Zoysia – Varieties
Several species and/or cultivars of zoysiagrasses are available in Georgia. Most are adapted to the entire state and form an excellent turf when properly established and managed. For the best appearance, most zoysias require cutting with a reel mower, periodic dethatching, and more frequent irrigation than other warm-season turfgrasses.
The zoysias form a dense, attractive turf in full sun and partial shade, but may thin out in dense shade. Most zoysias grow very slowly when compared to other grasses. They usually are established by sodding, plugging, or sprigging. Two-inch diameter plugs planted on 6-inch centers, can cover completely in 12 months if irrigated and fertilized properly.
Zoysia japonica is sometimes called Japanese or Korean lawngrass. It has a coarse leaf texture and excellent cold tolerance. It can be seeded, but vegetative planting is preferred because seed germination is erratic and slow.
Meyer zoysia, also called “Z-52,” is an improved selection of Zoysia japonica. It has medium leaf texture, good cold tolerance, and spreads more rapidly than the other zoysiagrasses. This is the zoysia often advertised as the “super” grass in newspapers and magazines. These advertising claims are true in part, but do not tell the entire story.
Zoysia matrella, also named Manilagrass, is less cold tolerant than Zoysia japonica or Meyer but more so than Emerald. It also has a finer leaf texture than Zoysia japonica and Meyer, but is coarser than Emerald.
Emerald zoysia is a hybrid between Zoysia japonica and Zoysia tenuifolia that was developed in Beltsville, MD. It has a dark green color, a very fine leaf texture, good shade tolerance, high shoot density, and a low growth habit. Emerald will develop excess thatch rather quickly if over fertilized and its cold tolerance makes it more susceptible to winter injury from the Atlanta area and north. After this grass has been mowed, new growth originates largely from the base of the plant, rather than from the branches, thereby leaving very few exposed brown stems.
Emerald zoysia is moderately winter-hardy and fairly shade tolerant, but it grows more slowly when planted in a shady yard. Because of its thick growth, it is difficult to overseed.
‘El Toro’ is a relatively new zoysia that was developed in California. It is more coarse than ‘Meyer’. ‘El Toro’ is a fast-growing zoysia, tolerates mowing with a rotary mower, and produces less thatch than ‘Meyer’
The zoysiagrasses are (1) slow to cover completely, thus more costly to establish; (2) less drought-tolerant than Common bermudagrass; and (3) recommended for lawn use only when the homeowner is willing to provide the required maintenance.
‘Zenith’ and ‘Companion’ zoysiagrasses can be established from seed. They grow rapidly, with a dense growth habit, and tolerates light shade.
Here’s an excellent guide to zoysia varieties