Grass that Grows in Sand: Varieties that Will Grow in Sandy Soil

Do you live in a region with sandy soil that makes it difficult to grow grass on your lawn? Looking for advice on how to achieve a healthy, thriving turf on sandy soil?

Will grass grow in sandy soil?

Yes, grass can grow on sandy soil, albeit only under certain specific conditions. Naturally, sandy soil is no its most-preferred growth medium, as grass typically requires high amounts of moisture to sustain proper growth. This is difficult to achieve in sandy soil, which typically has poor moisture retention properties. What’s more, sand reduces soil fertility while also minimizing the capability of the soil to hold nutrients that are crucial for turfgrass development.

The final reason why it’s difficult to grow grass in sandy soil is that sand creates sizable air pockets that inhibit root development, since the thin and feeble roots of turfgrasses typically requires soil particles that are sufficiently compact for improved penetration and stability during root establishment. To successfully grow a beautiful, lush green turf on a lawn with sandy soil- therefore- you can make various adjustments to the soil; while also settling for a turfgrass variety that’s known to do well in sand. We discuss both of these aspects in the subsequent sections.

What grass grows in sand?

For a visually-attractive lawn on sandy soil, you need to select a befitting turfgrass species with specific characteristics such as good drought-tolerance and deep root penetration. Since sandy soil has poor moisture retention, a drought-tolerant turfgrass variety is the most likely to survive these relatively dryer soil conditions. Meanwhile, turfgrasses with strong and deep-penetrating roots can penetrate past the air pockets in for improved moisture and nutrient intake. We discuss the top turfgrass species/varieties with such characteristics below:

  1. Zoysia Grass

This warm-season turfgrass is often recommended by landscaping professionals for lawns with sandy soil due to its deep-penetrating roots. Typically, Zoysia grass requires some hours of daily sunlight exposure, but could still thrive under partially-shaded conditions. Being a drought-tolerant grass variety, Zoysia grass has minimal water requirements.

  1. Bermuda Grass

Also known as ‘Devil’s Grass’ Bermuda grass is a popular warm-season grass, especially amongst homeowners in the Southern states. It’s most outstanding feature that makes it great for sandy soil is its deep-rooting nature. What’s more, Bermuda grass is adapted to thrive in both drought and rainy conditions.

On the flipside, Bermuda grass is not shade-tolerant and requires a sufficient amount of daily, direct sunlight exposure to maintain its beautiful, lush green appearance. Finally, Bermuda grass has a short-stature, which is great for sandy soil, as taller grass varieties suffer from instability in such soil conditions.

  1. Kentucky Bluegrass

Scientifically referred to as Poa pratensis, Kentucky Bluegrass is a perennial turfgrass that can also thrive in sandy soil, albeit under the right conditions of soil fertility. This is largely because of its ability to thrive even in dry soil conditions. In terms of light requirements, this grass species requires partial to full sunlight exposure, and is also great for regions with highly humid climates.

This grass variety also needs an adequate supply of water to thrive, especially during the warmer seasons. Under optimum conditions, your Kentucky bluegrass will grow to form a dense turf that will definitely enhance your curb appeal.

  1. Tall Fescue

Fescues are a cool-season turfgrass genus, and some species of this turfgrass group are adapted to sandy soils as well, including tall, hard, and red fescue. These three fescue species are the most drought-tolerant, and tall fescue- in particular- boasts good shade-tolerance.  

  • Bahia Grass

This perennial turfgrass species has unmatched drought-resistance, with some varieties boasting deep-penetrating roots that go as far as 12-feet into the ground. This makes it capable of surviving in sandy soil that can barely hold moisture. Its low-growing nature also enables easy stabilization, while its ability to thrive on minimal nutrients makes it great for nutrient-deficient, sandy soil.

The table below provides a summary of the five types of turfgrasses discussed above as being suitable for planting on sandy soil. Included in the table are details on the required soil type, water requirements, growing season, sunlight requirements, and pH preferences.

Type of TurfgrassRequired soil type Water requirementsIs it a warm or cool-season grass?Sunlight requirementspH
Zoysia GrassPrefers loamy soil- but can grow in sandy soilAt least one-inch of irrigation per weekWarm-season grassPrefers direct, full sunlight exposure, but can withstand partial shade.Between 5.8-7.0
Bermuda GrassPrefers deep sandy loam soilRequires about 1- 1.25-inches of moisture per week to thriveWarm-season grassRequires at least 7 hours of daily, direct sunlight exposureBetween 5.5-6.5
Kentucky BluegrassPrefers medium-textured, limestone soilRequires at least two-inches of water per week to thriveA perennial, cool-season grassPrefers direct, full sunlight exposure, but can withstand mild shading.Between 6.0- 7.5
Tall FescuePrefers sandy and heavy-clay soilsRequires about 1- 1.25-inches of moisture per week to thriveA cool-season turfgrass speciesRequires between 4-6 hours of dappled/filtered sunlight per dayBetween 5.8-6.5
Bahia GrassPrefers acidic soilRequires between 0.25- 0.5-inches of moisture per day to thriveA warm-season turfgrassPrefers full sunlight exposure, but can withstand light shadingBetween 5.5-6.5

How to grow grass in sand

To successfully grow grass in sandy soil, consider the strategies discussed below:

  1. Boost the soil’s moisture retention capabilities- sandy soil can barely hold water long enough to allow for adequate absorption by the roots of your planted grass. As such, you can boost grass growth by adding loamy topsoil or organic garden compost onto your sandy soil to boost its moisture retention capabilities.
  2. Establish the turf via seed or sod- for higher chances of success during turf establishment on sandy soil, seeding or sodding are the recommended options over sprigging and plugging. When sodding, ensure that the roots of your sod grass come into contact with your topsoil during installation, while also ensuring daily irrigation post-installation. If you’re planting your grass via seed, ensure uniform distribution by using a broadcasting machine. You can also mulch the lawn post-seeding to encourage moisture retention.
  3. Water frequently, but avoid overwatering- while you may need to water your sandy soil lawn frequently in order to keep it adequately moist to support grass growth, you should only water for relatively short durations during each irrigation session, as too much water can wash away some of the planted seeds. This would then leave you with unsightly, bare spots on your lawn once the seeds germinate and the grass grows.
  4. Fertilize your soil- this is especially important if you live in an area where it rains often, as the excess rainwater will most likely have washed away most nutrients present in the soil. A slow-release fertilizer, applied atop the sandy soil at least once-per-month, can significantly boost turfgrass development. Follow manufacturers’ instructions to avoid over-fertilizing your sandy soil, as this will most likely lead to contamination of the water table.
  5. Mow at the appropriate height- mowing turfgrasses on sandy soil at a height of between 2.5-3.5-inches is a great way of encouraging deeper root establishment.

What grass is best for sandy soil in Florida and Texas?

Florida and Texas are both Southern states, where the weather is typically warm and sunny for most parts of the year. Under such conditions, you typically expect less soil moisture due to increased evaporation. Add to that sandy soil that can’t hold moisture for long and what you need is a deep-rooting, drought tolerant, warm-season, turfgrass varieties that can withstand these seemingly harsh conditions. Below is a list highlighting some of the best warm-season turfgrasses adapted to thriving in sandy soil, which you may find suitable for your Florida or Texas lawn:

  1. Oasis Bermuda Grass
  2. Blackjack Bermuda Grass
  3. Yukon Bermuda Grass
  4. Riviera Bermuda Grass
  5. Zenith Zoysia Grass
  6. Compadre Zoysia Grass
  7. Centipede Grass
  8. The ‘Buffalo Supreme’ variety of Buffalo Grass
  9. Carpet Grass
  10. Bahia Grass

References

  1. https://turf.purdue.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/agry-98-03.pdf

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