Lawns make a fantastic place to relax and for kids to play. However, maintaining them can be overwhelming, especially when the grass is actively growing. Watering, fertilizing, mowing, thatch removal, and aeration are primary duties to keep the lawn in good shape.
Sometimes you want to maintain your lawn less often using minimal time, effort, and money. Low-maintenance grasses need minimal watering, fertilizing, and less or no mowing. Zoysia grass, buffalo grass, fine fescues, mondo grass, blends of fine fescues, and buffalo grass are low-maintenance grasses that need little to no mowing. They will make the perfect fit for your lawn.
We’ll show you affordable alternatives that will cost you less to establish, and cost less in energy spending from less mowing.
What is the most low-maintenance grass?
Fine fescues are the most low-maintenance grass. Fine fescue crowd out weeds, saving you the cost of weedkillers. They require little or no fertilizers to stay green and healthy. Fine fescues grow slowly to 8 to 12 inches when uncut. The species need less watering and mowing once per year to keep them attractive.
Types of No-Mow Grass
The growing season sees some grass species experience accelerated growth. The grass species need more water, fertilizers, and mowing to keep them healthy. However, low-maintenance grasses grow slowly in the active growth period or don’t grow tall enough to need mowing once or twice weekly.
1. Buffalo grass
Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) is a perennial warm-season grass native to the great plains of North America.
Buffalo grass thrives in wet and dry loamy soils with moderate salinity and a pH 6.5-8.0 range. Buffalo grass establishes from seeds and burs. The seeds have excellent germination rates in soil temperature between 70oF-80oF in mid-spring to mid-summer. However, buffalo seeds take more than two years to establish on the lawn.
Buffalo grass is low growing, measuring 3 to 6 inches tall when actively growing in summer. It has stolons but no rhizomes. The stolons creep above the ground and spread laterally, keeping them short. Thus, you don’t have to mow them regularly to keep them attractive. Otherwise, set the mower to 2 to 3 inches tall.
Buffalo grass requires less fertilization and infrequent deep watering – about 0.5 inches once weekly. Less fertilization and periodic mowing make buffalo grass excellent for low-maintenance lawns.
You’ll love buffalo grass tolerance to drought, heat, and cold temperatures. It turns brown during winter but perks up to a lush green in spring.
While it doesn’t do well in the shade, Buffalo grass thrives in full sunlight. It also handles moderate foot traffic well.
Growing a buffalo grass lawn in high rainfall areas will expose it to two problems, competition from tall grass and weeds and diseases such as the brown chin. Ironically, well-established buffalo grass forms a dense sod to prevent soil erosion common in high rainfall areas.
2. Centipede grass
Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) is a perennial warm-season grass native to China and southern Asia. It gets its name courtesy of its upright stem that resembles a centipede. It’s known as the lazy man’s lawn for its low maintenance.
It has coarse-textured, yellow-green leaves and establishes from sprigs, sods, and seeds. The grass grows slowly and has creeping stems lying laterally above the ground. The creeping stems, called stolons, form new shoots at the nodes and spread. Mature Centipede grass is 5 inches tall. It doesn’t need regular mowing to keep it attractive.
Centipede grass requires 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet yearly in summer to fertilize.
Centipede grass thrives in full sun with 4 to 6 hours of daily exposure, although it can tolerate partial shade. Winter is a terrible time for centipede grass since it is susceptible to winter injury.
Centipede grass is best suited for lawns with low foot traffic because it wears when exposed to high traffic. You also have to deal with pre-establishment weeds and pests such as mole crickets, white grubs, and spittlebugs.
3. Fine fescues
Fine fescues are cool-season grass species hardy in the northern and transition zones 4 to 9 of the United States. Fine fescues (creeping fescue, red fescue, sheep fescue, and chewing fescue) are the best low-growing cool-season grass with little to no mowing requirement.
Fine fescues have smooth leaf blades and bunch-type growth habits. They spread by tillers.
Fine fescues thrive in areas with full sun but can tolerate partial shade, thus recommended for shade seed mixtures. Fine fescues have deep roots, withstanding heat and drought better than other cool-season grasses.
Fine fescues naturally crowd out weeds without needing herbicides and fungicides to control them. They require minimal fertilizer application to grow healthy. Fine fescues grow slowly to 8 to 12 inches tall if left uncut. Arguably the best no-mow cool-season grass, you have the option to mow once per year or let them grow.
However, fine fescues don’t tolerate high foot traffic and extreme summer heat. They are prone to thatch build-up and don’t thrive in clay soils.
4. Zoysia grass
Zoysia grass (Zoysia tenuifolia) is a perennial warm-season grass hardy in the southern and transition zones 6 to 11. Zoysia tenuifolia is a slow grower, only needing bi-annual mowing to keep it attractive. Its growth habit makes it an excellent low-maintenance turfgrass.
Zoysia tenuifolia thrives in areas with full sun. However, it can withstand partial shade. Zoysia grass resists pests and withstands heat and drought. Fertilize Zoysia grass in fall and spring. However, this grass forms patches on poorly drained soils and areas with high shade. Grow it in well-drained loam soils with full sun to prevent it from forming patches.
5. Fine fescue and buffalograss blend
Commercial brands sometimes mix fine fescue grass seed with buffalograss seeds to produce a better performance lawn. Overseed a buffalo grass lawn with fine fescue seeds to provide more color during winter. Fine fescue and buffalograss blend are popular in the southern parts with hot and dry climatic conditions.
Buffalo grass and fine fescues are low-maintenance grasses that grow slowly to reach a maximum height of 11. The blend produces a lawn that needs less watering, little to no fertilization, and no-mow grass. You only have to mow after four weeks when the grass is actively growing.
6. Mondo grass
Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), also called monkey grass, is a perennial sod-forming grass primarily used as ground cover in lawns, flowerbeds, and paths. Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planicapus) and Kyoto Dwarf Mondo grass are the most common no-mow species used in yards. Black mondo has dark purple leaves that appear black and grow slowly to 6 inches tall. Kyoto dwarf mondo grass grows between 3 and 4 inches tall.
Black mondo is hardy in the USDA zones 5 to 10, while the Kyoto Dwarf Mondo is hardy in zones 7 to 9. Mondo grass thrives in moist, well-drained areas with full sun. However, they tolerate partial shade. Mondo grass grows slowly and requires little attention once established. Their drought resistance makes them perfect for hot and dry areas. However, mondo grass is susceptible to anthracnose, a fungal disease.