12 of the Best Drought-Resistant Grasses for a Greener Lawn

Those of you who intend to establish a lush, green lawn, for making a big difference in the appearance of your house, you do not have to lay down Kentucky bluegrasses unless you live in that part of the country where you get abundant rainfall. The hot and humid south, along with the arid west and southwest regions of America, presents a lot of challenges to grasses. Thus drought-tolerant grass species are required as they can survive long periods without water. In certain areas, such as San Antonio, water restrictions are imposed that requires builders to install drought-resistant grasses.

Cool-Season Drought-Resistant Grasses that can survive in the North and Midwest Regions

Many cool-season drought-resistant varieties of grass, without additional watering, can become dormant during dry summer months, while others can thrive on occasional rain.

1. Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea)

Tall Fescue Drought-Resistant Grass

Also known as fine fescue, this bunch-type drought grass is adaptable and highly traffic-tolerant, featuring a coarse texture. Since each tall fescue grows from one seed, you need to spread the seeds thickly on the lawn. It is one of the best choices for those living in the central part (transition zone) of the US.

Water Requirement: 1-1.25 inches of water per week, preferably not all at a time
Sunlight Requirement: About 4 hours of partial sunlight, shows incredible shade tolerance
Mowing Need: Frequent mowing (every 7-8 days) to a height of 2.5-3.5 inches
USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-7 

2. Buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides)

Best Drought-Resistant Buffalo Grass

Being thick, lush, and hardy, it is quite widespread in the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin). This grass species, known for making a bumpy surface, is slow to develop from seeds. Therefore, plugs should be purchased and planted roughly 5 inches apart.

Water Requirement: 0.25 inches of water each week during the dry summer months
Sunlight Requirement: 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day
Mowing Need: Cut the grass high at about 4-5 inches
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8 

3. Sheep Fescue (Festuca ovina)

Sheep Fescue Drought-Tolerant Grass

Another eye-catching drought-tolerant grass that grows in clusters, the sheep fescue or blue fescue offers more of a rough and bumpy surface, which is not suitable for backyard activities like playing, exploring, or relaxing in the outdoor. Typically used along steep slopes, roadsides, or waterways, its bunching form makes it suitable for pairing with wildflowers. It does not need much maintenance, fertilizing once every two years.

Water Requirement: Twice or less in a month, once established
Sunlight Requirement: Full sun, partial shade
Mowing Need: Infrequent mowing; cut back in winter before new growth starts in spring
USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8 

4. Wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium)

Most Drought-Tolerant Wheatgrass

The wheatgrass varieties, known for having good drought tolerance, are coarse, fine-leaved grasses with a dense, low-growing turf that is resistant to erosion. They grow rapidly and can be used in places where drought-resistant ground cover is needed, including spoil banks, roadsides, borrow pits, airport surfaces, and irrigation banks. Basic Care includes occasional use of a little fertilizer for keeping grass bugs and fruit flies away.

Water Requirement: Water lightly twice a day, using a lawn sprinkler or water sprayer
Sunlight Requirement: Grows well in direct sunlight, tolerates partial shade
Mowing Need: Cut down to a height of 3/4 inch for promoting continued growth
USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9 

Warm-Season Drought-Resistant Grasses that can survive in the South and Southwest Regions

Since the weather in the South and Southwest is quite hot, you need to choose a warm-season turf that can tolerate the heat during the summer months and live on little water. Some varieties are grown explicitly for their drought-resisting ability while others are bred for their disease resistance or color.

1. Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides)

Drought-Tolerant Centipede Grass

Lime-green or apple-green in color, the centipede grass is a slow-growing, low-maintenance variety. It can survive on sandy or acidic soil with limited nutrients. It remains green if the winter is mild, but sustains damage if the winter temperatures drop very low. Once they are established, apply a little amount of fertilizer in spring and late summer.

Water Requirement: If the lawn appears dry during the summer months, water the soil to a depth of 1 inch the next morning
Sunlight Requirement: Excels in partial shade or full sun
Mowing Need: Occasionally cut them to maintain a height of 1.5-2 inches
USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9 

2. Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon)

Drought-Tolerant Bermuda grass

Also known as scutch grass, wiregrass, Bahama grass, dubo, and couch grass, the Bermuda grass is an excellent traffic-tolerant species that thrive under full sun. It is more sensitive to cold than some of the other warm-season grasses, such as Zoysia grass, and typically over seeded with ryegrass to retain green color in the winter. Some drought-resistant cultivars of Bermuda grass include GN1, Celebration, Grimes EXP, Tifway 419, TifSport, and common Bermuda.

Water Requirement: Water the yard to a depth of about 1 inch when the turf starts to dry, appearing bluish
Sunlight Requirement: A minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight
Mowing Need: Cut down to a height of about 1 inch in the winter and around 1-2 inches during summer months
USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-10 

3. Lawngrass (Zoysia)

Zoysia Drought Grass

Popular across Asia, Australia, and several islands in the Pacific, this group of creeping grasses is well-tolerant of both sun and shade. While its growth rate is slower than Bermuda grass, it provides a lush, green turf with excellent foot-traffic tolerance. Its drought-resisting ability differs depending on the cultivars, which include Jamur, Empire, Palisades, and El Toro. You can apply fertilizers containing nitrogen during winter provided that your lawn is in the coastal region, and no frost is forecasted.

Water Requirement: Grows well on about one inch of water each week
Sunlight Requirement: Full sun, partial shade
Mowing Need: Cut the grasses down to a height of 1-1.5 inches during winter and about 1.5-2.5 inches during the summer months
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-10 

4. St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)

Drought-Tolerant St Augustine Grass

One of the most popular drought-resistant varieties for lawns and gardens in Florida and along the Gulf coast, the St Augustine grass is medium-green in color with a coarse texture, and tolerates moderate foot-traffic. Although it retains its color in winter, it is likely to be affected by fungal diseases if overwatered. Some of its cultivars with the best drought-resisting ability are Floratam, Palmetto, Seville, Texas Common, and Raleigh.

Water Requirement: Wet the soil to about 6 inches, especially when the weather is very dry and warm
Sunlight Requirement: Adaptable to partial shade/full sun, needs 6-8 hours of direct sunlight
Mowing Need: Cut the grass by setting the mowing height at 2.5-3 inches
USDA Hardiness Zone: 9 

Drought-Tolerant Ornamental Grasses

For lawns and gardens located in drought-prone areas, the ornamental grasses are excellent choices for landscape designing. These grass varieties, known for being easy on the eyes, are also easy to maintain.

1. Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)

Drought-Tolerant Maiden Grass

Known for its hardiness, it grows to a height of 4-6 feet comprising green leaf blades and bearing coppery-red plumes in fall. While it grows well in well-drained soil, divide the grass every 2-3 years to manage the clumps.

Water Requirement: Water occasionally, more often in extreme heat
Sunlight Requirement: Excels in full sun
Mowing Need: Trim the foliage to ground level during late winter/early spring to create enough space for the new shoots to develop
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9 

2. Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

Drought-Resistant Ornamental Pampas Grass

It is a quick-growing, tall ornamental grass that can reach a maximum height of about 8 ft, preferring well-drained soil and partial shade. It has green grass blades that consist of bunches of pink and white flowers blooming in late summer.

Water Requirement: Once established, water the grasses during arid and hot conditions
Sunlight Requirement: Full sun
Mowing Need: Prune the foliage during late winter/early spring each year
USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-12 

3. Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’)

Drought-Tolerant Ornamental Zebra Grass

Distinguished by light yellow bands across thin, arching leaves, the zebra grass produces silky spikes in late summer or early fall. It is a moderately tall grass, growing up to 4-6 feet and excels in full sun or partial shade. It is a hardy grass variety that can withstand cold temperatures up to -23 °C.

Water Requirement: Twice or thrice every week during the initial growing season
Sunlight Requirement: Tolerates full sun and partial shade
Mowing Need: Cut out damaged foliage as they occur and prune the inflorescences in fall/spring
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9 

4. Oriental Fountain Grass (Pennisetum orientale)

Drought-Resistant Oriental Fountain Grass

The oriental fountain grass, forming rounded clusters of green blades, grows to a height of roughly 2-3 feet and produces white wheat-like flowers. It thrives in moist soil and can tolerate temperatures as low as -10 °C. Dividing the grass in early spring is recommended to manage the widening of the root mass.

Water Requirement: Regular watering needed only during drought
Sunlight Requirement: Grows well under direct sunlight, tolerates partial shade
Mowing Need: Prune old foliage to ground level in late winter
USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-10 

Thus, the grasses listed above are some of the hardiest and most drought-resistant varieties that will help keep your lawn green and lush even during low-rainfall periods. Go ahead and enjoy low-water landscaping.

by | Updated : December 13, 2019

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