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7 Best Low-Maintenance and Drought-Resistant Grasses

By Dan Simms

Everyone wants to have a beautiful lawn, but not everyone wants to toil away every weekend to make it happen. Luckily, there are plenty of low-maintenance grasses that make cultivating a thick, green lawn easy. Which type of grass is right for you depends on your local weather, soil quality, and how much effort you want to spend working on your lawn.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to low-maintenance, drought-resistant types of grass to help you decide which one is right for you. After reading this guide, if you decide it’s still too much work, that’s okay. There’s no shame in turning over the reigns to one of the best lawn care companies and relaxing while they work their magic.

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7 Best Low-Maintenance Grass Seeds

If you want beautiful, green grass that’s easy to care for, you need to choose the right type of grass. Your climate plays a major role in determining what grass varieties make sense for your lawn, but so do factors like sunlight coverage and foot traffic. Here is a breakdown of the seven best grass seeds that will keep your lawnmower and sprinkler in the shed.

1. Zoysia Grass

  • Direct Sunlight: 6–8 hours per day
  • Soil: well-drained, pH 6.0–6.5
  • USDA Growing Zone: 6–11

Zoysia is best the lowest-maintenance grass due to its ability to grow in various conditions, thanks to its deep root system. It is one of the most drought-tolerant grass species and requires far less water than other types of grass. Zoysia is a warm-season grass that thrives on 6–8 hours of direct sun, although it also does well in partial shade.

Zoysia grass has thick blades that grow together into a dense weave, which holds up well to foot traffic and heavy use from pets and children. Even though Zoysia is a warm-season grass with top-notch heat tolerance, it is also popular throughout the transition zone.

Most Zoysia lawns require very little maintenance, only requiring the occasional lime treatment if the pH dips below six. Otherwise, it is the best species for people who want an almost entirely hands-off lawn with excellent ground cover and low water requirements.

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2. Bermuda Grass

  • Direct Sunlight: ~4 hours per day
  • Soil: pH 6.0–6.5
  • USDA Growing Zone: 7–10

Bermuda grass is another hardy, warm-season grass that resists droughts and heavy foot traffic, although it requires more water than zoysia grass. It also doesn’t tolerate cold temperatures as well as Zoysia or cool season grasses, making its use limited to hot climates in the southern parts of the country. Bermuda grass will stay green throughout the winter and its dormant period lasts longer than Zoysia or Bahiagrass, which means it needs less mowing and less intensive lawn care for a larger chunk of the year.

Bermuda grass is commonly found on golf courses – especially in the south – since it is easy to maintain and reduces the cost of watering since it needs little water compared to other varieties. It also has deep roots that can reach up to eight feet deep in mowed conditions.

3. Buffalo Grass

  • Direct Sunlight: > 6 hours per day
  • Soil: Dry, well-drained, pH 6.0–7.5
  • USDA Growing Zone: 5–9

Buffalo grass is a warm-season grass that flourishes in places with little rainfall, making it an excellent choice for southwestern lawns. However, it will lose its color during the winter or when the monthly rainfall drops below 1.5 inches per month. Many people choose to plant a grass seed mix that includes Buffalo grass with another species like Blue Grama to improve its drought tolerance and help retain color during dry spells.

One of the biggest benefits of Buffalo grass is that it is a low-growing grass, which means it requires less mowing and maintenance. The only possible downside for people with a lot of shade on their property is that Buffalo grass requires at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.

4. St. Augustine Grass 

  • Direct Sunlight: 6–8 hours per day
  • Soil: well-drained, pH 5.0–8.5
  • USDA Growing Zone: 7–12

St. Augustine grass is another warm-season grass that doesn’t require much mowing. The tradeoff is that St. Augustine lawns need good drainage, so ensure you have adequate irrigation before opting for St. Augustine. As long as your lawn isn’t prone to pooling, St. Augustine grass requires little to no maintenance beyond regular fertilization. A moderate watering schedule usually works best for St. Augustine, so you won’t have to water it constantly even though it’s not as low-maintenance as Zoysia.

St. Augustine grass is not as drought-tolerant as Zoysia but makes up for it by being extremely shade-tolerant. It is one of the best warm season grasses for shady lawns, although it prefers 6–8 hours of direct sunlight if possible. If you have to go for a warm season grass due to your local climate and have a lot of shady areas, St. Augustine is your best bet.

5. Fescue Grass

  • Direct Sunlight: 3–4 hours per day
  • Soil: any quality soil, pH 5.5–7.5 
  • USDA Growing Zone: 4–8

Fescue grass is the best option for low-maintenance and shade tolerance for cooler region lawns. It is far more resilient to cold winters than any of the warm season grasses, and it tolerates the heat well as long as it gets enough water. Most Fescues are slow-growing, which means less time spent mowing and more time spent enjoying your yard.

Fescue doesn’t require much water, although it needs between one and two inches of water per week to stay lush and vibrant. Prolonged droughts will weaken Fescue, although it usually takes several weeks of extreme heat and drought to wilt noticeably. Fescue tends to struggle during the summer months, making it especially important to water religiously when the weather heats up.

Although Fescue is a relatively low-maintenance grass, it is common to mix it with other cool-season grass like Kentucky bluegrass or another turfgrass, even though that requires more care and attention. One of Fescue’s main weaknesses is that it’s vulnerable to foot traffic, so even if it takes slightly more effort to tend to a mixed-grass lawn, most people find it worth it.

6. Blue Grama

  • Direct Sunlight: 4–6 hours per day 
  • Soil: Dry, well-drained, pH 6.6–8.4
  • USDA Growing Zone: 3–10

Blue Grama is a warm-season grass with a similar drought tolerance to Buffalo grass. It only needs to be watered sparingly and needs the least amount of water when left tall, a great combination for people who want a no-fuss lawn care experience. Blue grama can survive on as little as seven inches of water per year, making it the perfect choice for dry climates like Southern California and the desert southwest.

It is common for people to mix Blue Grama with Buffalo grass to help maintain even ground coverage in wider conditions since Blue Grama tends to grow in clumps when the soil is dry. Otherwise, you may need to overseed it every few years to keep it full. It needs a moderate amount of direct sun per day, between four and six hours on average.

7. Bahiagrass

  • Direct Sunlight: >8 hours per day
  • Soil: Acidic, pH 5.0–5.5
  • USDA Growing Zone: 7–11

Bahiagrass is a warm season grass that thrives in poor soil conditions, making it the best choice for lawns in southern coastal regions.

Unlike the other hardy grass varieties on this list, Bahiagrass is not very resilient to a wide range of growing conditions; rather, it offers a targeted solution to growing a thick, green lawn in sub-optimal soil conditions. Bahiagrass requires acidic soil in a narrow pH range, making it a bit more finicky, so you may have to expend more effort on soil amendments. The upside is that Bahiagrass grows well in poor soil conditions, making it worth the additional effort.

Like Zoysia and Bermuda grass, Bahiagrass doesn’t need much water, and watering too much is detrimental. However, it does need at least eight hours of full sun per day to reach its potential, so it’s not a good choice for shady lawns. It also prefers humid climates, so it’s not a great variety for southwestern homeowners.

What Grass Type is Right for My Lawn? 

The best way to have a low-maintenance lawn is to start with the right grass.

If you live in a cooler climate north of Kansas, you’ll need to seed your lawn with a cool-season grass that can withstand harsh winters and freezing temperatures. Cool-season grasses like Fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and Perennial Ryegrass need lower temperatures to grow to their full potential and won’t die when exposed to bitter winter weather.

Conversely, you need warm-season grass like Zoysia, St. Augustine grass, or Buffalo grass if you live in the south. These grasses thrive in the blistering temperatures of hot summers and reach their peak growth in July or August.

The United States Department of Agriculture provides a handy tool for choosing what kind of grass you need. They divide the country into hardiness zones or growing zones, allowing you to match your home’s growing zone to the kind of grass that’s ideal for your local climate. You can enter your address or zip code into the tool linked above to learn what kind of grass best suits your home.

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Most lawn care services offer reseeding and overseeding services or sell grass seed products for you to DIY.

Frequently Asked Questions

What grass requires the least amount of maintenance?

Zoysia is generally considered the lowest maintenance grass, although other species like Bermuda grass and Buffalo grass are similarly easy to care for.

Is there a grass that doesn't need mowing?

Not really, although many warm season grasses need less mowing than their cool season counterparts. Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, and Buffalo grass all require very little mowing.

What grass is the most drought tolerant?

Zoysia, Bermuda grass, and Buffalo grass all require very little amounts of water and can survive prolonged periods of drought without browning or dying off.

What is the best grass for a dog to play on?

Dogs put a lot of wear and tear on a lawn, so you want to choose a hardy variety like Zoysia grass or Bermuda grass if you live in a warmer region or Kentucky Bluegrass if you live in a cooler climate.

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