Buffalo grass, native to the Great Plains of North America, is a warm-season grass species often used in landscaping, particularly in areas with arid climates. This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of buffalo grass, helping readers make informed decisions about incorporating it into their lawns.
Characteristics of Buffalo Grass
- Color: Buffalo grass has a blue-green color during its active growing season, transitioning to a tan or brown hue during winter dormancy.
- Blade shape and texture: The grass blades are narrow, flat, and slightly curled, with a fine texture that creates a soft, dense turf when mowed.
- Growth rate: Buffalo grass has a relatively slow growth rate compared to other warm-season grasses, resulting in less frequent mowing requirements.
- Root system: It has a dense, deep root system that can extend up to 6 feet in depth, allowing the grass to access water deep in the soil.
- Mowing frequency: Buffalo grass requires infrequent mowing, with a recommended height of 2 to 3 inches.
- Fertilization needs: Minimal fertilization is necessary, as the grass can thrive in nutrient-poor soils.
Pros of Buffalo Grass
- Water-saving benefits: Buffalo grass requires significantly less water than other turfgrass species, making it an ideal choice for areas with limited water resources or strict watering restrictions.
- Adaptation to arid climates: Its deep root system and natural adaptation to the semi-arid climate of the Great Plains enable buffalo grass to withstand prolonged periods of drought.
- Minimal mowing requirements: The slow growth rate of buffalo grass means that it requires less frequent mowing than many other grass species.
- Limited need for fertilizers and pesticides: Buffalo grass can thrive in nutrient-poor soils and is naturally resistant to many pests and diseases, reducing the need for chemical treatments.
Pest and Disease Resistance
- Natural resistance to common lawn pests: Buffalo grass is resistant to many pests that often plague lawns, such as grubs and chinch bugs.
- Less susceptibility to fungal diseases: The grass is less prone to fungal diseases like brown patches and dollar spots, which can be problematic for other grass species.
- Dense root system: The extensive root system of buffalo grass helps to stabilize soil and prevent erosion.
- Effectiveness in stabilizing soil: Buffalo grass is an excellent choice for areas prone to erosion, such as slopes and embankments.
Cons of Buffalo Grass
Limited Shade Tolerance
- Poor performance in heavily shaded areas: Buffalo grass requires full sun exposure for optimal growth and does not perform well in areas with significant shade.
- Potential need for supplemental grass species: In landscapes with varying sun exposure, it may be necessary to mix buffalo grass with other grass species that can tolerate shade.
- Brown color during winter months: Buffalo grass enters a dormant state during the winter, turning brown and potentially detracting from the landscape’s aesthetic appeal.
- Aesthetic considerations: Homeowners who prefer a green lawn year-round may need to consider overseeding with cool-season grass or selecting a different grass species that remains green during winter.
- Tendency to spread: Buffalo grass can spread via stolons (above-ground stems) and may invade adjacent garden beds or landscape features.
- Challenges in containing growth: To prevent buffalo grass from spreading into undesired areas, physical barriers or regular edging may be required.
- Possibility of causing allergic reactions in sensitive individuals: Buffalo grass, like many grass species, produces pollen that can trigger allergic reactions in some people.
- Pollen production: While not the most allergenic grass species, buffalo grass may still cause discomfort for those with grass allergies.
Comparing Buffalo Grass to Other Grass Species
- Fescue: Fescues are a group of cool-season grasses that tend to be shade-tolerant and require more water than buffalo grass. They are well-suited to cooler climates with higher annual precipitation.
- Kentucky bluegrass: Kentucky bluegrass is a cool-season grass that creates a lush, dense lawn but requires more water, fertilizer, and maintenance than buffalo grass. It thrives in cooler climates and is not well-adapted to drought conditions.
- Bermuda grass: Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass that spreads aggressively and requires frequent mowing. It is more drought-tolerant than cool-season grasses but typically requires more water than buffalo grass.
- Zoysia grass: Zoysia grass is a warm-season grass that has a finer texture and denser growth habit than buffalo grass. It requires more water and maintenance than buffalo grass but is more shade-tolerant.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Grass Species
- Climate and growing conditions: Select a grass species that is well-adapted to your region’s climate, taking into consideration factors like temperature, precipitation, and sunlight exposure.
- Lawn usage and maintenance preferences: Consider how you plan to use your lawn and how much maintenance you’re willing to invest in its upkeep. Choose a grass species that aligns with your usage and maintenance preferences.
Tips for Successfully Growing Buffalo Grass
Site Selection and Preparation
- Choosing a sunny location: Buffalo grass requires full sun exposure, so select a site with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Preparing the soil: Prepare the planting site by removing weeds, tilling the soil, and amending it with organic matter if necessary to improve drainage and fertility.
- Seeding: Buffalo grass can be established from seed, which is typically sown in late spring or early summer when soil temperatures are consistently above 60°F.
- Sodding or plugging: Alternatively, buffalo grass can be established using sod or plugs, which are small sections of established turf with intact root systems.
Ongoing Care and Maintenance
- Watering schedule: Water buffalo grass deeply but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings to encourage deep root growth.
- Mowing and fertilization practices: Mow buffalo grass to a height of 2 to 3 inches, and apply minimal fertilizer as needed, usually no more than once per year.
Buffalo grass offers several advantages, such as drought tolerance, low maintenance requirements, and resistance to pests and diseases. However, it also has some drawbacks, including limited shade tolerance, seasonal dormancy, potential invasiveness, and allergen production.
When considering whether buffalo grass is the right choice for your lawn, you should take all the pros and cons into account to make a wise decision.