Zoysia grasses (Zoysia spp.) were introduced into the United States from Asia and provide attractive turf throughout much of the United States. In recent years, dramatic improvements in zoysiagrass have been made by turf grass breeders. These improvements include insect resistance, accelerated establishment, and overall performance. Zoysia grasses are adapted to a variety of soil types and have good tolerance to shade, salt, and traffic. They provide an extremely dense sod that resists weed invasion, but certain pests can be problematic.
Zoysia grass maintenance is different from that of other Florida lawn grasses. When improper maintenance practices are followed, undesirable results are likely to occur.
Species and Cultivars
Several species and varieties of zoysia grass are used for residential and commercial landscapes, athletic fields, and golf course tees, fairways, and roughs. They vary widely in leaf color, texture, and establishment rate.
Proper lawn maintenance practices are the best means for avoiding pest problems and maintaining a healthy lawn. Zoysia grass requires inputs of fertilizer to maintain good cover and healthy growth characteristics. During certain times of the year, it may require supplemental irrigation, especially during periods of extended drought, to remain green. Pesticides may be needed periodically, but their use can be minimized if other cultural practices (mowing, irrigation, fertilization) are done correctly.
This species was introduced into the United States in 1895 and is commonly called Japanese or Korean lawn grass. Cultivars from this species are generally coarse-textured grass with hairy, light green leaves. Of all the zoysia grasses, this species has a faster growth rate and exhibits excellent cold tolerance. Zoysia japonica is the only zoysia grass for which seed is commercially available; however, the seeded varieties generally do not produce as high-quality turf as do the vegetatively propagated (sodded or plugged) varieties. They can be used for lawns or general turf areas where convenience of establishment by seed is more important than quality.
Also called Manila grass, this species was introduced into the United States in 1912 from Manila. It produces a finer and denser turf than Zoysia japonica, but is less winter hardy and slower growing. Manila grass resembles bermuda grass in texture, color, and quality and is recommended for a high-quality, high-maintenance turf where a slow rate of establishment is not a disadvantage.
Also called Mascarene grass or Korean velvet grass, this species is the finest-textured and densest zoysia grass available. It has good wear tolerance but poor cold tolerance and is only adapted to the central and southern areas of the state. It also produces an excessive thatch, giving it a puffy appearance. This species is often used for low-growing, ornamental specimen plants, especially in Asian-themed gardens.
Although information is available on the Internet about a number of zoysia grass varieties, at the present time only a few are commercially available in Florida. Based on research information and anecdotal observations, following is a summary of what to expect:
De Anza is a medium- to small-leaf zoysia grass patented by the University of California in 1995. It has good shade and drought properties and retains color longer than most zoysia grasses during the fall. 'De Anza' ranked favorably in the National Turf grass Evaluation Program (NTEP)
Diamond is an improved Zoysia matrella that is vegetatively propagated. It was released from Texas A&M University in 1996. 'Diamond' is distinguished from other zoysia grasses by its fine texture and excellent salt and shade tolerance. It performs best when mowed at a height of ½ inch or less. In fact, 'Diamond' has been planted on several experimental golf greens mowed at ¼ inch or lower. Like other zoysia grasses, it has poor cold tolerance, which may limit its use in northern parts of the state, and it is highly susceptible to tropical sod web worms.
El Toro is an improved Zoysia japonica released in 1986 from California. It has a faster establishment rate, improved cool-season color, better cold tolerance, and less thatch buildup than 'Meyer' zoysia grass. 'El Toro' is also reported to have early spring green-up, more shade tolerance, and improved resistance to rust disease. 'El Toro' performed well in the NTEP trials conducted in Gainesville, Florida, and the greater Pensacola, Florida, area from 1997–2000
Emerald zoysia grass is a selected hybrid between Zoysia japonica and Zoysia tenuifolia developed in Tifton, Georgia, and released in 1955. This hybrid combines the winter hardiness, color, and faster growth rate of one parent with the fine texture and density of the other parent. 'Emerald' resembles Manila grass in color, texture, and density, but is faster spreading and has a wider adaptation. 'Emerald' zoysia grass is highly recommended for top-quality lawns where time and money allow for adequate maintenance. 'Emerald' produces an excessive thatch layer and is susceptible to dollar and leaf spot. Large (brown) patch disease also can occur.
Empire is a cultivar that is gaining popularity in Florida. It is similar in texture to 'El Toro' and has a very dense growth habit. It maintains a nice green color and, compared to other new zoysia grass cultivars, it has a moderate rate of establishment. 'Empire' has performed well in sandy and clay soil types with aggressive growth from its stolons and rhizomes, but it can be mowed with a standard rotary mower due to its broader leaf and open growth habit. It does not do as well in shade as other zoysia grass cultivars. 'Empire' is being planted in numerous communities in Florida and seems to do well in many areas throughout the state; however, it is susceptible to large (brown) patch disease.
JaMur is a medium coarse-textured cultivar that has performed well in many areas and is now produced in limited quantities in Florida. It has a very attractive color and does well in moderate shade. 'JaMur' has an excellent rate of establishment, performs well at normal home lawn mowing heights, and can easily be mown with a rotary mower. It is susceptible to large (brown) patch disease.
Meyer (Z-52, Amazoy®) has been in use since the 1950s and is often seen in ads as the "miracle grass." It is very slow to establish, and Hunting bill bugs and nematodes pose serious problems with 'Meyer', limiting its use in Florida. 'Meyer' zoysia grass performed very poorly at the Florida locations of the NTEP trial conducted from 1997–2000, and its use in Florida is discouraged.
Pristine Flora™ is a Zoysia matrella cultivar released by the University of Florida. It is recommended for use in high-maintenance situations, including high-end home lawns. This variety is fine textured, extremely dense, and has a dark green color. 'Pristine Flora™' does not produce seed heads as prolifically as other fine-textured cultivars, such as 'Emerald' or 'Diamond'. 'Pristine Flora™' is similar in appearance and maintenance to 'Diamond'; however, it has a much faster rate of growth and recovers more quickly from scalp damage.
Ultimate Flora™ is a Zoysia japonica developed by the University of Florida. It has a similar leaf texture and upright growth habit to 'Meyer', but it has a faster rate of spread and better adaptability for use in Florida. This cultivar is used for home lawns and was selected for the lawn at the Birmingham Home & Garden Inspiration Home in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, and at the 2006 New Southern Home in St. Cloud, Florida.
Zeon is a fine-textured Zoysia matrella that has performed well in Florida, though its availability is limited in the state.
Zenith zoysia grass is one of the few commercially available seeded varieties. Generally, the seeded cultivars do not perform as well as the vegetative cultivars. 'Zenith' zoysia grass is dark green and medium textured.
Zorro is a fine-textured Zoysia matrella released by Texas A&M University. 'Zorro' establishes well, has good shade tolerance, and is easier to mow than some fine-textured cultivars. This turf performed moderately well in Florida in the 1997–2000 NTEP trial
This document is ENH11, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date October 2000. Revised June 2011 and May 2013. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
J. Bryan Unruh, associate center director and professor, West Florida Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Jay, FL 32565; L. E. Trenholm, professor, turfgrass specialist, Department of Environmental Horticulture, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611; and J. L. Cisar, professor, turfgrass specialist, Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314.