How to Increase Drought Tolerance in Lawns


Just as you're ready to enjoy time outside in the sun, you may be met with a lackluster lawn stressed by the heightened heat of summer. This stress often coincides with drought conditions and water restrictions, leaving your grass parched and brown.

During extended periods of drought, the soil dries out, forcing plants to work harder to extract water from deeper within the soil. Your lawn may enter a state of dormancy as a survival mechanism, shutting down itself to preserve moisture and avoid permanent damage.

What is Drought Tolerance?

When drought occurs, your lush green lawn may turn brown all throughout. This undesirable color isn't necessarily a sign of dead grass but rather dormant grass that has slowed down its growth to conserve water and energy and reduce the long-term negative effects of prolonged dry conditions. Dormant grass appears dry and brittle but is still alive. It will return to its vivid green color when conditions become more favorable—when the soil temperatures consistently reach 55 degrees Fahrenheit—and normal growth resumes.

Drought tolerance measures the resilience of your lawn against dry spells. A drought-tolerant lawn should survive drought despite little to no supplemental watering and withstand extended dry spells without significant damage.


How to Make Your Lawn More Drought-Tolerant

As a trusted brand for grass plugs, SodPods® has extensive experience proving that following proper lawn care practices year-round can increase your lawn's resilience and durability.

While warm-season varieties like Bermuda, St. Augustine, and Zoysia grasses thrive in warm climates and can tolerate drought better than cool-season grasses like tall fescue, there are measures you can take to increase this tolerance.

The key feature of a drought-tolerant lawn is a deep and extensive root system. The following steps to increase drought tolerance in grass focus on training it to grow deeper and denser roots, enabling it to access moisture and nutrients deeper into the soil and better withstand dry conditions. These measures prepare your lawn to endure the intense heat and dry conditions, lowering the risk of permanent drought damage and ensuring it restores its lush green color once the weather improves.


Watering your lawn deeply but less often is key to developing a strong and deep root system. This method allows water to seep into the soil, encouraging roots to grow deeper in search of moisture. It contrasts with frequent light watering that results in shallow root growth, making your lawn more susceptible to stress during a dry spell. Without access to deeper moisture reserves, your lawn can become weaker and less resilient during drought.

Warm-season grasses thrive with 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, which aims to provide enough water to reach the roots without overwatering. During dry spells with imposed water restrictions, water your lawn only when 30 to 50 percent of it shows signs of thirst, like folding leaf blades, a blue-gray color, or lingering footprints. Avoid watering excessively to the point where the soil cannot absorb more water, leading to runoff onto the pavement. These best watering practices ensure your lawn stays healthy and strong, even during drought.


During a drought, it's advisable to adjust your mower blades to the highest recommended mowing height for your grass type—generally 2-2.5 inches for warm-season grasses. Longer grass blades have more leaf surface area for photosynthesis, which helps the grass store more energy and survive drought conditions. Avoid cutting more than one-third of the grass length in a single session.

When your grass is dormant, which can happen during an extreme drought, you may not have to mow at all as growth slows or stops completely. Wait until your lawn shows signs of recovery before resuming your regular mowing schedule—look for new growth and a return to its green color and vigor. When you mow after a drought, mow to the highest height possible for your grass type and gradually lower it over several sessions. This approach helps your grass rebuild its strength without causing further stress.

READ: How to Keep Your Grass Green During Drought

Using Drought-Tolerant Grass

Using drought-tolerant lawn grass gives you the best chance of maintaining a healthy lawn even in challenging conditions. If your lawn becomes permanently damaged, despite drought preparations, consider replacing it with a highly drought-tolerant grass variety.

Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine grasses are some of the most drought-tolerant warm-season grass varieties. They develop deep roots to access water deep in the soil, making them resilient during extreme heat. Bermuda grass, in particular, provides additional benefits of tolerating heavy foot traffic well, while St. Augustine grass tolerates partial shade. These warm-season grasses provide excellent ground cover, thriving in full sun, heat, and various soil conditions.

Planting Grass Plugs

Planting grass plugs instead of seeds offers the advantage of using mature plants cultivated in a controlled environment. These plants come with an established root system, which increases your lawn's resilience against drought. The roots allow the grass plugs to access moisture deeper into the soil more effectively, ensuring a healthier and more hardwearing lawn even in challenging conditions.

Additionally, because grass plugs are already mature, they require less water to establish than seeds. However, they need consistent watering for the first 10-14 days to facilitate good root-to-soil contact and encourage growth. While you can plant grass plugs anytime during the year, the best time is in late spring to align with their active growing season. This timing also ensures they have adequate access to water, further supporting their establishment and growth.


Regular fertilizing year-round ensures your lawn receives the essential nutrients for strong, healthy growth. This practice boosts your lawn's overall resilience, allowing it to better withstand drought conditions. We recommend supplementing your new grass plugs with NutriPod® grass fertilizer. It has a slow-release formula, providing a gradual and steady supply of nutrients to support your new grass during establishment and accelerate its growth up to two times faster. Overall, it ensures your lawn grass is well-prepared to thrive even in less-than-ideal conditions.

While it's important to maintain a regular fertilizing schedule, it's generally advisable to avoid fertilizing during a drought or when your grass is dormant. Fertilizer can stress the grass further and may not be effectively absorbed when the grass is not actively growing.


The Best Drought-Tolerant Grasses from SodPods®

Ease your concerns about watering more during the summer heat by planting grass plugs from SodPods®. We provide the most drought-tolerant warm-season grass varieties, cultivated with the best lawn care practices, to help you maintain a healthy lawn year-round.

Explore a wide range of grass plugs for sale at the SodPods® website today.

Jamie Tedder

Jamie surrently serve as Vice President on the board for Turfgrass Producers of Florida. He currently oversees the production of all grasses throughout all farms in Florida at Bethel Farms. He is actively working with top grass breeders, researchers, producers and end users from public and private institutions around the country to stay up to date on current industry developments. Being a University of Florida graduate, he has applied that knowledge to over 22 years of experience growing spectacular grass!

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