When temperatures rise above 55*F (12*C), warm-season grasses green up and grow, slowing down only when they are badly parched by a summer drought. But because these species are native to the tropics, they usually recover from heat stress quickly. Warm-season grasses go dormant in winter, turning a pale tan color.
Bermuda Grass (Cynodon Dactylon Hybrids)
Vigorous, care-free, and eager to spread, Bermuda grass has a fine texture, with narrow blades that curl slightly when they grow longer than 2 in (5.1 cm). This grass forms an extremely tight turf that is soft underfoot and resists heavy foot traffic. Bermuda grass will not tolerate shade but can grow in a variety of soils.
Hybrids, which can be planted only from sod, are far superior to more primitive, invasive, seed-sown strains The best varieties are 'Tifgreen', 'Tifway II', and 'Santa Ana". Mow Bermuda grass to a height of 1-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm).
Centipede (Eremochloa Ophiuroides)
Centipede grass is a coarse-bladed creeping type that spreads with long runners that stands up to a lot of traffic. It quickly fills in when planted from sprigs, although it also can be grown from sod. Seeding is generally not recommended, as the seeds are small and weeds invariably invade while the centipede grass seed is still germinating.
Unlike most other lawn grasses, which are deep green, centipede is a light apple-green color. As a bonus, it grows slowly, requiring infrequent mowing. Centipede grass prefers infertile soil, so fertilize it modestly, only once in early summer. It also grows best in acid soil, so you may need to treat the grass with supplemental iron, a mineral that is often not available to plants grown in acid soil. In areas where centipede grass is commonly grown, you can often find fertilizer formulated specially for it, which supplies the minerals it requires.
Popular varieties include 'Tennessee' and 'Oak-lawn'. Mow centipede grass to 1-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm).
St. Augustine (Stenotaphrum Secundatum)
The wide, folded blades of St. Augustine grass give it a slightly coarse texture, but this is easily accepted,
given its other attributes. This grass grows well in shade, maintains its deep green color, and spreads
quickly from long, creeping stems.
St. Augustine grass is happiest in sandy soil but will survive in clay providing the drainage is good. Be careful not to overfertilize this grass, especially if it is growing in clay, because it will build up thatch quickly. 'Raleigh' and 'Floratine' are good choices. Mow St. Augustine to 2-3 in (5.1-7.6 cm).
Zoysiagrass (Zoysia Japonica, Z. Matrella)
A somewhat temperamental beauty, zoysiagrass is valued for its velvety, fine-bladed texture and cushioned feel underfoot. A sod-forming grass, zoysiagrass grows slowly but forms an extremely tight, weed-free turf once established. Grow zoysiagrass from plugs or sod, selecting types that are right for your area. Meyer zoysiagrass (Z. japonica) offers superior cold tolerance, while emerald zoysiagrass (Z. matrella) has a darker color and finer texture but is more easily injured by cold.
Zoysiagrass should be mowed to 1 in (2.5 cm), but this is hard to do well unless you have a reel-type mower. If you have a rotary mower, you can let it grow to 2 in (5.1 cm) tall.