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Jacksonville Empire Zoysia Grass Review

We have seen the articles and so called reviews claiming that zoysia is the perfect turf, many from folks selling or growing zoysia turf grass, some without much hands on experience maintaining it in real world situations- in your Jacksonville Backyard.

This article references Empire, a common variation of Zoysia grass available in Northeast Florida. There has been a huge push for Zoysia lately, as an alternative to St Augustine grass because it provides a dark-green, durable and low-maintenance lawn that grows in many different soil types.

Separating FACT from FICTION. My experience is with Empire Zoysia in Jacksonville Beach. The turf was planted in March and this review was done in September. Some of the things that I read or was told that are simply not true: 


  • Your new Zoysia grass will only need to be mowed about every 20 or 30 days. FALSE- I find that the grass does best when it is cut every week during the summer. Though you can go two weeks with little damage or noticeable height. Proper mowing height is about 1.5 inches, like any turf grass its best to only remove about 30% of the blade during mowing.



  • You will not have to supplement with irrigation. FALSE- Though this is dependant on rainfall. I would estimate that after five extremely hot days without rain, your Jacksonville zoysia turf will begin struggle. However it does take significantly more drought to permanently damage the grass.



  • Empire Zoysia only needs about 2 hours of full sun. FALSE- That number is closer to 5. I’m hoping to see some adaptation in later years. The areas of my yard that receive more sunlight have healthier grass.  The areas that receive 4 hours or less sun, have unacceptable thinning blades. 


It is true that it is far easier to maintain than St Augustine. The Zoysia turf does require less water, less fertilizer, and less insecticide. The two biggest drawbacks for me: Dog urine- I have a male 58 pound dog. Every place that he pees leaves a yellow spot in the grass. More so when it is dry. Many spots will die then re-grow, some will recover faster. Which brings me to my next point- this stuff is slow to spread. If you do have a mishap somewhere in your turf, you have got to have the patience to wait for the grass to spread and fill-in. Some consider this a plus for edging.

All in all Empire Zoysia is a great warm-season grass. I’ll report back in the spring after a full year and a Jacksonville winter to share the results. I’m told Empire Zoysia tolerates some cold weather but prefers climates where the winters are warm and mild. I have found that Empire zoysia flourishes in hot and humid conditions, and resists drought, some insects and diseases. Empire zoysia's vigorous growth and deep root system make it difficult for many weeds to grow in the lawn. 


Choosing Sod for Your Jacksonville Backyard

The first step to a perfect lawn is choosing your grass. All of the below mentioned sod and turf varieties are mostly suitable for our soil conditions in the Jacksonville and Northeast Florida region. Sometimes local soil testing or analysis is recommended to determine your exact soil type. Also consider the characteristics of your yard, how much sun and shade it gets in certain areas and in different times of the year.




Jacksonville Floratam Sod St Augustine Sod InstallationJacksonville Floratam SodFloratam is probably one of the most common turf grasses used in Northeast Florida, as it was specifically designed for Florida's climate. This grass thrives in direct sun and provides an attractive, plush looking lawn with a blue-green hue. It is a very adaptable grass, and flourishes under a variety of soil conditions. Floratam is the most vigorous St. Augustine--one of the two commercially available St. Augustine grasses resistant to Southern chinch bugs. It should have at least 6-7 hours of sunlight daily (8 would be better) to maintain good cover. In Jacksonville St. Augustine Grass should be maintained at 2 to 4 inches of mowing height.







Jacksonville Bermuda GrassJacksonville Bermuda GrassSome consider the ultimate turf. Produces a beautiful, lush, velvet-like lawn. Grows rapidly in most soils. Subject to weed invasion. Performs poorly in shade. Requires high maintenance. It provides about as manicured a lawn as you’ll find in a warm-season grass, but at the expense of much more maintenance. It is not recommended for a low-maintenance owner. Bermudagrass grows best in full sun, has medium to fine texture, drought resistant, highly versatile, salt tolerant, and can be established from seed. In Jacksonville Bermuda Grass should be maintained at 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches of mowing height.







Jacksonville Zoysiagrass PhotoJacksonville Zoysia GrassExcellent all-around lawn grass. Grows slowly. Prefers clay or sandy soil. Resists weed invasion. Performs well in shade. Requires moderate maintenance. There are many zoysiagrass cultivars grown commercially, but use of this species has been limited in Florida. Zoysiagrasses generally have good shade tolerance. They handle traffic well and are adapted to a wide range of soil types. Many of the zoysiagrass cultivars have excellent cold tolerance and are often used in northern climates. Generally speaking, however, zoysiagrasses are slow-growing, making establishment difficult, especially when planting by plugs. Some zoysiagrasses are also susceptible to nematodes, which are very difficult to manage in the home lawn. Zoysia grass is typically more expensive in Jacksonville. In Jacksonville Zoysia Grass should be maintained at 1/2 to 2 inches of mowing height.







Jacksonville Centipede Grass ImageJacksonville Centipede GrassProduces good turf with little management. Slow but aggressive grower. Prefers granular or well-drained soil. Relatively weed-free. Good shade tolerance. Medium texture. Pale to medium green. Needs very little maintenance. Centipedegrass is sometimes referred to as “the poor man's grass” because it does not like to be highly managed. It does best with very low annual rates of nitrogen. When managed as a low input turf, it does not grow quickly and mowing needs are reduced compared to most other species. This species does not naturally have a dark green color, but is a lighter shade of green. Sometimes people overfertilize it to induce deep green coloring, but this can actually be detrimental to the grass over time. In Jacksonville Centipede Grass should be maintained at 1 to 1-1/2 inches of mowing height.







Jacksonville Bahia GrassBahiagrass forms an extensive root system, which makes it one of our most drought-tolerant grasses. It performs well in infertile, sandy soils and does not require high inputs of fertilizers. It does not form excessive thatch. It may be grown from seed, which is abundant and relatively cheap, or it may be established from sod, sprigs, or plugs. It has relatively few disease problems, and mole crickets are the only primary insect problem.

Bahiagrass forms tall, unsightly seed heads throughout the spring, summer, and fall months. This necessitates mowing on a regular schedule. Because the seed stems are tough, it also makes it more difficult to mow than some other grass species. Bahiagrass does not perform well in high-pH soils and is susceptible to mole crickets. It does not have good tolerance to shade, traffic, or saltwater. in Jacksonville Bahia Grass should be maintained at 2 to 3 inches mowing height.