- Type Turf or meadow grass
- Lifespan Perennial
- USDA Zones 3 to 9
- Light Sun or part shade
- Water 1-2.5 inches weekly
- Foliage Narrow blades
- Design Tip Outdoor carpet
- Other Uses Erosion Control
- Peak Season Turns brown in hot months
Kentucky Bluegrass: A Field Guide
Turf gets a lot of bad press these days because it’s a water hog. But let’s be fair. In addition to the aesthetic value of a luxuriously velvety green lawn, grasses that you can mow–such as Kentucky bluegrass–have other benefits. Carpeting the soil with a tightly woven mat of roots can prevent erosion and filter rain water.
That said, here at Gardenista we are long-time admirers of environmentally friendly lawn alternatives–take a look at some of our favorites, including clover, creeping thyme, and wildflowers, to see what you think. Forward-thinking landscape designers, including superstar Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf, are championing ornamental grasses and wild meadows over the manicured, golf-course look. For tips, see Garden Design: Learning to Plant the Piet Oudolf Way.
If you’re planning to install a lawn of mown grass (or looking for tips to improve the health of the turf you already have), keep in mind that it’s important to choose a type of grass that thrives in your climate. Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) is a cool-season grass; for southern states, the tropics, or humid subtropical growing zones, a warm-season grass such as St. Augustine will perform better.
Kentucky bluegrass can be grown either as turf or, if you don’t mow it, as a 3-foot-tall meadow grass. In fact, this non-native plant earned its nickname based on its purplish-blue seed heads swaying in the breeze in rolling expanses of Kentucky, where it flourished after introduction.
Still on the fence about whether to plant turf next to yours? On the plus side, the Illinois-based Lawn Institute trade organization points out that lawns can aid home security by creating high-visibility areas around the perimeter of a house. On the other hand, “planting perennial grasses in a front yard, alongside a path, or as a mini meadow can add romance and hazy color” to your garden, writes Gardenista editor Michelle Slatalla. In other words, instant curb appeal: see Leaves of Grass: 9 Ways to Create Curb Appeal with Perennial Grasses for more ideas.