Following is a short thumbnail sketch of the characteristics for each of the common commercial species of available turfgrasses. Once you have decided on the species of turf that is right for you, then you will need to choose the variety. Each species of turfgrass has numerous varieties available. Failure to choose appropriately can cause long term problems.
A hard-wearing, coarse-textured grass with soft leaves. This species of turfgrass is commonly found along roadsides and within older parks. The species has excellent rhizomes which provide great wear tolerance and is near impossible to divot the turfgrass once firmly established. However, this benefit is soon lost as the species requires frequent mowing during summer to remove numerous seed heads and keep the vertical growth under control. Bahia grass shows poor shade tolerance.
Blue couch is also a popular choice with Queensland homeowners. It is well adapted to acid sandy soils, and will tolerate low fertility but at the same time respond to added fertiliser. Like green couch, it is a medium textured turf best suited to being mown short, but is more forgiving of the irregular mowing habits followed by many homeowners. Blue couch does not produce underground rhizomes, and so is less invasive of garden beds than green couch. It has good drought tolerance and reasonable wear tolerance, but is not shade tolerant.
Broadleaf carpet grass
Broadleaf carpet grass is a very coarse textured (broad leaved) species that can take over moist, shaded parts of the yard, forming a dense dark-green sward. For this reason, it is often regarded as a weed in southern Queensland, but most north Queenslanders regard it as a valuable turfgrass. Even after a couple of weeks of rain and excessive growth, broadleaf carpet grass can be mown easily and without scalping damage. It is also well adapted to acid soils.
Buffalo grass is now the main grass marketed into shaded areas and these day’s residential lawns in general through the power of advertising. It is coarse textured and needs to be mown higher than the couches for best results. It has reasonable drought and wear tolerance, but shows poor tolerance of some commonly used herbicides for broadleaf weed control. Buffalo grass requires less fertiliser than green couch to maintain a lawn in good condition.
Centipede grass is a bright green, coarse textured grass that forms a dense stolon mat and requires less frequent mowing that the other grasses discussed. It is a ‘low maintenance’ grass that tolerates acid soils, low fertility and drought, but not shade. Its greatest disadvantage in southern states is its strong dormancy during winter, at which time it virtually ceases growing and can turn brown.
Green couch is the most popular choice for homeowners. It forms an attractive, medium to fine textured, dense turf that can be mown short, but requires regular mowing and some fertiliser application to keep it looking good. Green couch has good drought and wear tolerance, but except for a couple of varieties does not tolerate shade. Its below ground rhizomes help to stabilise the soil, but will invade adjacent garden beds if not controlled.
Hybrid green couch
Cynodon dactylon x C. transvaalensis
There are two forms of Cynodon hybrid green couch available to consumers. This includes a greens quality turfgrass (dwarf or ultradwarf varieties) which is used on bowling and golf greens and a fine or fine- to medium-textured turfgrass that is suitable for sportsfields, golf course fairways, parks and residential lawns.
Kikuyu grass is a vigorous coarse textured grass for the subtropics, particularly in highland areas or along the coast which have a moderating influence on summer temperatures. For best results, it requires good soil fertility and moisture, but at the same time shows good drought tolerance because of its deep rooting rhizomatous habit. Kikuyu tolerates wear and usually recovers rapidly. Its shade tolerance, however, is poor.
Narrowleaf carpet grass
Narrowleaf carpet grass is considered a coarse-textured species. It is more drought tolerant and better suited to drier shallower soils than broadleaf carpet grass, and is typically the dominant species in low soil fertility turfed areas. It can also be found growing quiet happily growing within moist, well-watered soil, but not water-logged conditions. Narrowleaf carpet grass as a managed turfgrass, forms a moderately dense sward of medium quality turf with a generally shallow root system.
Seashore paspalum is a turfgrass suitable for salt affected sites where other turfgrasses struggle badly or die, and will grow across a wide range of soil pH from very acid to alkaline. Like the couches, it is a medium textured turf best suited to short mowing heights. Seashore paspalum has moderate shade and wear tolerance. It survives at low fertility, but responds well to added fertiliser which also helps to supress incidence of disease.
Sweet smothergrass is a coarse textured grass that grows well in shaded areas. It has long stolon internodes and must be mown high to avoid thinning out the turf sward. It has excellent shade tolerance, but should not be planted in areas subject to moderate or heavy wear.
Zoysia matrella, japonica, macrantha, tenuifolia and hybrids
Zoysia grass is a slow growing, dense, stiff turf. It is less drought tolerant but more shade tolerant than green or blue couch. Zoysia forms a medium to coarse textured turf and is notable for its extremely high wear resistance, though very slow to recover if damaged. Like green couch, it produces underground rhizomes that will invade adjacent garden beds if not controlled. Vegetatively propagated cultivars maintain good colour during winter, unlike the seeded types which are highly winter dormant and turn brown even where there is no frost.
A fine-textured turfgrass that produces a dense sward under management. Brown-top has a creeping habit and can spread by underground rhizomes. Brown-top is usually mid- to grey-green in colour and is suited for golf courses and residential areas. The species has a high water and fertilizer requirement.
A fine-textured turfgrass that forms a dense turfgrass under close frequent mowing (golf and bowls greens). The species can also be used in circumstances where up to 30 mm height of cut is desirable. Creeping bentgrass prefers friable soils and has a high maintenance and watering requirement. Creeping bentgrass has a tendency to suffer from summer decline, or commonly referred to summer bentgrass decline complex.
Creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra), Chewing’s fescues (Festuca rubra var. commutata) and Hard fescue (Festuca ovina var. duriuscula).
Very fine-textured grasses. Relatively low mowing requirement. Low user of water.
A vigorous rhizomatous grass, frequently used in mixtures with perennial ryegrass and tall fescue. Poor shade and drought tolerance and is slow to establish by seed. The species of turf is hard wearing but requires regular watering to maintain its attractive appearance and density.
A hard wearing fine leaved grass often used for oversowing of green couch in sports fields, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescues and bentgrass. Fast growing and requires frequent mowing and management. Has a high water and fertilizer requirement. Very poor drought tolerance and does not handle heat and humidity well. Both annual and perennial ryegrass varieties are now available.
Tall Fescue has a variable texture - old varieties are quiet coarse, while new varieties are medium- to fine-textured. Tall Fescue has a moderate to low density and the species possesses a deep root system.