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Monday, November 5, 2018

Lawn Grasses That Grow in the Las Vegas Valley

Q. Are there other lawn grasses besides tall fescue and Bermudagrass that will grow here?
I took this picture many years ago to show the difference in leaf texture between some of the old-fashioned tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. The newer tall fescue lawn grasses have a much finer texture than the older ones but they are still a little bit itchy compared to the soft touch of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye.

A. Many different lawn grasses will grow in Las Vegas, but the problems are availability and which cultivars or varieties to use. Most people want what’s available currently in the Las Vegas markets because they are in a hurry and that narrows your selection to mostly tall fescue, sometimes called “fescue” by some.
This is St. Augustine grass growing in the Las Vegas Valley. It was substituted for Bermuda grass when shade was a problem. Like Bermuda grass, it is a warm season grass which means it turns brown in the winter. The major reason most folks don't use warm season grasses in the Las Vegas Valley is because it turns brown in the winter. But they can use considerably less water than cool season lawn grasses.

            Las Vegas sits in, using landscape lingo, the “Transition” zone for growing lawn grasses. There are three identified zones in the United States for lawn grasses; cool season in the northern states and warm season in the southern states. Just like onions.

            We sit in a third zone between them both called, you guessed it, the “Transition zone”. We can grow both cool season and warm season grasses. It’s the same with onions. In our location we grow both northern and southern onions. The same is true of our lawn grass. That can be an advantage, it can also be a problem. Our climate is not clearly cool season and not clearly warm season and so we have problems with both.
For identification of cool season grasses I use a combination of things but one is the leaf veination as you see in this picture. Both tall fescue and annual ryegrass have identical veins that run the length of the leaf blade. Perennial ryegrass, in the center, has that strong midvein.

            The major limiting factor is winter low temperatures that can kill some lawn grasses.
            The warm season grasses include all the different varieties of Bermudagrass but also zoysia, St. Augustine, Buffalo, centipedegrass and others. The cool season grasses include tall fescues but also Kentucky bluegrasses and perennial ryegrass. All warm season and all cool season grasses grow here but heat tolerance is very important with bluegrass and ryegrass lawns because of our high summer temperatures.
            Cool season lawns can stay green 12 months of the year here. Warm season lawns turn brown during the late fall and winter months. Some can handle overseeding in the fall with ryegrass if  a green lawn is wanted through the winter, but some do not.
            The predominant lawns in Las Vegas during the 1980s and earlier were Kentucky bluegrass for high-end lawns and common Bermudagrass for low-end lawns. Heat tolerant perennial ryegrass started making appearances in the late 1980s. Annual ryegrass was used for overseeding common Bermuda during the winter while managed back to common Bermuda in mid spring.
            The variety of a plant chosen, whether it’s a lawn grass or a vegetable, can be just as important as the kind selected. This is an important concept to learn.

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