Is “brown” in season? How water-wise is your lawn?

Lush, green lawns are a welcome part of summer. Despite what some lawn-shamers might say, by maintaining your yards, you and your neighbors are actually doing something environmentally friendly. In fact, eight average front lawns have the same air cooling effect as about 70 tons of air conditioning*. But there may still be times when you’re dealing with water restrictions due to drought, extended vacations or other reasons why you may not be able to water as often as you’d like. How well will your lawn handle the extra thirst? A lot depends on your turf variety.

Warm-season grasses

  • Sunny yard and modern house

    Some turfgrass varieties are better than others at handling the summer heat waves.

    Bahia grass. Lots of rooting makes Bahia grass drought-tolerant. It performs well in full sun rather than shady regions. Bahia grass also has a great wear tolerance in addition to good disease and insect resistance.

  • Bermuda grass. Just like everyone else, Bermuda grass loves the sunshine. It also will bounce back well once any drought-induced dormancy ends.
  • Buffalo grass. The nice thing about Buffalo grass is that it needs a lot of sun to live well. It also does not require a lot of water to maintain, making it a great choice for dry conditions. It also works well in cool-season areas.
  • Centipede grass. Because it’s a slow-grower, Centipede tolerates dry periods well. It’s also versatile. It does well under full sun or partial shade.
  • St. Augustine grass. There are drought-tolerant varieties. While St. Augustine stays green through winter dormancy, it may turn brown if there’s too little water in the heat of the summer. But it will generally green up again easily.
  • Zoysia grass. This flexible grass is drought-resistant, and can thrive in both sunny and shady areas.

Cool-season grasses

  • Fescues.  Fescues work well in drought-like conditions because they require little water. They also respond well to post-drought showers.
  • Wheatgrass. Wheatgrass requires very little maintenance, whether it’s just been planted or if it needs to survive a dry summer.


If you’re cutting back on irrigation during the growing season, remember to set the blades of your lawnmower higher than normal to help shade the roots. And here’s the good news: if you’re watering less, you can also mow less often.

*In contrast, the average capacity of a home air conditioning unit is only three to four tons.