The key to a healthy, beautiful lawn is choosing the right type of grass (and a great professional landscaper). Since not all grasses are suited to grow in the transition zone that covers Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia, it’s important to do your research and get the pros involved.

Read on to find out what type of grass can thrive in your yard, based on the DC area’s climate and your needs.

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Choosing the Best Grass Types for Your Lawn

Before you look at putting new grass in your yard, consider how you use the space. Some species of grass stand up great to stomping and impromptu lawn games, while others are perfect for the manicured golf course look. Additionally, some grass types grow faster than others, requiring more frequent maintenance.

High-traffic lawns

If your kids are constantly trampling through the yard, get something tough. If you entertain a lot and people walk all over the grass, or if you run a cornhole tournament at your weekly barbecue, opt for a hardy grass.

Low-maintenance lawns

Some people out there just love to mow the lawn, but most of us don’t want to spend our Saturdays sweating in front of all our neighbors.

Hiring a lawn maintenance company to trim the grass is a great option, but this still costs money, even if it does free up your time. If you’re trying to spend less time or money on lawn care, look for a slower-growing grass that thrives in your climate.

Pristine, manicured lawns

Some lawns are so magnificently maintained that you’d never dream of stepping on the grass. If you love displaying a perfect, untrodden swathe of emerald-green grass, hire a professional landscaping company to design, install, and maintain it.

Lucky for you, Best Pick Reports has researched and vetted landscaping professionals in your area.

Best Types of Grass for DC’s Climate

Grasses fall into two types: warm season and cool season. Regional climate determines whether you should pick a cool- or warm-season grass.

As you can imagine, cool-season grasses thrive in the northern US, while warm-season grasses do well in the southern states. DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia are in the transition zone.

What is the transition zone?

The transition zone is an area that stretches east from north Texas to the coast of Maryland, Virgina, and North Carolina, and then down from southern Illinois through to the top half of Georgia.

As a homeowner in the transition zone, you have a tough choice to make. Do you want a cool-season grass that, while green in the colder months, dies during the summer? Or do you prefer a warm-season grass that thrives in the summer and turns brown when it goes dormant during winter?

While you ponder, check out these grass types that do well in the transition zone when they’re properly planted and cared for.

close-up-of-bright-green-tall-fescue-grassTall fescue

This cool-season grass is frequently used in the transition zone.

Color and texture

  • It is medium to dark green in color.
  • The blade texture is fine to medium.

Traffic tolerance

  • This grass type stands up well to lots of traffic.
  • It is used for sports fields, parks, and recreation areas, so it’s great for rough-and-tumble kids.

Care and growing conditions

  • Tall fescue does well in a wide temperature range. It tolerates heat well, better than many other cool-season grasses.
  • While it does well in cold weather, it isn’t as good at surviving the harshest winters as some other cool-season types.
  • While tall fescue does OK in partial shade, it does best in full sun.

close-up-of-blue-green-Kentucky-bluegrass-bladesKentucky bluegrass

Often combined with tall fescue, cool-season Kentucky bluegrass is a favorite of DC-area homeowners.

Color and texture

  • Kentucky bluegrass is dark green and dense.
  • The blade texture is medium, and the grass feels soft to walk on with no shoes.

Traffic tolerance

  • Kentucky bluegrass can withstand a medium amount of traffic and recover quickly, particularly in the spring and fall.

Care and growing conditions

  • This grass can survive very cold winters. It can even do well in hot temperatures if it gets sufficient water and maintenance.
  • Kentucky bluegrass should be planted in full sun. It does not do well in the shade.

close-up-image-of-a-variety-of-fine-fescueFine fescue

This cool-season grass grows quickly and doesn’t need much in the way of fertilizers or supplemental care.

Color and texture

  • Fine fescue is a lovely deep green color.
  • The blade texture is very fine.

Traffic tolerance

  • Fine fescue can withstand medium traffic, like kids running and tumbling, but it does not come back well after severe damage.

Care and growing conditions

  • Fine fescue does well in areas with a wide range in temperatures, as it tolerates both cold and heat.
  • This is the most shade-tolerant grass type, but it does best if it gets at least some sun.
  • Fine fescue grows slowly.

Warm-season options

Some warm-season grasses that have potential to thrive in the transition zone are Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass, and centipede grass. However, the cool-season grasses listed above are tried-and-true options.

Grass blends

You’ll often find that different types of grasses are mixed together to create yards that are green year-round or that have a more consistent texture. Ask your landscaping pro about finding a mix of grass types that is right for you if you don’t want just a single type of grass.

child-touching-synthetic-grass-or-turfAlternatives to a Traditional Grass Lawn

Native plants

Native plants are a unique alternative to the traditional expanse of grass. Your yard could be buzzing with local pollinators and birds if you choose a selection of native flowers, shrubs, and trees. Since they’re already suited to your environment, incorporating native plants into your landscaping can cut down on watering and other maintenance needs, which is a nice bonus for both your utility costs and your weekend plans.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center lists native plants by state, so take a look at what could thrive in your yard, and then talk to a landscaping professional about your favorites

Synthetic grass or turf

Although a turf or synthetic grass lawn comes with considerable up-front costs, it has many benefits:

  • No need to invest in lawn care equipment or pay for a maintenance plan
  • Great for kids and pets
  • Can be trampled all over and hosed down with water or a sanitizing solution
  • No grass, dirt, or mud to track into the house

Synthetic turf is definitely not grass, so if you have a large (or even medium-sized) yard, it may look a little odd. But if your lawn is more of a postage stamp, turf can be a fantastic option, particularly when you compare the cost of a one-time installation to your estimated costs of ongoing traditional landscaping and lawn care.

If you see yourself staying in your home for a long time and you don’t like the upkeep required for a real grass lawn, synthetic grass may be just the ticket.

Landscaping Extras


Sometimes your yard needs a complete overhaul and redesign. Hardscape elements, like patios, walkways, and seating areas, are a great addition to an entertaining space. They also reduce the square footage of grass you need to care for, which is an added bonus.

A patio area provides space for guests to mingle without trampling on your nice, new grass. A hardscape path also keeps your grass from being crushed underfoot. And an outdoor fire pit is the perfect excuse to use your yard into the winter—those marshmallows won’t roast themselves.


Give yourself (and your guests) something beautiful to look at by including flowers, shrubs, grasses, or trees in your yard. More flower beds and other softscape elements means less room for grass and therefore less mowing.

There’s a huge variety of plants to choose from out there, but a professional landscaper will help you choose flowers and shrubs that bring your yard to life.

sprinkler-watering-bright-green-grassCaring for Your DC Lawn

Lawn care needs depend on a variety of factors, including grass type, lawn size, and softscaping elements. Ask your landscaping pro to explain how to properly maintain and nourish each part of your yard.

Watering your lawn

The DC area gets about 40 inches of rain each year, with precipitation falling on about 115 days, according to the US Climate Data website. If you’re unsure about how much water your yard needs, check out the guidelines below:

Watering needs:

  • Tall fescue: Soak tall fescue every three to seven days during hotter, drier months. Tall fescue develops a healthier root system when given deep soaks.
  • Kentucky bluegrass: Give it a good soak every five to seven days, at least half an inch or an inch of water each time. Kentucky bluegrass develops shallow roots if waterings are also shallow, so be sure to get that water soaked into the ground.
  • Fine fescue: Water once or twice a week, and give it at least one inch of water a week during the summer. If no water is available during the hotter months, fine fescue may go dormant.

Mowing your lawn

Do you dread mowing your lawn? You’re not alone. Many homeowners hire lawn maintenance or landscaping professionals to take care of this laborious chore.

If you’re a DIY enthusiast, make sure you know the right time to mow and how much to mow. Mowing keeps your yard healthy and fresh, but only if you do it properly.

Recommended mowing heights:

  • Tall fescue: two to three inches
  • Kentucky bluegrass: one and a half to two inches
  • Fine fescue: one to two and a half inches

landscaper-installing-turf-grass-around-hardscape-pathHiring a Landscaper or Lawn Care Pro

A professional landscaper’s expertise will ensure that your lawn has a successful start. Landscaping companies have the experience, tools, and manpower to create the lawn of your dreams. Hiring a landscaper may seem intimidating, but you’ll be glad you did. The vast knowledge and experience of a professional is especially helpful in the tricky transition zone, where soil type and local climate conditions will play a role in finding the right grass type.

Some landscapers also offer lawn maintenance. If you’ve got your lawn maintenance covered by a pro, then you’re all set! If you want to take a more hands-on approach and do it yourself, ask your landscaper to explain the maintenance your grass needs so you can keep their work looking as beautiful as the day they finished.

Call a Best Pick professional landscaper today to make your dream lawn come to life.