Drought-Tolerant Grasses for the Southwest

Team McFly Mar 09, 2023
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desert grass

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In the desert southwest, grasses that can withstand high temperatures and drought conditions are ideal. Furthermore, these grasses must be resistant to foot traffic, disease, and pests.

When planting turf or overseeding, the type of grass you select is critical to the success of your garden. Research different varieties and determine which ones work best in your region.

Buffalo Grass

Buffalo Grass

Buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides) is a warm-season lawn grass native to the Plains of North America and Mexico. It's drought-resistant and low maintenance, making it an ideal turf option that can be established with seed, sod, or plugs.

It spreads rapidly by runners and is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants that produce seeds. This makes it a perfect lawn grass for home lawns since it thrives in various soil types and temperatures.

Low-maintenance turfgrasses require less water, fertilizer and mowing than many of today's popular lawn grasses. Furthermore, this non-invasive grass is pollinator and insect friendly for added benefits.

desert grass

Blue Grama Grass

One of the ideal grasses to grow in the desert southwest is Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis). This warm-season perennial thrives as turfgrass, bunchgrass, or spreads to form a sod.

Succulent grass has a better ability to tolerate drought conditions than Bermuda grass and uses less water. Therefore, it's ideal for areas with average annual precipitation that doesn't exceed 25 inches annually.

It is primarily found in sandy and gravelly soils of the southern desert, western plateau, and northern desert. Additionally, it can be found on the sands and clays of the central plains as well as shaly sites in the mountains.

Blue Fescue

Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca) is an adaptable perennial grass that can be used as an accent plant, in mass plantings, containers, and crevices. It forms clumps of uniform foliage balls topped with feathery straw bloom stalks during the summer.

Blue fescue, a cool-season grass, prefers slightly moist but well-draining soil. Mature plants can handle drought conditions but tend to die back in heavy soil or hot temperatures.

Preventing root and leaf decay by regularly dividing your plants. Doing this ensures each clump has enough roots and foliage for healthy growth.

Pink Muhly Grass

Pink Muhly Grass

Muhlenbergia capillaris, commonly known as Pink Muhly Grass, is one of the most attractive grasses native to our area. It thrives in a variety of habitats from marshy soils to well-drained soils.

This decorative grass is highly resilient and requires little upkeep; just a light fertilizer in spring and another in mid to late summer when it blooms. Plant this grass at either the front or back of your lawn for an eye-catching display.

Clumping grasses like this make great screens. Stagger the grass with Variegated Liriope, a lavender flowering plant that is deer resistant and adaptable to most soil types.

Pampas Grass

Pampas Grass

Pampas Grass is native to South America and thrives in both hot and dry climates. It can withstand wind, drought, and salt spray from coastal areas as well as most diseases and pests.

Once established, pampas grass requires minimal upkeep other than annual pruning to the ground. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring to encourage new growth.

It also requires space to grow, so be sure not to block views or invade neighbor's property. Furthermore, this fast-seeding grass is highly flammable so be sure not to plant it near outdoor cooking areas or open flames.

This delicate ornamental grass forms small clusters with delicate seed heads that flutter in the wind. Growing 18 inches high and wide, it requires weekly watering for optimal health.

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Disclosure:  Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.