Nothing is more rewarding to sit on your porch and enjoy the serenity of your freshly mowed yard. However, growing a healthy lawn can be challenging. To start things off correctly, you will need to know which are the best grass seeds for your specific climate and what type of grass you need to look for. Whether you want to get a mix of perennial ryegrass and fescue or some bermudagrass mix, here you will find all of your answers!
In this guide, we will go through some of the top grass seed mixes for this year, compare them to each other, and see what their pros and cons are. Further down, we will discuss the various seed types out there and what you need to look for in a pack of grass seeds for them to be the perfect fit for your lawn!
Table of Contents
Best Overall – Scotts Turf Builder Perennial Ryegrass Mix
When it comes to grass seed mixes, Scotts Turf Builder is one of the best, if not the best options you have on the market right now. The brand’s quality is second to none and their prices are surprisingly affordable. While Scotts offer plenty of seed mix types, the Perennial Ryegrass Mix is one of the best all-rounders all out there. It comes in a 7-pound package enough to cover nearly 3000 square feet and is also one of the cheaper packs from the brand.
One of the things that make Scotts grass seeds better is the technology behind them. The seed is wrapped in 4 coating layers including a layer that protects against diseases, one that keeps moisture inside the seed for longer periods, and a top layer that jumpstarts the whole germination process. All that ensures that these seeds germinate faster and are more stable throughout the year. Perennial ryegrass in its own is a generally tough grass species that grows with average speed and doesn’t require a ton of maintenance. It is also a cool-season type, so this mix is slightly geared towards northern states. The ryegrass mix also grows under partial shade but it still needs its few hours of sunlight every day, just like most other ryegrass mixes out there.
One of the disadvantages of this mix is that it doesn’t tolerate droughts well, although it does grow well on full-sun areas. It is also good to stabilize the soil in erosion-prone areas and works great on high-traffic lawns. The texture it creates is fine-bladed and it reaches its potential within a month or two, depending on the climate. You can also use this mix for reseeding or patching up empty areas, although the brand offers special mixes for that purpose as well. If this 7-pound package is too big for you, there is a 3-pound option that is honestly a far worse bang for your buck. As a whole, if you’re looking for a good all-rounder that will be easy to grow and maintain, that is it!
- Great value for your money
- Grows relatively fast
- Multi-coated seeds
- Great for erosion control
- Tolerates high-traffic lawns
- Can grow on full-sun lawns and partial shade
- Good for northern states
- Fine-bladed texture
- Low drought resistance
- Not ideal for southern states
- Some packages won’t germinate
Best Warm-Season – WaterSaver Grass Mixture
Warm-season grass species prefer to be planted in the Spring so that they can take full advantage of the warmer year. They do, however, turn yellow earlier than cool-season grass types but are more resilient under the sun and often require less water. The WaterSaver Grass Mixture is one of the best warm-season options right now and it comes at a bargain price. One of the standout features of this mix is that it is low-maintenance. It also doesn’t require as much watering and mowing as some other southern grass mixtures. The tradeoff for all that is that it isn’t really suitable to grow in the southern-most US states. Rather, it is great for the transition climate zone and the northern states.
This mixture is also known for its durable root system that stretches wider and deeper than others. This allows it to self-repair quite well. It also prevents weeds from growing on your lawn. Thanks to the predominant fescue seed mix here, the lawn will have a fine yet thick texture to it. Another thing these seeds excel at is disease resistance. Not only does that limit the number of diseases you will have to deal with but it also increases the grass’s drought tolerance a bit.
On the downside, this 5-pound package is only good for around 800-1000 square feet which is a smaller yield than some other 5-pound options out there. For instance, some perennial ryegrass seed mixes cover more than 2000 square feet of territory with 5 pounds worth of seeds. It also doesn’t deal with high-traffic lawns. That being said, its price-to-value ratio isn’t stellar. Still, if you’re looking for a durable mix of seeds that will produce a lush green lawn that is also durable and resilient, this is a great option.
- Creates a thick lawn
- Resistant to diseases
- Ideal for northern states
- Grows under shade and full-sun
- Creates a strong root system
- Beautiful and consistent green color
- Bad price-to-value ratio
- Not ideal for southern states
- Takes a while to fully grow
Best for Full Sun – Scotts Turf Builder Heat-Tolerant Blue Mix
There are quite a lot of full-sun mixes out there that are all great for southern states and dry and hot climates. However, few are the brands that can make a lawn as resilient to heat as Scotts. Their tall fescue blue mix is their heat and drought-tolerant package that is meant to grow strong even in the hottest regions of the country. It comes at a bargain price, on par with all other full-sun packages from other brands and the fescue mix actually doesn’t mind growing under partial shade as well. The tolerance to droughts makes it ideal for temperatures above 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) and multiple days without watering. Thanks to the WaterSmart technology, the seeds also absorb and keep much more water in them while they are germinating. This makes for a stronger crop and a better root structure once they establish on your lawn.
The seeds also have 2 more coating layers, each serving a different purpose. The second layer is made out of essential nutrients that will help speed up the germination process, while the last layer protects the seed from diseases and insects. The mix itself comprises of fescues and bluegrass which both have large root systems. This allows them to go longer periods without watering and self-repair better. However, fescues aren’t known for their high-traffic durability. This is why there is plenty of bluegrass seeds in the mix. They are tolerant to full-sun lawns, droughts, and most importantly – high traffic. That is why bluegrass is the grass of choice of most southern homes that have pets and kids. The fescues, on the other hand, will help by making the lawn more lush and thick.
If there are any downsides to this mix is that it can grow a bit slower than some other mixes out there. Even if you water it a lot during its germination period, there are known cases of defective packages that just don’t grow. Moreover, once the grass starts growing, the germination rate isn’t always enough to choke most weeds out, giving them air and space to grow in between. As a whole, this is a fairly priced mix that will produce a lush and durable lawn which can handle full-sun and high-temperature conditions, as well as high traffic and infrequent maintenance.
- Great price
- Low-maintenance mix
- Creates a lush lawn
- Requires less watering
- Heat and traffic resistant
- Coated seeds can resist diseases
- Slow to germinate
- Allows the growth of weeds
- Sometimes doesn’t sprout
Best Cool-Season – Jonathan Green Black Beauty Ultra Mixture
Cool-season grass mixtures are incredibly durable and are usually green throughout the whole year, especially if you live in a state with a moderate climate. They germinate best if you plant them in the Fall. Then, in early Spring, they start germinating faster and will grow from the already developed root structure. All this gives them an advantage over warm-season seeds. The cool-season mixes also stay green all year round and are naturally resistant to high traffic and heat.
This particular Jonathan Green Black Beauty Ultra Mix consists of a 25-lbs pack that mixes Perennial Ryegrass, elite Kentucky Bluegrass, and Black Beauty Tall Fescues. This type of variety ensures that the mix stays well-rounded in all conditions. The Fescues will leave a lush green field that grows fast and feels amazing. The ryegrass and bluegrass are both resistant to high traffic and are fairly low-maintenance. All of these three species are also fairly good at self-repairing themselves, so you won’t have to fill empty spots on your lawn.
The seeds have a layer of coating that helps them preserve water in the germination phase. It also prevents certain diseases that might prevent the lawn from growing evenly or at all. These seeds can grow in sandy or clay soils thanks to their resilience. They also can handle full-sun conditions, as well as partial shade. The perennial ryegrass, however, cannot tolerate full shade lawns, so make sure you get this mix only if your lawn gets at least a few hours of direct sunlight every day. The 25 lbs pack can cover up to 10 thousand square feet, which is a decent seed-to-area ratio. Moreover, the price is quite affordable. There are also 1, 3, and 7-lbs options if you’re looking for more economical and smaller solutions. Jonathan green also sells their seed mixes with lawn fertilizers, other grass seed mixtures for lawn repairing, starter foods, weed preventers, surfactants, and more!
- Great bang for the buck
- Can cover up to 10,000 sq. ft.
- Excellent for clay and sandy soils
- Grows in full-sun or partial shade conditions
- Easy to maintain
- Good for the majority of the country’s climate
- Stays green all year round
- Insect-resistant grass species
- It Will require a lot of watering
- Takes a while to initially grow
- Low initial germination rate
- The 25 lbs pack can be a bit expensive
Best for Dense Shade – Jonathan Green Dense Shade Grass Seed Mix
Just like Scotts, Jonathan Green is a company that has a large variety of seed mixtures in its line-up of products. One of their best-selling products is the Dense Shade Premium Grass Seed Mixture. Since a lot of owners have at least one part of their lawn under constant or deep shade, these mixtures are an important part of any gardener’s arsenal. While some species like perennial ryegrass like both sun and partial shade, other varieties have the capacity to grow under a full shade all year round. The grass types contained in this mix are predominantly Dakota tall fescue, chewing fescue, creeping red fescue, and some ryegrass and bluegrass varieties
This healthy mix of grass types allows your lawn to be extremely versatile even when there isn’t a lot of sunlight or maintenance growing on. Moreover, the Eugene creeping red fescue will allow the lawn to self-repair at much higher rates and will help with the germination rates. The seeds have special coatings on them to deter insects and to help them germinate faster. The turfgrass varieties are also naturally resistant to insects and are also fairly durable when it comes to high-traffic areas or other diseases.
Another great thing about this mix is that it covers quite a lot of ground. You can seed a surface of more than 4000 square feet with approximately 7 pounds/ The size options you have are 1, 3, and 25 pounds, with the 25 packages being the most economical in terms of price-per-pound.
- Good price
- Nice mix of different varieties
- Grows well under full-shade
- Works well in most climates
- Doesn’t require a lot of maintenance
- Good for high-traffic yards
- Soemtimes the lawn turns out patchy
- Needs plenty of preparation beforehand
- Mediocre germination rate on cold and full-shade areas
- Very fragile and can die in very cold climates
Fast-Growing Grass Seeds – Jonathan Green Fast Grow Grass Seed Mix
Fast-growing seeds are becoming more and more popular. The main reason for that is because there are tons of advantages to making a dense lawn quickly. First of all, it allows you to seed even in late Fall before the first cold days arrive. Secondly, fast-growing grass species deal much better with weeds and choke them out. Also, if you want to re-patch parts of your lawn or even want to re-seed your whole lawn, fast-growing seeds are the way to go. Of course, there are a few disadvantages. One of the main ones is that these seeds typically require more water. They also require more maintenance than usual due to their growth rate. The Jonathan Green Fast Grow Grass Seed Mix comes at a bargain price and packs quite a lot of interesting species into it.
The mix includes mostly annual ryegrass, some perennial ryegrass, tall fescues, and a small percentage of creeping red fescue. This particular combination allows for the lawn to grow quickly under almost any conditions since perennial and annual ryegrass species are resilient and don’t mind almost any type of soil and sun exposure. That being said, this mix won’t do well under full shade, as it is designed to primarily work in full sun or partial shade conditions. Thanks to the ryegrass and fescue mix, it is also drought tolerant and will require some watering and maintenance, although it will repay you by its ability to self-repair and creep into the empty patches of land in the yard. The root system it establishes is stable and does well in terms of diseases long-term.
The dark green grass color it produces stays that way all year round thanks to the dominant percentage of annual ryegrass. The mix comes in a 3-pound box which is good for around a thousand square feet. Germination is a bit inconsistent from package to package. It also depends on your turf. In general, however, germination periods vary between 10 and 15 days.
- Great price for the amount of seeds
- Grows fast
- Works well in full sun and partial shade
- Dark green color
- Works on most soil types
- Grows fast during most periods of the year
- Stays green all year round
- Requires a bit more maintenance than other mixtures
- Doesn’t grow at all under denser shade
- Not great for patching
- Doesn’t grow well if you seed it in extremely hot days
Best for Heavy Traffic – Scotts Turf Builder High-Traffic Grass Seed
High-traffic backyards are quite common. Whether you have a few pets that love to play on the lawn or have kids that stomp over everything, this has to be taken into account when you’re planting the seeds for your grass lawn. The reason for that is that many species don’t particularly enjoy the company of your feet on top of them. One very good example of that is the Fescue family. Although they are beautiful to look at and occasionally walk on, they struggle to self-repair if you repeatedly play on them.
The Scotts Turf Builder High-traffic Mix is a mix that is not only fast-growing but also works amazingly on lawns that have kids and animals play on them. It is often used for patching up golf fields or seeding soccer and football fields thanks to its natural resistance to damage. The seeds have the Scotts Turf Builder patented 3-layer coating system which increases their water retention, makes them more resilient to diseases, and allows them to germinate better and in thicker groups. The seeds are also wrapped in a layer of essential nutrients that help them stay stronger throughout the vulnerable stages of their life. All the grass species in this mix are naturally creeping so they can spread to empty areas. They also develop a thick rooting system with dark green grass coverage.
This specific mixture works well for the northern states, although it can tolerate certain warmer and drier climates. It comes in 3 and 7-pound packages, which aren’t the cheapest out there but, then again, most fast-growing seed varieties cost a little bit extra. Compared to other companies, however, this is the most stable fast-growing formula which can handle full-sun and partial sun areas. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do well under partial or full shade. Maintenance-wise, it does require plenty of water and at least 2-3 mowings per week, which makes it a bit more demanding than other mixes out there.
- Great for patching
- Grows really fast
- Has Scotts 3-layer coating system
- Excellent for high-traffic areas
- Spreads to fill in empty patches
- Requires more water
- Needs frequent mowings
- Doesn’t grow well under partial or full shade
- Not meant for warmer states
- A bit expensive
Best Low-Maintenance – Twin City Seed Co. Low Grow Fescue Seed Mixture
Since not everyone is an avid gardener but everyone wants a beautiful grass lawn, low-maintenance grass seeds have taken the market by storm. They are the ideal solution for anyone that only wants to take care of his lawn on weekends. Luckily, there are quite a lot of grass species that can be mowed once per week. Moreover, they don’t have to be watered every day which saves you on that bill as well. The Twin City Seed Co. Low-grow Fescue Seed Mixture is one of the best slow-growing mixes out there. And since it is also a fescue mix, it grows to a lush and beautiful lawn that is evergreen and thick. One of the main disadvantages of Fescues, however, is that they aren’t particularly resilient to high traffic, so make sure you get this mix only if you don’t plan on going over the lawn very often.
This fescue mix is quite durable and doesn’t need a ton of maintenance, as I already mentioned. It also doesn’t need a lot of fertilization in order to grow properly. That makes it ideal for sidewalk medians, right of ways, parks, and landscaping. You can mow it once or twice a month to a height of around 3 inches. If left unmowed, it can reach up to around 10 inches in height. Watering is also optional, depending on what you want from the grass. Typically, it isn’t required once it is fully established, although if it grows in the warmer states, you might have to water it once a week. It does grow in most soil types and it also prefers early Spring or late Fall for its planting.
One thing that I don’t particularly like about this mix is the fact that it is a bit more expensive than other 5 pound packages out there. What’s even worse is that it only covers 1000 square feet, while some Scotts mixes can cover almost twice as that with 5 lbs. Still, you get a better price-per-pound with the 25 lbs bag, so if you have a large enough yard for it, go for the bigger option. The seeds are also good for up to a year, so you can use them for re-seeding and patchwork on your grass lawn!
- Can be mowed once or twice a month
- Doesn’t need to be watered
- No need for fertilizer
- Grows under full sun and heavy shade
- Tolerates droughts fairly well
- Grows in most soils
- Grows really slow compared to other mixes
- Not ideal for sports
- Doesn’t like very warm climates
- A bit expensive
Best for Fixing Patches – Scotts EZ Seed Patch and Repair Sun and Shade
One of the best mixes on the market for patching empty spots on your lawn is the Scotts EZ Seed Patch and Repair Sun and Shade Mix. Not only does it come at a bargain price, but it also comes in a variety of packages from 2 to 40 pounds. Each package comes with different types of grass species mixed in. This particular one is the Sun & Shade one which comprises seeds that won’t mind partial shade or full-sun lawns. However, you can also get mixes that are meant for Tall Fescue lawns or lawns with bermudagrass and centipede grass.
The mix comes with a combination of substances mixed with the seeds inside. You have mulch which helps with water absorption. It also creates a moist protective layer around the seeds once you start watering them. There is also fertilizer that helps jumpstart the germination process. Lastly, you have a protectant and tackifier that help prevent the seeds from being washed away and being struck by various types of diseases. The mix works well with almost all soil types and is also good for high-traffic areas and slops thanks to its stable root system and self-repair properties.
- Works with all types of lawns
- Grows on a variety of soils
- Good for high-traffic areas
- Comes in various grass type mixes
- Comes in 5 size options
- Seeds are mixed with mulch and fertilizer
- Doesn’t cover a large area mostly because you will need more seeds
- Requires plenty of water
- A bit expensive
- Germination can be inconsistent
Most Drought Tolerant Mix – Jonathan Green 10315 Black Beauty Grass Seed Mix
Last on this list but definitely not least is the Black Beauty Grass Seed Mix by Jonathan Green (10315). It is one of the most drought-tolerant mixes on this list and on the market in general. The reason for that is because the seeds develop a deep and wide root structure that keeps them alive and sturdy even though very warm periods of the year. Still, this grass also doesn’t mind partial shade, making it good for almost all states, only barring maybe the coldest ones.
The mix consists of black mafic turf tall fescues (50%) and 25% tombstone turf tall fescues and Taos turf tall fescues. As you can see, the fescues really do make up for a resilient mix, as they are also very good at handling diseases and drought periods. They are, however, not very good at handling high traffic and extreme colds. Germination is pretty consistent here and in a large percentages. The seeds can grow even in sandy or clay soils but they will require plenty of water at first.
You can get this seed mix in packages of 25 and 50 lbs which are good for more than 5000-10,000 square feet. They germinate best if planted in the Fall but can also be planted in early Spring if you want to treat them like warm-season seeds.
- Very resilient to diseases
- Come in large packages
- Grow relatively fast
- Easy to maintain
- Create a thick carpet
- Work with most soils
- Can feel pricey due to the large package options
- Not ideal for high-traffic lawns
- Germination isn’t always widespread
Grass Seeds Buyer’s Guide
In this section, we will focus on the nitty-gritty part of buying seeds for your lawn. While simple at first glance, seeding can be quite a complex topic mainly due to the countless seed mixes and types out there. Since we all live in different areas, the climate is another thing that will play a major role in your decision. This is why we will now talk in-depth about all the species and types of seeds out there, discuss their characteristics, and go through a checklist of features that will help you find the right mix for your lawn.
Types of Grass Seeds
There are quite a lot of ways we can classify different grass seeds. Based on their origin and family tree, these are the four major species out there:
- Perennial Ryegrass
- The Fescue Family
- Smooth Stalked Meadow Grass
- Poa Supina
Let’s dive into each of those species now and see what sub-species are contained within them and what their most notable pros and cons are!
One of the most common grass species out there is perennial ryegrass. The reason for its popularity is mainly due to its fast-growing nature. On top of that, it is also extremely durable and tough compared to some other types. Ryegrass is also used in agriculture where it is much coarser. Its garden cousins, however, are smooth and fine-leaved. This grass is also quite easy to grow and maintain since it won’t require constant watering and mowing.
The Fescue Family
Fescue grass is most commonly found in more expensive grass mixes. While common, this grass is still considered fancy. Just like the perennial ryegrass, it is relatively tolerant to some adverse conditions. They resist shade well, have a good shoot density (meaning they make a carpet-like texture for your lawn), and grow relatively fast. However, they are susceptible to red thread disease which might make them a bit trickier to take care of. In the hot summer days, fescues are also the first ones to get discolored and also produce a lot of thatch that will have to be scarred.
Some common fescues out there are the strong creeping red fescue, chewings fescue, hard fescue, browntop bent, rhizomatous tall fescue, and others. These are all varieties used for different purposes and have different pros and cons. For instance, the strong creeping red fescue is extremely good at spreading itself. The hard fescue, on the other hand, is really good at withstanding heatwaves and drought periods. The browntop bent is famous for being used on golf courses since it is fine-leaved and grows very low.
Smooth Stalked Meadow Grass
This (bluegrass) grass species is excellent for places that don’t have a lot of moisture. It tolerates droughts very well and is also quite resistant to shade. Smooth stalked meadow grass mixes are used in high-traffic lawns since they recover exceptionally well after heavy use. This grass also spreads relatively fast compared to some fescues. However, it is slow to germinate and doesn’t have the finest leaves.
Last but definitely not least is the poa supina (or creeping meadow-grass). This grass seed is great at tolerating shade since it has been bred from various alpine meadow grass species. And since these species have spent the majority of their time under snow, poa supina has inherited quite a lot of resistance to shade and darker places. This makes it the perfect companion for perennial ryegrass mixes since it will work great in lawns that grow under trees.
Unlike other types, it grows slowly so it is ideal for people that want a low-maintenance lawn. However, it doesn’t like being mowed too close, so make sure you cut at least 2-3 inches from the ground.
While knowing the names and different characteristics of each grass type is important, we can also boil things down a bit and simplify them by putting most seeds into four different categories. These are:
- Cool-season grass seeds
- Warm-season grass seeds
- Fast-growing seeds
- Low and high maintenance seeds
- Coated seeds
Cool-season grass seeds
If you want to plant your grass seeds in the Fall and have them sprout and germinate before the Spring has started, then look for cool-season grass seeds. These are far more resistant to colder temperatures and most importantly – they stay green throughout the colder months. Typically, manufacturers will have a little bit of cool-season and warm-season seeds mixed into their cultivars. This will allow the lawn to stay green almost throughout the whole year without going dormant. However, such mixes require more maintenance and are often slightly more expensive. Mixes with predominantly cool-season seeds also shouldn’t be planted in any of the warmer months, as that won’t be ideal for their development.
Some of the best species of cool-season grasses are:
- Fine Fescue Grass
- Kentucky Bluegrass
- Perennial Ryegrass
- Tall fescue
Warm-season grass seeds
Warm-season grass consists of varieties that are actively growing predominantly at the beginning of the warm months of the year. That is typically around late Spring in most states. Unlike cool-season seeds, these will go dormant around the middle of the Fall and won’t stay as green during the winter. Cool-season seeds stay green longer for longer periods and typically last long into the Fall season before going dormant at the beginning of the Winter.
Good examples of warm-season grasses are:
- Zoysia Grass
- Centipede Grass
- St. Augustine Grass
As their name suggests, these seeds are specifically modified and picked so that they have ultra-fast germination periods. These seeds tend to grow long before the typical 3-week period and are usually ready to be mowed by the end of the month in which you’ve planted them. These seeds are often quite thirsty and require plenty of watering in the beginning. They also benefit a lot from direct sunlight.
Low and high maintenance seeds
Depending on the type of maintenance required, seeds could also be divided into low and high-maintenance. Low-maintenance seeds typically don’t need a ton of water for them to stay fresh and green. They also aren’t very needy when it comes to sunlight and warmth. High-maintenance seeds, on the other hand, require plenty of watering. On top of that, they also need more frequent mowing and are more susceptible to lack of sunlight. Unlike other seed types, low and high-maintenance seeds aren’t mixed together. The reason for that is because it might lead to uneven growth and differently colored patches of grass on your lawn.
Some of the newest technologies in the world of grass seeds involve implementing different types of coatings for the seeds. Some of the most common coatings are the ones that prevent the seed from being eaten by birds. Other coatings could include anti-insect protection, as well as anti-heat protection. Still, some gardeners tend to be on the side of normal seeds, as coatings are artificially added and may contain substances that can ruin the soil’s quality or cause harm to animals.
Of course, most seed packages come in various types of mixes that benefit from all of these seed types and are geared towards one environment or another. Still, when it comes to what you’re going to read on the bag label, it would most likely be whether the seed is meant for shade, sun, soft, or hard-wearing places. The amount of maintenance (watering and trimming) will also be included in the label.
Check out some of my best lawn maintenance tips for early spring and summer by clicking here!
How to Choose The Right Grass Seeds
If you are getting lost in the countless characteristics labeled on each seed package, this section is for you. I’ve made a small list of all the things you need to check (in this order) so that you know you’re getting the right product. Starting with the seed type, we will go through climate requirements, maintenance, sun exposure, and more!
- Climate and Region
- Traffic levels
- Required maintenance
- Sun exposure
- Price and area coverage
- Growth speed
While we’ve already gone through all the possible seed species and types out there, it is important to sum things up. The first thing you have to think about is what time of the year it is. If you’re planting in early spring, you can get both warm and cold-season seed types which both have their pros and cons. In the Fall, however, you are only good with cold-season seed mixes. If there are plenty of birds in your region, you should also consider getting coated seeds that prevent the birds from eating them. Some seed mixes also come with additives that prevent insects from taking or eating them. Also, consider how much watering and maintenance you want to dedicate to your lawn since there are some seed mixes that are pretty chill when it comes to maintenance as well as some grass species that will require constant watering and mowing (as well as scarring).
Climate and Region
The climate is one of the main determining factors when it comes to what grass species you need to get. And since the climate is pretty region-based, I will divide this section into the following geographic regions and states (in the USA):
- Northeastern states
- Midwest states
- Southeastern states
- States in the deep south and gulf coast
- Southwestern states
- Pacific northwest
Grasses that like the cool climate of the northeastern states are ideal here. Most of the types here will be cool-season grasses meaning they will have to be (ideally) planted in the Fall. Bluegrasses, fescues, and ryegrasses are all durable enough to withstand the chill climate in these states. The cold winters and cooler summers can pose some issues for certain fescues, however, especially due to their lower resistance to diseases. One of the most common types in the northeastern states is Kentucky bluegrass. It really represents the perfect lawn grass for that climate since it is extremely resistant to cold temperatures, doesn’t require a ton of maintenance, and has a fine texture to it. Additionally, it spreads very fast with a relatively shallow root system. It does need water and sun, though, so make sure you maintain it properly in the warmer and drier months.
Grasses that can manage cool climate and varying humidity levels thrive in the midwest. Since the eastern and western parts of the midwest vary quite a bit in terms of temperatures and humidity, it is challenging to pinpoint a single grass type to work well across the whole region. And while bluegrass dominates again here, fescues and ryegrass are also suitable. The perennial ryegrass types flourish under the midwestern sun. However, the central shady climate might sometimes prove too much for it. As a whole, ryegrass and bluegrass mixes work across this region and make for a green and easy-to-maintain lawn.
Contrary to the previous two regions, the southeastern region welcomes warm-season grasses with open hands. It is hot and humid here, so you will need variants like bermudagrass. It is very drought-tolerant, doesn’t mind the summer heat, and has a decent enough texture for your lawn to look and feel awesome. Bermudagrass also spreads like wildfire across your yard, leaving almost no opportunity for bald spots to form.
States in the deep south and gulf coast
Just like the southeastern states, the deep south and gulf coast regions have a high average yearly temperature and even more humidity. For these conditions, you will need drought-tolerant and heat-tolerant types that won’t mind the frequent water restrictions in these states. One of the most common types used in these regions is Bahiagrass and centipede grass. They both grow slow and are very easy to maintain. While they aren’t as fine-textured as fescues and ryegrass, they are an ideal all-in-one solution for owners that don’t have a lot of time for maintenance.
The alkaline soil and saline water in these regions combined with the intense heat and constant sunlight will prove challenging to most grass types. This is why gardeners have come up with resilient species of bermudagrass that can withstand all of that stress.
Just like the midwestern states, the states in the pacific northwest have varying conditions. The inland regions are arid and cool and are naturally friendlier to cool-season grasses. People here prefer tall fescues and bluegrass types. Across the whole pacific northwest, however, you will be required to have a disease-resistant grass type, as these are common.
All grass species will have a different level of tolerance against traffic levels. Busy lawns that have kids and animals play on them throughout the day will have to have grasses that can tolerate damage and repair themselves relatively easily. Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass are very tolerant of high amounts of foot traffic. Fescues, on the other hand, react quite poorly to stomping and walking over it, so try to avoid it if your lawn is busy. Perennial ryegrass falls somewhere in the middle.
Grass maintenance is one of the main factors when it comes to which seed type you’re going to pick. Some grasses need constant watering, mowing, and fertilization from time to time. Other mixes come with mulch and fertilizer out of the box. This eliminates the need for caring about the seeds while they are germinating. It also helps your soil retain nutrients and moisture better. Grasses that are slow-growing are going to offer you a much less maintenance-heavy experience as opposed to some fast growers.
Bermudagrass, fescues, bahiagrass, and St. Augustine Grass all grow very slowly compared to perennial ryegrass. This eliminates the need to mow them more than once a week. These lawns can be easier for weeds to spread, though, as they aren’t as dominant and aggressive. There are also grasses that don’t self-repair such as perennial ryegrass. These will require patching at least once per year, so keep that in mind. As a whole, one of the most maintenance-free grasses is bermudagrass, so look for a mix that has plenty of it.
Another factor to consider when it comes to maintenance is weeds. Some mixes are weed-free (up to 99%) but others don’t specify how much weed they might contain. Avoid such mixes, as they make your lawn maintenance much harder since you will have to deal with weeds on a constant basis.
While most grass types will require full-sun lawns, the fescue family is an expert in shady areas. They love and thrive in mixed shades and are excellent for lawns that grow under decidual trees. Fescues, just like some perennial ryegrass types can also grow in sunny places, although they don’t deal well with the heat on the warmest days of the year. That’s why, for shaded backyards, I suggest using a mix of fescues and ryegrass.
Bermudagrass can also withstand partial shade, although it will need a few hours of sunlight a day to grow properly, just like the ryegrass. Bottom line is that if your lawn is under a constant shade all year round, you will definitely need a mix heavy on fescues.
Price and area coverage
Another thing you have to consider is the price of the seeds and the area that the package can cover. If you have a big lawn or area that you want to cover, you might be better off contacting the manufacturer and asking whether they offer larger packs or any discounts on those. Smaller packs typically cover a few hundred square feet and vary in price slightly, depending on the types of seeds used there. In general, the more resistant the grass species is, and the less maintenance it requires, the more expensive it will be. Fast-growing, high-maintenance seeds are typically more prone to damage and diseases and cost a bit less. Things like seed coating and additives like mulch and fertilizers bulk up the price even further.
The growth speed isn’t as important as the other factors on this list but it still remains vital for people that need fast (or slow) results. Faster-growing seeds will germinate within a week or two and will be ready for mowing in the next 2-3 weeks. Slower-growing weeds might take a month and a half before you can first mow them. They are, however, low-maintenance and don’t require as much water and sun as most fast-growing grass species.
Single-Seed vs Grass Seed Mixes
In the grass seed world, there are these things called “cultivars”. What they mean, essentially, is a sub-species of grass within the main grass type or family. Cultivars can also refer to the various mixes companies do in order to suit a climate (or terrain conditions) better with their seeds. So, for instance, a cultivar can be made specifically to suit busy lawns or sunny lawns, and so forth.
There are different types of conditions that each require different seed combinations. Here are some of the main ones that you need to know about:
- For lawns that are easy to be maintained – look for mixes that contain at least 30% of perennial ryegrass. The rest could be filled with fescues and meadow grass.
- Shaded family lawns – One of the most shade-tolerant species is fescues. They are great for places that get less sun exposure but work even better when mixed with hard-wearing types. Most of these mixes will also grow slower and won’t require a ton of water, making them easier to maintain.
- For dry soils – Both fescues and perennial ryegrass are tough to kill in a dry climate. This is why a 50/50 mix between those two works really well in such conditions. However, try keeping them at a taller size of around 2 inches.
- Front gardens – For ornamental lawns you will need to pick a cultivar that is green all year round. This means that the mix must have good summer and winter greenness and it also needs to be resistant to diseases. Dwarf perennial ryegrass fits these criteria well and when mixed with fescues it works well through all seasons.
- Close-mown lawns – Go for a fescue and bent mix if you are willing to put in the time for frequent mowing, aeration, and scarification.
Contrary to all that, you can get single-seed packages that will contain nearly 100% of a single grass seed type. This will allow you to fill empty pockets on your lawn without diluting the main grass type too much. People that prefer a single dominant species on their lawn often have a spare package of that type just to fill empty patches.
With this information and the one associated with the specific grass species, you can create an ideal mix of your own that will fit your requirements and work best for your lawn and your state’s climate.
If you want to learn how to plant grass seeds properly, head over to my Detailed Beginner’s Guide on that topic!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you just sprinkle grass seeds on a lawn?
Simply tossing the seeds around your lawn won’t do much in terms of germination. For the seed to develop safely, it will need at least a little bit of soil covering it. Typically, that is around a quarter of an inch. In other words, you only need to slightly rake the seeds into the soil for them to have the right conditions for germinating.
Which is the best month to plant your grass seeds?
While a few decades ago seeds were quite vulnerable to various weather conditions, modern seed manufacturers make them so that you can plant them throughout the whole year. Still, there are times that are a bit more suitable for optimal germination. Usually, that is early fall is ideal if you are planting cool-season grass seeds. If you’re planting warm-season grass seeds, then spring is far more suitable.
Should I put topsoil over my grass seeds?
In order to make the seeds sprout easier, you will need to rake the topsoil a bit so that it isn’t as hard. In most cases, you won’t have to turn over the topsoil. Whether or not you want to put straw or mulch on top of your seeds is a whole different topic and it is typically a well-accepted practice in the world of gardening. It will keep birds from eating your grass seeds and will help keep the temperature and moisture constant.
How do you prepare the ground for planting grass seeds?
Typically, there isn’t a ton of preparation you need to do before you start planting. However, if your yard is rocky and uneven, you might want to take care of that before you plant grass seeds. Try removing all debris and large rocks you can find. If there are low spots, fill them with compost or soil from other high spots. If the soil is compacted and hard, make sure you till it. If there have been other crops growing on that soil for years, you can also fertilize it a bit before seeding it. That will make the ground nutrient-rich and ready to help the seeds germinate faster!
When it comes to picking the best grass seeds for your new lawn, there are a number of things you will have to take into consideration. First and foremost, consider your local climate. Soft climates tend to be more generous towards most seed types. Whether you want to plant in the Fall or Spring also plays a role in picking a cool-season or warm-season seed type.
Lastly, look at the seed’s properties when it comes to its growth speed, durability to high traffic, whether it is meant for shaded or sunny places, and how much watering it needs. All these factors will play a vital role in choosing the right mix for your lawn’s needs!