Lebanon Reporter


March 7, 2006

Beware of zoysia grass, other Sunday supplement ads

March is here. This month not only brings March madness but also the miracle plant advertisements in the Sunday supplements promise unbelievable yields or fantastic blooms all summer and trees that grow as tall as a house in one growing season.

Ads proclaim the wonders of zoysia grass (Zoysia matrella) for solving lawn problems. They claim that zoysia will spread rapidly, choking out weeds and existing weak, thin grasses. They say that since zoysia tolerates heat and drought, it’s the ideal low-maintenance grass. The reality is not in Indiana, it’s not.

Zoysia grass tolerates heat and drought, but it does not tolerate cool temperatures. It’s a coarse, wiry, “warm season grass,” meaning zoysia grows best in warm weather. It survives our winters, but is very slow to green up each spring, and it turns brown at the slightest hint of frost in autumn.

At the same time, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrasses, and fine fescues — all of which are better adapted to Indiana’s growing conditions — turn green early in spring and stay green until late in the fall. Zoysia plugs will stand out in cool weather; they’ll look brown and dead.

In this climate, zoysia is slow spreading; it grows more aggressively further south. Usually people end up with patches of zoysia wherever they plant a zoysia plug, resulting in a lawn with a patchwork quilt appearance years after the zoysia was put in. The zoysia is also stiff and coarse; unpleasant to walk on barefoot.

The common question from homeowners is, “What is this strange grass, and how do we get rid of it, since it looks so bad?” The answer? Glyphosate applied directly to the green, growing zoysia. (Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.) The best answer, of course, is not to plant zoysia in the first place. Zoysia is simply a poor choice for Indiana lawns.

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