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STATE GUIDE | TURF HELP | GRASS CHOICES | CLIMATE ZONE | HOME

Recommended Grass For Illinois Lawns

The primary varieties of Turfgrasses recommended (this is an Ohio State site but applies to Illinois) for Illinois lawns Include the following species listed below. Perennial Ryegrass & Fine Fescue is often used in blends of Bluegrass or Tall Fescue.

Do NOT plant Tall Fescue into a Bluegrass lawn. Bluegrass is the #1 choice in a turf grass for Illinois lawns. Growing season in the Northern 1/3 is about 150 days and in the South about 200 days. This results in the Southern part of Illinois being more adaptable to Tall Fescue, and occasionally Bermuda or Zoysia. Lime is often needed on Illinois lawns, especially in the Southern areas.

When To Plant Grass Seed In Illinois

The cool season grasses listed above are best planted when temperatures are in the 60 to 75 degree range. In the fall plant as temperatures approach 75. In the spring plant as they rise above 60 degrees. Fall is best time to plant as it allows for two growing seasons for maturity of the grass before facing the harsh temperatures and drought of summers. Warm season grasses (Bermuda / Zoysia) should be planted in late spring /early summer.

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Grass Varieties (Cultivars) To Consider For Illinois Lawns

Kentucky Bluegrass: The primary grass planted in Illinois, especially in the Northern 2/3 of the state is Kentucky Bluegrass. It is considered the best quality turfgrass and makes a fine textured lawn. It has the ability to fill-in damaged areas without reseeding. Bluegrass is also more winter-hardy than the rest of the lawn species used in Illinois. Newer varieties are more resistant to diseases. It performs best in full sun, but can be mixed with a fine fescue for use in shady areas. Bluegrass can take 1 to 3 months to germinate and establish depending on site conditions. It makes an excellent athletic field. Bluegrass can be seeded or sodded for establishment. Read more Bluegrass information.

Perennial Ryegrass: Most of the perennial ryegrass used in lawns is in a mix of Kentucky Bluegrass. Its fast establishment time works well with the slower establishment time of Bluegrass. It is also a fine textured grass similar to Bluegrass with good drought tolerance. It is not as cold tolerant as Bluegrass but is suitable for Illinois lawns. Read more Ryegrass information.

Fine Fescues: Red, hard and chewings fescues are all used in the state of Illinois. Their primary use is in blends with either Tall Fescue or Kentucky Bluegrass on shady lawns. While they can be planted alone, usually they are a part of a mixed variety lawn. Creeping Red is the most popular of the varieties because its texture is considered the best turf type. Hard & chewings are used in blends for areas in which increased shade or inadequate soil types are more of an issue. - Read more Fescue information.

Tall Fescue: Tall Fescue is a cool season grass with a coarser, wider blade texture. Leaves usually range as wide as 1/4 inch, though some newer varieties are finer leaved. It has increased in popularity in Illinois due to its good drought and heat tolerant allowing the lawn to remain green in hot summers that usually stress Bluegrass. It is often used on home lawns, roadsides, parks and playgrounds, and athletic fields where the wider blade width is acceptable. Read more Tall Fescue information. Tall Fescue is more suited to the lower 1/3 of the state because of summer & winter temperatures. It can be found being used as far North as Chicago, but is more susceptible to winter temperatures than Bluegrass, especially if no snow cover occurs.

Bentgrass: Bentgrass will grow in Illinois, but are predominately limited to high maintenance locations such as Golf Courses. This is because the cultural issues involved in keeping Bentgrasses healthy (disease / mowing / fertilization / irrigation) are much more involved and require more frequent attention than other lawn varieties. It is NOT recommended for the average homeowners use. Penncross Creeping Bentgrass is considered the best choice in variety for a homeowner who "must" have a grass green in their back lawn. Read more Bentgrass information.

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Other Grass Types (Warm Season) For Lawns In Illinois

ZOYSIA: Zoysiagrass is planted to a lesser degree in Southern Illinois, than in the other Southern located states.  This is because of the long dormant period in which Zoysiagrass is a brown color from fall to mid spring. While it is not really compatible with the cool season grasses above, it has still maintained some popularity because of its drought / heat tolerance vs the cool season grasses in Illinois's summers. - Annual Ryegrass is not generally planted because it does not survive the high and low temperatures of Illinois very well. Perennial Ryegrass is the preferred ryegrass.

BERMUDA GRASS: Bermudagrass has seen some interest in Illinois, but the varieties available to date do NOT have the cold tolerance and special management needed to survive Illinois winters. Buffalograss is occasionally planted in Illinois for use as a low maintenance grass.

ILLINOIS - Illinois is predominately a cool season grass state for lawns.  Some warm season grasses are planted in the lower 1/3 of the state. Ryegrasses, Bluegrasses, Fescues and Bentgrass are the main cool season grasses utilized for lawns.

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COOL SEASON GRASSES FOR ILLINOIS LAWNS

Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue & Fine Fescue are the main grasses planted in Illinois. Some Perennial ryegrass is also used, mainly in mixes with either Bluegrass or Fescue. The newer turf-type Tall Fescues are improved for better drought, disease tolerance along with lower mowing heights for a good looking lawn. Blends of Kentucky Bluegrass lawns with fine fescue or perennial ryegrass are planted.

Predominately Tall Fescue lawns also have small amounts of fine Fescue and/or Kentucky Bluegrass added to improve the look and performance. --- Tall Fescue is considered a troublesome weed in lawns composed mainly of Kentucky Bluegrass. Pure lawns of fine fescue are also planted in high shade areas as this is the most shade tolerant of the cool season grasses listed above.

WARM SEASON GRASSES FOR ILLINOIS LAWNS

In the southern areas some warm season grasses such as Zoysia and Bermudagrass and even Buffalograss are planted. In fact, Zoysia is planted as far north as Chicago. Bermudagrass will not generally survive the harsher winter cold conditions of Chicago. Only cold tolerant Bermudas such as the seeded variety Mohawk or other vegetative cold tolerant varieties... should be planted in southern areas only, and even then expect the possibility of some winter kill each winter season. The warm season grasses will turn brown and become dormant with the first frost. They are mainly drought tolerant "hot weather - summer" grasses.

BEST PLANTING TIMES: - COOL SEASON GRASSES

(1) FALL IS BEST TIME - Middle of August through the end of September is ideal to plant cool season Grasses. --- When soil temps range between 50- 65 degrees and air temps range between 60-75 degrees.

(2) SPRING IS SECOND BEST - Same temps apply.
For cool season grasses the next best establishment time is from the middle of March to the middle of April is an ideal time to plant cool season grasses. -- Keep in mind that depending on the summer conditions some of your plants might not survive to fall. You may need to reseed (overseed) in the fall to fully establish your cool season lawn.

BEST PLANTING TIMES: WARM SEASON GRASSES IN ILLINOIS

Warm season grasses should be planted starting in the spring to mid/early summer after the soil / air temperatures are 70 degrees or higher (under 95). Generally this is around May-June. Do NOT try to plant these once you have reached 90 days before first frost to avoid winter kill of small immaturely established seedlings. Warm season grasses need heat and moisture in order to best germinate and grow.

SOD: - Fastest way to get an instant lawn.
Cool season sod can be planted just about year around (except during stress period of dry weather in the summers.) -- Warm season grass sods are best established in spring to mid summer, so that their root systems will have time to establish before frost / freezes turn the grasses dormant.

Illinois Lawns - Some Recommended Mixes & Varieties

COOL SEASON:  Mid America Super Shade; Seedland Bluemix; Chateau KBG;  Midnight KBG; Creeping Red Fescue;Tall Fescue; Professional Select Perennial Ryegrass; Superstar Perennial Ryegrass. ---

WARM SEASON: Mohawk Bermuda Grass; Zenith Zoysia Grass Seed; Compadre Zoysia Grass .  NOTE: These are only a few of the most popular seed blends and varieties available at Seedland.com

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Online Resources About Grass Lawns In Illinois

LAWN TALK - Illinois! GOOD SITE!
http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/lawntalk/

ILLINOIS EXTENSION SERVICES

Lawn Care for Illinois Lawns:
Illinois Extension:
http://web.extension.uiuc.edu/state/index.html

University of Illinois Turfgrass:
http://www.turf.uiuc.edu/ (Click on Extension).

Purdue University Lawn Publications:  Excellent list of Indiana Turf articles that apply to Illinois:
http://www.agry.purdue.edu/turf/publicat.htm

Variety comparisons:  www.ntep.org

Climate Zone Map And Link To Grass Selection Chart

 

ILLINOIS
CLIMATE ZONES

7 & 8

Grass Zone Selection Chart

Northern 2/3 area of Illinois - Zone 7
Southern 1/3 area of Illinois - Zone 8

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University of Illinois - Turfgrass Information

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