What is the Best Fertilizer for Zoysia Grass Plugs?


Zoysia grass is a favorite among Florida homeowners, mainly for its low-maintenance requirements and excellent tolerance to drought, heat, and heavy foot traffic. It is also favored for its ease of cultivation by installing sod or planting plugs, as opposed to reseeding the lawn.

If you’re looking to grow a lawn or fill in sparse areas with Zoysia grass plugs, you’re probably wondering how best to support its successful growth. 

One-word answer: Fertilizer.

Keep reading for our guide on how to plant and maintain zoysia grass.

What is Zoysia Grass?

A warm-season grass, Zoysia is characterized by its light green color, medium-wide blades, and soft carpet-like texture. It is well-adapted to Florida's warm, sub-tropical climate and can thrive in sandy soils and clay or loamy soil conditions. In optimal environments, it can grow into a dense lawn that discourages weed growth.

Zoysia lawns turn brown when they enter winter dormancy or when the temperatures drop to less than 55°F. They should survive through it and grow again as the climate gets warmer. However, with the long summers and short, mild winters in Florida, you shouldn't worry about your Zoysia lawn losing its rich green color.

Zoysia Grass Characteristics

  • Ideal Use: High-traffic lawns
  • Mow Height: 1.5–3 inches
  • Color: Light green
  • Texture: Soft
  • Soil pH: 6-6.5
  • Wear Tolerance: High
  • Shade Tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought Tolerance: High


Zoysia Grass Fertilization Guide: How to Choose the Right Fertilizer

Fertilizing your grass is an essential step in lawn maintenance. Although Zoysia grass demands less fertilizer than other grass varieties, it can still derive valuable nutrients from fertilization, contributing to a denser, greener lawn with heightened resistance to pests, diseases, and weeds.

Types of Fertilizer

Lawn fertilizers are available in liquid, water-soluble formulations, or as slow-release granules.

Liquid: Fertilizer, in liquid form, is the easiest and fastest way to nourish your plants. They are usually sold in concentrated forms, diluted with water, and applied using a sprayer or watering can. Because it is liquid, it ensures immediate nutrient availability to plants.

Water-Soluble: Like liquid fertilizers, water-soluble fertilizers deliver nutrients already dissolved in water, making them immediately available to plants. It is particularly helpful when trying to accelerate your new grass's development during the growing season.

Slow-Release: Unlike liquid or water-soluble fertilizers, slow-release granular fertilizer is spread directly onto the lawn surface. When activated by water, it will gradually release a steady amount of nutrients over some time.

Quick-Release vs. Slow-Release Fertilizers

The quick-acting nature of liquid and water-soluble fertilizers provides an immediate boost of nutrients to your Zoysia lawn, which is ideal for accelerating its development, especially during the active growing season. It also naturally aids weed control by outpacing the growth of undesirable plants in your newly established lawn.

However, this same characteristic is also why the effects of these fertilizers are short-lasting, thus necessitating more frequent reapplications. When applied excessively, it can result in nutrient leaching, where the nutrients run off the soil and contaminate the waterways. It can also lead to uneven or excessive growth, placing additional stress on the grass and potentially damaging your lawn.

On the other hand, slow-release fertilizers provide a slow and steady supply of essential nutrients, fostering even plant growth. Their effects can last 6-8 weeks, reducing the need for frequent applications and ensuring a more stable and prolonged nourishment for your grass. Moreover, these lawn fertilizer products pose a low risk of nutrient leaching, maximizing nutrient absorption while minimizing environmental impact.

What About Starter Fertilizers?

NutriPod is a type of slow-release starter fertilizer that packs the essential nutrients to kickstart the growth of your Zoysia turf. But instead of measuring them and spreading them across your lawn like a regular granular fertilizer, they come pre-measured in dissolvable casings you can use along with your grass plugs.

Each pod has a balanced nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratio to help your lawn grow thicker, greener, and up to two times faster. For best results, drop a fertilizer pod into each grass plug hole. It will last up to 45 days, providing a gradual and consistent nutrient supply that fosters balanced growth while minimizing the risks of nutrient imbalances. This controlled release extends its effectiveness between applications, saving you time, money, and effort.


How to Maintain Zoysia Grass

Establishing a Zoysia lawn can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, but it is relatively low-maintenance once established.

This grass variety thrives in seven hours of full sun daily and is a great option for a drought-tolerant lawn. It establishes a deep root system that allows it to stay green even with less water. It is versatile and can adapt to slightly acidic soil, among other soil conditions.

Zoysia has a slow growth habit that minimizes the need for frequent mowing. However, its lateral growth pattern allows it to spread rapidly, often overcrowding weeds and other grasses. This grass is dense and resilient, making it a great option for high-traffic areas, particularly in golf courses and sports fields.

Nevertheless, to maintain optimal health, fertilize your Zoysia lawn 1-3 times yearly, water it weekly, and dethatch it regularly. Zoysia grass tends to accumulate a dense layer of living and dead plant matter, known as thatch. Dethatch when it exceeds half an inch to prevent fungal diseases and allow sunlight, water, air, and nutrients to penetrate into the soil.


The Best Zoysia Fertilizer for Your Lawn

There is a wide range of fertilizers in the market today, varying in nutrient ratios and application types, among other factors. However, the best fertilizer for your Zoysia lawn is primarily determined by its specific needs.

A soil test provides insights into crucial factors such as soil pH and composition, which enables you to tailor your fertilizer choice and implement necessary amendments to create optimal conditions for healthy grass growth.

While providing the essential nutrients through fertilizers is critical for your lawn, you should also recognize that creating an optimal environment for this warm-season grass extends beyond fertilization alone. It takes a holistic approach that encompasses efforts like regular watering, mowing, and detaching to ensure that it receives the necessary care to thrive and stay lush and healthy.

Our website is an insightful resource for lawn care guides and tips. Visit us to learn more.


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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