Zoysia is one of the most popular alternative lawn grasses to the common Bermuda grass and Kentucky blue grass. Native to southeast Asia, China, and Japan, it grows very well across most of the southern one half to two thirds of the United States.
Benefits of Zoysia
Zoysia is a heat and drought tolerant warm season grass, which means that it greens up a little later in spring, but remains lush and green throughout the hottest months of summer with minimal watering and care. Zoysia has an extremely deep root system - up to 2 feet when established - that allows it to survive all but the hottest and driest of summers with little or no water. Studies have found that in most areas, zoysia requires 80% less watering than more common turf grasses.
Zoysia is also cold tolerant. In fact, popular cultivars are known to survive temperatures ranging from 120 to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Zoysia is relatively slow growing, and requires two to four times less mowing than more common turf grasses.
Zoysia is extremely tolerant of wear, making it a great choice for high traffic areas.
Zoysia forms a dense, aggressive sod, making it difficult for weeds to become established. This also makes it a good choice to control erosion on hillsides.
Zoysia tolerates a range of soil conditions, including clay, sandy, and salty conditions.
Zoysia is resistant to most insect pests and diseases.
In the South, zoysia is relatively shade tolerant. In cooler climates, it prefers full sun.
Disadvantages of Zoysia
The primary disadvantage of zoysia is the difficulty of establishing it from seed. Most zoysia lawns must be started from more expensive sod or plugs.
Some cultivars are prone to thatch.
Some people also object to the later greening up of zoysia in the spring. After going dormant at the first killing frost, like most other turf grasses, zoysia remains dormant until the weather is consistently about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, later than popular cool season grasses.
Note: Because zoysia is aggressive, there is a good chance it will spread to your neighbors' lawn, so if your neighbors object to lawns that green up slowly in spring, you may want to reconsider planting zoysia, even if you don't mind it. Alternately, you could email them the link to this article and try to persuade them to reconsider!
Personally, I feel that the benefits of hardiness, lower water bills, and less time pushing a noisy, smelly lawnmower more than outweigh the disadvantages in areas where zoysia grows. (Sorry, Minnesotans!)