Zoysiagrass (with video)

ProPlugger Co - Friday, January 25, 2013

Plugging zoysiagrass with the ProPlugger 5-IN-1 Planting ToolZoysiagrass (Zoysia species) is a superior lawn turf, assuming it is properly maintained. It forms a dense carpet of turf that is attractive and desirable for golf courses, lawns and parks. It spreads somewhat slower than other turf types, therefore recovering from damage can take longer.

This warm season grass grows best during the warm summer months when temperatures are in the 80º- 95º F range. It is also considered one of the more cold-tolerant of the warm-season grasses, staying green further into the fall season than many others. In winter it goes dormant, producing an attractive tan carpet.

The varieties of zoysia are numerous and span a wide range of leaf textures and colors from fine, almost needle sized leaf blades to broader "fescue" width blades. Most varieties are planted by sodding or plugging as there are only two varieties which can be readily established by seeding, namely zenith and compadre. Zoysia spreads via above-ground runners, called stolons, and underground  rhizomes, which allows it to fill in bare spots quite readily. Mow zoysia with a reel mower or a rotary mower with a sharp blade. Zoysia is a turf grass that tends to accumulate thatch so be careful not to over fertilize with nitrogen. It should be dethatched every 2-3 years.

Is Plugging Zoysiagrass Right for You?

Leaf Texture

Fine to medium (depending on the variety).

Climate Zone

Zoysiagrass is a warm season grass that grows best in the warm, mostly humid regions of the United States (to USDA Hardiness Zone 9). Consult your local extension agent to determine if a specific variety of zoysia is suitable for your area.

When to Plant Zoysia

Planting zoysia by sod and plugs can be done from early spring to late fall in the southern states. You can even transplant zoysia plugs in an established lawn during dormancy (fall/winter), producing viable plugs when soil temperatures rise in spring. Seeding requires soil temperatures above 70 degrees, so plant in late spring or early summer after all danger of frost is past. Note: zoysiagrass is slow to establish and spread, often requiring up to two seasons to form a nice, dense carpet of lawn turf.

Light Requirements

Zoysia does best in full sun however some varieties can tolerate a moderate amount of shade in the hotter climates. In the cooler climates some thinning of the turf may occur in shady areas.

Watering Requirements

(Source: Texas A&M Extension) Although zoysiagrass is considered to be a drought tolerant species, it ceases growth and begins to discolor during extended dry periods. To maintain vibrant growth, Zoysia requires 1 to 2 inches of water per week during mid-summer, although it can survive on less than 1 inch of water per week. Water should be applied 2 to 3 times per week depending on temperatures and soil conditions. Sandy soils require more frequent irrigation than heavier clay soils; and, as temperatures increase, irrigation frequency should increase. During prolonged droughts when it is impractical to water enough to maintain growth, weekly applications of as little as 0.5 inches of water are adequate to keep the grass alive.

Planting Methods

Zoysia is planted mainly by sod and plugs. Seed germination (Zenith and Compadre) is extremely slow, leading to serious weed control issues and water run-off threats from heavy rains during germination.  For most do-it-yourself homeowners, plugging is the primary choice for planting.  

Soil Preparation

The key to growing a nice lawn is soil preparation and an essential element is having your soil tested for nutrient content and, more importantly pH. Whether you’re planting grass from plugs, sod or seed, the finished surface should contain at least four inches of quality topsoil, free of stones and large clumps of soil. Use a tiller, if needed, to work up the topsoil and smooth it out with a garden rake.

How to Plug Your Zoysia Lawn

Many landscape companies as well as DIY homeowners choose plugging as an inexpensive alternative to sodding. For easy cutting and planting of sod plugs, use the ProPlugger 5-IN-1 Planting Tool. This tool will save you time and some serious bending over. Simply step down on the footpegs, letting your body weight and gravity do most of the work, start pulling plugs for your planting holes. The same technique works for cutting sod plugs from pieces of purchased sod. (See video above for demonstration).

Depth rings included with the 5-IN-1 allow you to dig the exact depth hole needed (2", 4" and even 6"). As you pull plugs, the soil gets stored inside the tool and when you're ready to empty, simply turn the tool upside down and soil plugs slide out easily. 

Press the plug in the hole using potting soil to snug into place. It's that easy. .

PH and Fertilizer:

Have your soil tested prior to planting. Most lawn grasses grow best in a soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. If a soil test indicates a need to add lime, determine the proper amount needed and mix it into the ground prior to planting to a depth of about 4 inches. A soil test should also indicate how much fertilizer to add at the time of planting. Clemson University suggests applying 1/2 lb of nitrogen (N) per 1,000 square feet after spring green-up, but no more than 2 lbs of nitrogen in any given growing season. Use a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 4-1-2 ratio, such as 16-4-8.

Insects and Disease

Be on the lookout for the white grubs, chinch bug. Possible diseases include large patch and dollar rust spot. Contact your local extension agent on tips and products to control insects and disease in turf grass. Disease problems are managed mostly by good cultural practices, i.e., mowing, watering and feeding.

Zoysia Varieties

Emerald (a finer textured zoysia), Zenith (can be grown from seed), El Toro (fastest growing variety), Meyer (medium leaf texture), Belaire (coarser than other leaf textures), Compadre.


Neil Moran is a horticulturist and author of three books on gardening. He is also the creator and author of the garden blog North Country Gardening.

Be sure to check out the helpful information on our website, including other uses for the ProPlugger including:

  1. Bulb Planter
  2. Bedding Plant and Annual Planter
  3. Weeding Tool
  4. Ground Cover Planter