and seeds; one plant can send out over 700 runners and produce over 150,000 seeds in a single growing season. Even if you remove all of the plants, seeds will lie dormant and germinate the following spring if you do not catch crabgrass early.

Short mowing heights generally keep crabgrass under control, because it never gets tall enough to go to seed.

Spray a preventative herbicide each spring to prevent weed seeds from germinating, and pull up any surviving plants before they go to seed. If some plants have already gone to seed, bag the grass clippings when you mow to prevent spreading the seeds across your lawn.

Learn more from our article Will Zoysia Choke Out Crabgrass?

Broadleaf Weeds

Broadleaf weeds are any weed that’s not a grass. While broadleaf weeds are unsightly, they are one of the easiest weeds to control because they have a different structure than grasses.

This means herbicide manufacturers can develop broad-spectrum weed killers that target broadleaf weeds but are harmless to your lawn.

Spray broadleaf herbicides in the spring as seeds begin germinating, and continue to spray as weeds show up in your lawn.

The best way to prevent broadleaf weeds is to encourage zoysia to fill in bare patches of soil through consistent maintenance and soil building. The thicker your stand of zoysia, the less space weeds have to germinate and take over.

Sunday Lawn Care offers a lawn-safe weed killer derived from iron. If you’d rather not use chemicals, check out Dandelion Doom (link to Sunday).

Competing Grasses

St. Augustine

St. Augustine is one of the least aggressive warm-season grasses. It can grow a dense, thick carpet, but it lacks the underground runners, rhizomes, that help these grasses choke out other plants.

Under most conditions, zoysia can out-compete St. Augustine without too much intervention. Dig up patches of invasive grass or spot spray during active growth.

For more information see St. Augustine vs. Zoysia: Which One Is Right For Your Lawn?

Centipede Grass

Centipede grass prefers more humid growing conditions than zoysia, so it can thrive in climates where zoysia suffers. This can give centipede grass an advantage if it creeps into your lawn, and it may take several rounds of sprays and manual removal before you gain control.

Centipede grass does not tolerate drought, so one of the best deterrents for centipede grass is to allow your lawn to go dormant during the summer. Centipede grass stays green longer during periods of drought, so you can spray it without harming the zoysia.

Learn more about zoysia vs. centipede grass.

Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass is the most difficult weed to remove from a zoysia lawn. Bermuda is an aggressive, low-growing grass that is nearly impossible to remove because it spreads through rhizomes, stolons, and seed.

Bermuda does not tolerate shade, so taller mowing heights may reduce the spread, but it’s not very effective. The best way to control Bermuda grass is to pick up and remove clippings and spray or dig up individual plants. Bermuda grass can be spread when mower blades chop up stolons and fling them across the lawn, so removing clippings can slow the spread.

Allow the lawn to go dormant in the summer so you can focus on spraying and removing Bermuda plants. Dig up and remove as much plant material as possible; Bermuda can regenerate from tiny root segments left in the soil.

Fescue

Fescue and zoysia don’t cross paths often, but when they do it’s not much of a fight. Fescue is a bunching grass while zoysia is a creeping grass, so zoysia is able to choke out fescue under most growing conditions.

The only lawns where fescue might become a real problem is in areas where the winters are on the verge of being too cold for zoysia. Fescue thrives with cold winters, and this combined with severe winter kill may give fescue a strong foothold in your zoysia lawn.

Spray fescue during the spring before zoysia comes out of dormancy.

To learn more read Will Zoysia Choke Out Fescue? The 2 Key Factors Explained

Conclusion

If zoysia is maintained properly, it can grow a thick, deep-green carpet that resists most pests, diseases, and weed infestations. This is the definition of a low-maintenance grass; it has few problems under normal growing conditions.

Recommended Reading:
Why Is My Zoysia Lawn Turning Brown?

Sydney Bosque

Sydney has over 15 years of experience in lawn maintenance, landscape design, and organic gardening. She has an A.A.S. in Landscape Design/Organic Produce Production from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

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