Best Grass for Colorado

Colorado homeowners sometimes end up disappointed when they end up with a lawn with dead patches and sparse grass after having picked the wrong type of grass. Ideally, you should go for a turf grass variety that thrives in the weather and soil conditions of your region. Native grasses are also a good option.

6 Best grass for Colorado

A significant portion of the state of Colorado lies in the cool-season zone, making cool-season grasses the best for lawns in this region. The best cool-season grasses for your Colorado lawn include Tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, and Kentucky bluegrass. Warm-season grasses that are native to Colorado, like Buffalo grass and Blue grama, also do well in Colorado lawns located closer to the transition zone.  

Here`s a Summary Table of the best Grass Types for Colorado Lawns 

Grass Types
Tall fescueGood for Colorado’s cold weather; doesn’t go dormant unless temperatures go under 50-degrees Fahrenheit. Low maintenance requirements; is slow to form thatch. Has high drought tolerance due to deep root system. 
Kentucky bluegrassPrefers temperatures lower than 75-degrees Fahrenheit; hence thrives in Colorado’s mild summers. Has excellent wear tolerance due to its rhizomatous growth habit. A high maintenance turf grass; requires frequent mowing, hydration, and fertilizing. 
Fine fescueHave good salt tolerance; thus can survive in alkaline Colorado soils. Have moderate shade tolerance and drought tolerance. Have low heat tolerance and form thatch quickly. 
Perennial ryegrassStays green all year round in Colorado weather. Has good wear tolerance due to tough blades and a robust root system. Best mowed at a height of 2.5-3 inches. 
Buffalo grassA turf grass native to the region: also great for Southern parts of Colorado falling within the transition zone, as it’s warm-season turf grass. Thrives in Colorado’s alkaline soils. Has great shade tolerance and drought tolerance. 
Blue gramaA native turf grass: also great for Southern parts of Colorado falling within the transition zone, as it’s warm-season turf grass.Minimal maintenance/mowing requirements due to its low-growth profile.Has poor shade tolerance. 

Tall Fescue

Tall fescue is a bunch-type, cool-season grass that’s adapted to the cold winters in Colorado. For strong root establishment, it’s best planted in the fall when air temperatures are between 68-77 degrees Fahrenheit. Tall fescue is also drought-tolerant, as it grows deep roots that can draw water from deep in the soil during periods of prolonged drought.

Being a cool-season grass, tall fescue has excellent cold tolerance and only goes dormant once temperatures drop below 50-degrees Fahrenheit. In the Southern parts of Colorado that are closer to the transition zone, this cold-hardy turf grass stays green all year round. What’s more, tall fescue doesn’t form thatch as much as Kentucky bluegrass.

Tall fescue has some limitations, though. For one, it’s not recommended as pasture grass since it’s toxic to livestock. What’s more, though it boasts decent traffic tolerance for cool-season grass, tall fescue isn’t nearly as wear-hardy as warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass.

Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass is a cool-season, perennial turf grass whose smooth, dark green leaves and formation of thick sod make it a visually appealing turf grass that’s beloved by Colorado homeowners. What’s more, the mild summers in Colorado favor this grass species, as it prefers temperatures not exceeding 75-degrees Fahrenheit at the peak of summer.

Note: Kentucky bluegrass also has excellent cold-hardiness and stays green longer into the winter before going dormant.

Kentucky bluegrass spreads quickly via underground runners called rhizomes, giving it great recuperative capability and enhancing its wear tolerance. This factor makes it great for high traffic turfs as well as pasture grass for Colorado livestock owners. Kentucky bluegrass withstands close and continuous grazing exceptionally well. It’s also one of the best shade-tolelant and low light grass varieties for your lawn

Despite all the above upsides, Kentucky bluegrass is relatively high maintenance. It requires frequent dethatching, irrigation, and fertilizing to maintain its appearance. You also need to water and feed your Kentucky bluegrass lawn to fast-track revival from winter dormancy.

Fine fescue

Fine fescues are various types of cool-season grasses that are great for Colorado lawns due to their ability to grow in the region’s cold conditions. These grasses also boast good salt tolerance, enabling them to thrive in Colorado’s alkaline soils with Ph of 7.0-7.4. Even better, fine fescues are known to thrive in poor, low-nutrient soil conditions.

Most fine fescues are bunch grasses that spread via vertical runners known as tillers to form beautiful, fine-textured grass. They also have excellent shade tolerance and moderate drought tolerance. However, fine fescues have low traffic tolerance and thus aren’t recommended for yards that are frequented by children and pets.

Fine fescues have low heat tolerance and will go dormant when summer temperatures exceed 80-degrees Fahrenheit. They also require frequent dethatching and are difficult to mow with a high recommended mowing height of 2.5-3 inches.

Note: Common types of fine fescue include red fescue, sheep fescue, and hard fescue.

Perennial Ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is a cool-season grass that thrives in the cold fall weather in Colorado. Being a perennial, it stays green year-round and doesn’t form thatch, making it relatively low maintenance. Perennial ryegrass has coarse leaf blades, strong roots, and grows in bunches, each of these features making it durable and wear tolerant.

Perennial ryegrass has moderate shade tolerance (can withstand light shade) and good drought tolerance. Its fast germination rate makes it easy to establish from seed. Perennial grass is usually used in seed blends alongside warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass to enable the lawn to stay green deeper into the fall.

One of the cons of perennial ryegrass is that it’s a high maintenance turf grass that requires to be watered, fertilized, and mowed often to keep it looking great and maintain its health. The recommended mowing height for this type of grass is 2.5-3 inches.

Buffalo grass

If you live in the Southern part of Colorado that’s on the edge of the transition zone, you can successfully plant Buffalo grass, which is warm-season grass. That’s because the winters in this part of the state are a bit milder than in the north. Buffalo grass’ long, droopy blades form a carpet-like turf that’s beautiful in appearance.

Most of the soil in Colorado is alkaline, and Buffalo grass thrives in such soil conditions. It doesn’t do as well in waterlogged soils or soils with poor drainage though. Buffalo grass is more vulnerable to pests and diseases if grown in such soil conditions.

Buffalo grass has high shade tolerance and high drought tolerance. However, it has poor wear tolerance and easily deteriorates under excessive traffic. This is mainly due to the fact that it only spreads via above-ground runners (stolons) which are easily damaged by lawn traffic.

Note: Buffalo grass prefers deep, but infrequent watering. Too much water encourages weed invasion.

Blue grama

Just like Buffalo grass, Blue grama is another warm-season turf grass that’s native to Colorado and the Great Plains. You can, therefore, successfully plant this grass type in your Colorado lawn and overseed it with a cool-season variety if you want the lawn to stay green all year round.

Blue grama gets its name from its blue-green leaf blade color, which makes for a beautiful turf. This type of turf grass is also exceptionally wear-tolerant with minimal maintenance requirements. A low growth profile means that you don’t have to mow a Blue grama lawn as often as other common warm-season grasses.

Note: Blue grama’s high wear tolerance can also be attributed to its rhizomatous growth habit that enables quick recovery from wear and tear.

If you have a shaded lawn in your Colorado residence, you might want to skip this option, as Blue grama doesn’t tolerate shady conditions. It thrives in full sunlight conditions and stays durable when mowed at a height of 1.5-2 inches.

How to select the best grass type for Colorado lawns

The best type of turf grass for your Colorado lawn depends on what properties you desire the most. But first, since the Mile High State is generally cold, a cool-season turf grass with great cold-hardiness is the best choice.

If you’re planning to have your kids and pets play on the lawn regularly, opt for a wear tolerant turf grass variety such as Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. Meanwhile, if your lawn is partially shaded, you might want to go for a shade-tolerant turf grass like tall fescue or fine fescue.

If you live in Southern Colorado towns like Springfield and Dove Creek, you can go for warm-season turf grass since these places are right at the edge of the transition zone. Native, warm-season grasses like Buffalo grass and Blue grama do well in these parts of Colorado and stay green even in the warmth of the summer.

References

  1. Oregon State University, Department of Horticulture: Perennial ryegrass Lolium perenne L.
  2. Richard L. Duble, Texas Cooperative Extension: Tall Fescue

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