Does Zoysia Grass Turn Brown in Winter?
Zoysia grass is a warm-season variety known for being exceptionally heat and drought-tolerant. It thrives in full sun and looks great with its light to medium green hue in the summer. But, in Florida, Zoysia usually turns brown in winter—often lasting from December to February.
Once you’ve established your lawn with Zoysia grass and relished its vibrancy during its peak growing season, you’re probably surprised by the dramatic change in your lawn. Rest assured, this is completely normal—your grass isn’t dead; it’s dormant.
Everything to Know About Zoysia Grass Plugs & Winter Dormancy
Zoysia grass makes an excellent option for grass plugging. As small sections of healthy grass with mature roots, Zoysia grass plugs require less water than germinating seeds—a feature that not only results in a higher success rate but also guarantees faster coverage, helping prevent soil erosion and suppress weed growth.
Like other warm-season grasses such as Bermuda and St. Augustine, Zoysia grass goes dormant when the temperatures drop to 65 degrees F for prolonged periods. The grass may turn brown during this period, but the roots should remain strong, keeping your lawn healthy. Think of it as how animals hibernate in winter—just as animals wake up again in spring, your grass should green up again when the weather becomes consistently warm.
Is It Dead Grass or Dormant Grass?
Although your grass may initially appear lifeless, a simple tug test will help you distinguish between dormancy and permanent damage. The grass may appear brown or straw-like when dormant, but the roots remain intact and healthy. Grab a handful of grass and gently tug. If the blades resist and the roots hold firm, it's likely dormant. Meanwhile, dead grass will easily pull up without resistance, signaling dead roots that no longer anchor in the soil.
Visually, dormant grass will have firm, whitish crowns, while dead grass may display signs of decay, such as blackened roots. By identifying whether your grass is dormant or dead, you can take appropriate measures in lawn maintenance to rejuvenate your lawn.
Zoysia Grass Lawn Care in Winter Months
The prime period for effective lawn care aligns with its peak growing season. As the weather cools and Zoysia grass goes dormant, signifying a slowdown in growth, it becomes opportune to adjust and ease up on your maintenance schedule.
Understanding this seasonal shift allows you to synchronize your lawn care practices with the natural rhythm of Zoysia grass, promoting a balanced and customized approach to keeping your lawn healthy throughout the year.
Zoysia grass exhibits slow lateral growth, significantly reducing the frequency of mowing. But when mowing is necessary, maintain a height between 1½ to 3 inches, cutting no more than one-third of the leaf height in a single session.
It's advisable to continue mowing as growth slows and dormancy sets in. However, mowing will be unnecessary once your lawn becomes dormant and stops growing. Mower traffic during this period can lead to damage and soil compaction, adding unnecessary stress to the grass.
Warm-season varieties like Zoysia grass benefit from fertilization between late spring and early fall during its peak growing season. However, as the grass transitions into dormancy, it will require fewer nutrients and have reduced absorption capacity, making fertilization unnecessary. Consider applying a final round of fertilizer six to eight weeks before the cooler weather sets in, which, in Florida, is usually around mid to late September, to prepare your grass for winter.
It's advisable to delay fertilizing until early spring, when the grass starts greening again, to maximize nutrient absorption and avoid the risks of nutrient leaching. As long as you've been keeping up with your fertilizer schedule throughout the year, your lawn should stay resilient throughout winter. Read here for a more comprehensive guide on when you should fertilize in winter.
Even though it is dormant, your Zoysia grass may still need some watering to prevent desiccation. This is particularly essential in unusually dry conditions. Water once every two weeks with 1 to 1½ inches of water in a single session. Water in the morning to allow time to soak into the soil before temperatures drop to freezing at night.
During slower growth and dormancy, grass becomes more susceptible to weed invasion. If you've missed the window for applying safe, pre-emergent herbicides in the fall, an alternative is to spot-treat winter weeds using post-emergent selective herbicides.
Additionally, a fail-safe method involves manual removal by hand-pulling—the weeds should stand out with their green color against dormant warm-season grass.
Following dormancy, healthy grass should rebound to its lush green state as the weather becomes consistently warm. Nevertheless, harsh winter conditions may result in permanent damage, leaving your lawn with bare spots or patches of dead grass.
In these cases, grass plugs emerge as a reliable solution to fill in these damaged areas and rejuvenate your lawn. Zoysia grass plugs, in particular, stand out as a favorable option for homeowners looking to establish a resilient, drought-resistant, low-maintenance, and traffic-tolerant lawn.
SodPods Grass Plugs at Bethel Farms
Adjusting your lawn care efforts accordingly is necessary to ensure the overall health of your lawn, recognizing the changing needs of Zoysia grass as it adapts to the winter season and slower growth.
At Bethel Farms, we are committed to providing you with the highest quality of grass plugs possible. With proper lawn care, we can help you enjoy a lush, healthy lawn—no matter the grass type you choose to grow.
Get started by exploring our wide range of grass plug varieties on our website today!