Should You Use Slow-Growing Grass? (7 Types of Grass to Use)
In 2015, data showed the average American spent 70 hours per year in lawn care. Time is precious, and just like many of our natural resources, it’s non-renewable. So here are some slow-growing grasses you can plant to get your time back!
Using slow-growing grass can increase biodiversity in the garden, minimize fertilizer runoff, and lower air pollution. The 7 slowest growing grass types that can be planted are blue grama, carpetgrass, centipede grass, Kentucky bluegrass, Korean velvet, hard fescue, and dwarf lilyturf.
Besides reducing how much time we spend in the yard, are there other reasons we should care about? As it turns out, yes. Keep reading forward to learn why slow-growing grass should be used more often and what types to choose!
Why Should You Use Slow-Growing Grass? (3 Reasons)
Slow-growing grass can lower air pollution, increase biodiversity, and minimize fertilizer runoff.
The idea of maintaining and caring for lawns began in the 1800s and has stayed with us for over a hundred years. But the benefits of using slow-growing grass can last even longer than that!
1. Lower Air Pollution
Although lawns could help mitigate climate change by removing carbon dioxide, the equipment used for maintaining them can contribute more air pollution than our lawns reduce.
Data from the Environmental Protection Agency has shown that gas-powered lawnmowers make up more than 5% of total air pollution in the US.
This is where slow-growing grass steps in to help us with that. Due to their slow growth rates, they require significantly less frequent maintenance and therefore do not need to be mowed as often.
This can help lessen the amount of air pollution lawnmowers contribute!
2. Increase Biodiversity
Other than helping the environment, slow-growing grass is also excellent in achieving more natural and meadow-like yards.
With less work involved, the grass will look less curated and provide better biodiversity than the average manicured lawn. This is great if you’re looking to attract more pollinators such as bees and butterflies!
3. Minimize Fertilizer Runoff
Another great thing to mention is that fertilizers aren’t needed as much by slow-growing grass.
This may sound inconsequential, but this is an easy way for us to help our environment and protect local water sources from being polluted by fertilizer runoff.
There are many benefits to using slow-growing grasses, but one of the best ones is that it can help the planet for years to come.
Reduce your workload for lawn maintenance and minimize air and water pollution with slow-growing grass!
The 7 Ultimate Slow-Growing Types of Grass for Your Yard!
People can use 7 types of slow-growing grass in their yard: blue grama, carpetgrass, centipede grass, Kentucky bluegrass, Korean velvet, hard fescue, and dwarf lilyturf.
So, which type of grass should you use on your lawn? The answer is: It depends.
It might be tempting to plant whichever is the most popular, but this might not always be ideal. Each kind has its pros and cons, so be sure to use only what works best for you!
Here are some of the best slow-growing grasses and basic details about them summarized in a simple table to help you decide.
Type of Slow-Growing Grass
USDA Growing Zones
Germination Rate (Days)
Cool or Warm Season
Learn more about each of them in the section below!
1. Blue Grama (Chondrosum gracile)
Blue grama is a perennial, slow-growing grass that can tolerate drought and nutrient-poor soils. Plant in full sun and avoid growing it in shady areas.
USDA Growing Zones: 3–10
Germination Rate: 10–20 Days
Shade Tolerant: No
If you’re looking into reducing your water usage and considering no-mow lawns, look into using blue grama grass.
Blue grama grass has a vigorous root system that helps it tolerate drought longer than other grasses. In a way, you could say it’s similar to how cacti roots help plants survive without water.
It also grows best in full sun, which is perfect if you live in an area with strong light. Aside from being a slow-grower, blue grama grass is short. Often, it only reaches a height of 6–24 inches, making it easier to control if you forget to cut it.
Just like other warm-season grasses, the blue grama grass will go dormant in the winter, primarily growing in spring and summer. Cool-season grasses like the Kentucky bluegrass will continue growing in the winter.
Overall, this is an attractive grass native to North America that can tolerate less water the older it becomes.
2. Carpetgrass (Axonopus scoparius)
Carpetgrass grows best in full sun and is suitable for moist and boggy soils. Although it is commonly mistaken for centipede grass, carpetgrass has thinner seedheads and does not tolerate drought. This grass grows slowly and can be kept in partial shade.
USDA Growing Zones: 8–9
Germination Rate: 14–22 Days
Shade Tolerant: Partially
This even-growing grass is commonly found on beaches and alongside streams and lakes, so don’t be too confused if it looks familiar.
Carpetgrass is excellent for wet areas or if your soil happens to stay moist for long periods. Because of this, it’s a splendid grass to grow near koi ponds.
But keep in mind that the downside to this is that it does not tolerate drought well.
It might look similar to centipede grass, but the thin seedheads of carpetgrass will help you tell them apart. Due to their similarities, it’s not uncommon for folks to mix carpetgrass with centipede grass.
Planting some of these together is a clever way to quickly fill in sparse areas. But it can be difficult to separate carpetgrass mixed in with centipede grass, so be careful!
3. Centipede Grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides)
Centipede grass grows very slowly and requires little maintenance. Given proper care, it will only need to be mowed twice a month. Plant centipede grass in soils with pH levels between 5.5–6.0 and 6 hours of sun exposure for it to grow densely.
USDA Growing Zones: 7–10
Germination Rate: 20–30 Days
Shade Tolerant: Partially
Moving on to Centipede Grass, this grass is commonly referred to as the “lazy man’s grass” because it’s low-maintenance. Homeowners like to plant it and just let it be, only mowing when needed.
Just note that centipede grass can be slow to germinate at first, so it’s best to plant it as early as possible.
To ensure that centipede grass can survive winter, it must be planted early in the year, such as in May. Once established, it will form thick, slow-growing grass that can be mowed as seldom as every 2 weeks.
This centipede grass seed on Amazon is what I frequently recommend to those looking for easy and slow-growing grass.
Centipede grass grows best in acidic soils. To help it thrive, plant it in a warm and bright place with 6 hours of full sun, and enjoy your hassle-free lawn!
4. Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis)
Use Kentucky bluegrass for a slow-growing but hardy grass. Due to its slow growth, however, it can be difficult to cultivate. To help this grass establish faster, plant it in soil with temperatures at 65°F.
USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
Germination Rate: 18–25 Days
Shade Tolerant: Partially
You’ve probably heard of this one. This is one of the most popular grasses used in North America, and it’s for good reason!
For one, Kentucky bluegrass can recover from foot traffic, making it ideal for yards and gardens with plenty of activity.
Its prolific root system prevents erosion and even allows the grass to grow back if it is ever torn or dug up.
Kentucky bluegrass tends to have deep green hues that can sometimes be seen as blue, acting as a nice contrast against white or yellow flowerbeds.
Check out our article on the 45 Most Colorful Varieties of Daisies
The drawback to using this grass is that it’s slow to germinate, so plan ahead and plant it when soil temperatures are around 65°F to speed up the process.
Because of this, most homeowners choose not to grow yards entirely out of Kentucky bluegrass. Its slow growth is a benefit, for sure, but it can be challenging to set up first. As some folks like to say, expect to plant this grass and “sprout and pout.”
5. Korean Velvet (Zoysia tenuifolia)
Part of the Zoysia family, the Korean velvet is a slow-growing grass that only grows approximately 10 cm high. This grass can handle poor soil conditions and can tolerate shade and drought.
USDA Growing Zones: 7–11
Germination Rate: 20–30 Days
Shade Tolerant: Yes
If you’re looking for a unique but simple grass, look no further! The Korean velvet has a habit of forming dense but fluffy grass mounds with a more interesting texture than the typical flat and narrow grass blades.
Its lush growth is perfect for those looking to create a wildflower meadow garden aesthetic.
Korean velvet is part of the Zoysia grass family, which is known to be very slow growing, so you’re unlikely to complain about it growing too wildly.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve most likely noticed that a common disadvantage to using slow-growing grasses is that it can sometimes take a long time to cover a lawn. Unfortunately, this grass is not exempt from this.
But once it finally establishes, it will only grow up to 10 cm, so it does not need frequent mowing. This is terrific for no-mow gardens!
6. Hard Fescue (Festuca longifolia)
Hard fescue is a shade-tolerant grass that grows very slowly. This grass can be frequently left unmowed and can absorb pet urine.
USDA Growing Zones: 3–8
Germination Rate: 15–20 Days
Shade Tolerant: Yes
The leaf blades of hard fescue grass have a pleasing blue tint that looks similar to Kentucky bluegrass.
It’s non-aggressive and tends to grow in clumps. It can even be left unmowed for longer periods due to how slowly it grows!
Another benefit to growing this is that deer are less likely to graze on these due to its pointed leaves.
Explore more in: 20 Plants That Repel Deer (With Photos!)
This grass can tolerate shady conditions better than other grasses, which is perfect for gardens with lots of shade-providing trees. It also thrives with infrequent watering, so you don’t have to worry about strict watering schedules.
Plus, if you have any cats or dogs, you’ll be happy to hear that this grass is great for pet owners and is known to be very absorbent.
7. Dwarf Lilyturf (Ophiopogon japonicus)
The dwarf lilyturf plant is technically not grass but is commonly cultivated as a short-growing groundcover. The grass-like growth stays green all year long and takes several years to grow up to 8 inches.
USDA Growing Zones: 6–10
Germination Rate: 14–30 Days
Shade Tolerant: Yes
Last but not least, although this plant is not a part of the grass family, it is a grass-like plant commonly used in yards today.
Dwarf Lilyturf is a short grass-like plant that rarely grows past 8 inches (20.32 cm). In fact, it can take years for it to grow this tall, so you can see how slowly this plant grows!
It clumps over time and works well for walkways and borders. This evergreen grass is often used as ground cover in pagoda gardens, so it can handle some light foot traffic.
Since the seeds can be a challenge to get started, it’s common for people to purchase live dwarf lilyturf plants instead.
This grass alternative is great for no-mow yards but needs protection against slugs, as they can quickly destroy the foliage overnight.
Read more in this article on White Slugs in the Garden and How to Remove Them.
Other than that, this is a lovely plant to use in the lawn that will greatly help the environment and reduce the amount of work you have to do!
Why is my grass growing so slowly?
Many factors can hinder a grass’ natural growth rate. Each variety has different growing seasons; warm season grasses tend to slow down or become dormant in cooler temperatures. To help encourage grass to grow faster, plant the seeds in warm soil and ensure the grass is not lacking any nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen.
Should grass be cut short for winter?
It is ideal for grass to be cut down to 2 inches before winter to help keep it healthy and prevent it from getting moldy in the wet snow. Mowing grass too short, however, can cause plant stress and make it harder for the grass to recover.
Summary of Slow-Growing Grass
Using slow-growing grass can help the environment by reducing air pollution, minimizing fertilizer runoff, and increasing overall biodiversity in yards and gardens.
Some slow-growing grasses that offer these benefits are blue grama, carpet grass, centipede grass, Kentucky bluegrass, Korean velvet, hard fescue, and dwarf lilyturf.
- “Lawn Maintenance and Climate Change” by Jiahn Son in Princeton University
- “Low maintenance lawns in the Midwest” by Bob Bricault in Michigan State University
- “What grass should I grow for my lawn?” by Mike Goatley, Jr in Virginia State University
- “Blue Grama Plant Guide” by Richard Wynia in The U.S. Department of Agriculture
- “Carpetgrass” by Robert F. Polomski and Debbie Shaughnessy in Clemson University
- “Ophiopogon japonicus” by n/a in NC State University
- “Hard fescue” by n/a in Brigham Young University