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Lawn grasses are mainly divided into two groups: warm weather and cool weather. Within these two groups exist many species of different lawn grass types with a variety of growing characteristics. Some grasses are more tolerant to one type of environment than other grasses, and some grow tall while others stay close to the ground. Though lawn grass types may seem similar, all of them have characteristics that set them apart from other types of turfgrass.
Turfgrasses and ornamental grasses are both classified as grasses, but they are actually quite different. The easiest way to tell the difference between lawn grasses and ornamental grasses is their growing pattern. Most lawn grasses grow in fairly even patches, while ornamental grasses grow in tight clumps. Ornamental grasses also tend to be stiffer and grow taller than lawn grasses.
Warm season lawn grass types include St. Augustine grass, Bermuda grass and centipede grass. Probably one of the most widely known lawn grass types, St. Augustine grass is a warm season perennial grass that is as common on golf courses as it is in community parks and soccer fields. When properly tended, St. Augustine creates a rich carpet of soft, deep green grass. It is a great lawn for the American south or in temperate coastal areas like California, but it will not likely survive in cold northern or mountain areas. Bermuda grass is a better grass for warm season growing in northern parts of the United States because it is more cold tolerant than other warm season lawn grass types.
Cool season grasses include Kentucky Blue grass, fine fescue, and perennial rye. Cool season grasses are sometimes called evergreen grasses because they do not die off in cold weather. Some lawn gardeners use a carefully timed combination of warm season and cool season grasses to keep a lawn lush all year.
When choosing different lawn grass types, important things to consider are how much maintenance the grass takes, and whether it will handle the extremes of local weather conditions. Characteristics to look for in grass can include drought tolerance, sun and shade levels, and how much fertilizer it needs. Different lawn grass types also respond differently to foot traffic, so if a grassy field will be a walking path or a playing field for sports, lawn grass types with greater endurance for being stepped on will be more likely to live than a grass that is sensitive to foot traffic.