How to Know What Type of Grass You Have

Identifying Different Types of Grass on Your Lawn 

If you want to have a great lawn, you need to know what type of grass you have. After all, things like water use, fertilization, mowing height and frequency, as well as weed and pest control treatments may be dependent upon what type of grass is growing on your lawn. If you incorrectly identify your grass, you could inadvertently end up using the wrong type of treatment.

So how can you identify what type of grass you have? Here are some tips from our lawn experts:

Understand your local climate

While chances are that your grass was planted there at some point, and may not be a native species, it is also true that grasses generally are connected to the local climate, and the area you live in.

There are two main types of grass: cool-season grass, and warm-season grass. According to the United States National Arboretum

  • Cool-season grasses grow best in cool-seasons, as per the name, and grow best when the temperatures are between 65 and 75 degrees.
  • Warm-season grasses do best when the temperatures are between 80 and 95 degrees.

However, the United States is a little more complicated than that, and breaks out even further into additional zones and grass types in the continental U.S.:

1. Cool humid zone
– includes northeastern part of the U.S., northern Midwest, and Pacific Northwest:

  • Bentgrass
  • Bluegrass
  • Fescues
  • Ryegrasses

2. Cool arid zone
– includes drier, more western areas of the Midwest, and most of the western states:

  • Buffalograss
  • Canada bluegrass
  • Wheatgrass

3. Warm humid zone
– includes southeastern parts of the U.S.:

  • Bahiagrass
  • Bermudagrass
  • St. Augustinegrass
  • Zoysiagrass

4. Warm arid zone
– includes southwestern parts of the U.S.:

  • Bermudagrass
  • Buffalograss

The transition zone includes eastern central and mid-central parts of the U.S., and it is arguably the toughest area to grow grass in. The USNA says that no single species of grass is “well adapted for this region,” but any of the above-referenced grasses may be growing there.

Generally speaking, looking at the popular grasses for a particular area can narrow down the question of what grass it is. Here are some other things to consider:

Look at the youngest grass leaves

The easiest way to determine a particular type of grass is to look at the youngest leaves of grass, which have not yet expanded, and which come from the center of the shoot. The arrangement of these new leaves is called vernation, and will either be rolled or folded in the bud.  This will help you narrow down what kind of grass you have.  For example, Kentucky bluegrass is rolled, while ryegrass is folded.

Look at how the grass grows

The way grass grows – whether it grows bunched together or creeping apart – is also a defining characteristic. Does the grass grow closely together, or does it spread out? Grasses that bunch together include fescues, while those that creep out include centipedegrass.  Some grasses creep out, but also have what are called rhizomes – underground stems that help spread the grass’ growth and fill in blank spots. These types of grasses include Bahiagrass. Some grasses, like Zoysiagrass, can be a combination of these growth styles.

Look at the whole grass plant itself

There are several separate parts to look for here:

  • The crown: Comes up from the roots; is at the bottom of the grass.
  • The sheath:  This comes up from the crown, and connected to the blade. This can be split or fused.
  • The blade: This is commonly the part we think of as being grass; the most visible part. The style and number of veins can indicate what type of grass it is. Can be smooth, ridged, or hairy.
  • The ligule: This is where the sheath and blade join; it has membrane or hairs that project upward. Can be membraneous, hairy, or absent.
  • The collar: This is on the backside of where the sheath and blade meet. It can be continuous, constricted, or divided.
  • The auricles: If they exist, they are near the ligule, by the collar. They can be long and clasping, short and stubby, or absent.
  • The leaf tip: This is at the top of the blade of grass. It can end in a flat point, rounded, or a keeled (boat-shaped) one.
  • Seedhead: This is the flowering portion of a young shoot. It can be spike, panicle, or raceme.

Talk to a lawn care professional

Since some lawns may have a mixture of grass types, or you may be unsure of which type of grass you have, the best way to find out for sure is to talk to a lawn care professional, like the folks at Lawn Doctor. They will able not only to explain which type of grass you have , but come up with the right method of treatment to  ensure it looks beautiful and stays healthy.