Best Grass For Sandy Soil To Ensure A Lush Lawn | The Ultimate Guide

Everyone wants a lush, green, and thick lawn, but establishing and maintaining grass is challenging work, especially with sandy soil. Sandy soils have loose particles and a lot of airspaces. Therefore, they have a hard time retaining water and holding onto nutrients. Moreover, these loose soils do not provide a solid base for the roots to take hold.

However, some grasses can thrive in sandy soils and help you build a lush lawn.

best grass for sandy soil

Sand can collect around the grass blades and roots, causing surface damage and killing off the grass.

Common examples of grasses that perform well in sandy soils include Bahia grass, Centipede grass, Bermuda grass, Bent grass, Tall Fescue grass, and Zoysia grass. These grasses have long, extensive, deep root systems that absorb nutrients, minerals, and water from the loose, nutrient-poor, quickly draining sandy soils.

But you can’t just plant any of these grasses mentioned above and expect to grow a lush lawn. Some important factors need to be considered first. Read on to find out.

RELATED: What Type Of Grass Grows Best In Clay Soil | Best Grasses For Clay Soil

Best Grasses For Sandy Soils

Growing any plant in sandy soil is hard, even for an expert gardener. And, if you are reading this article, chances are, picking suitable grass is standing between you and your dream of having a lush and green backyard. Well, do not worry! We’ve got you covered.

Many types of grass are specifically cultivated to deal with sandy soils and the drought stress, heat, low humidity, and varying amounts of foot traffic, shade, and sunlight that come with them. Nevertheless, here are some grass types you can grow in sandy soil:

1. Zoysia Grass

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass has a deep root system and forms dense carpets, making it ideal for sandy soil.

Zoysia Grass At A Quick Look

Zoysia Grass Basics & Requirements
Grass TypePerennial, warm-season grass
Ideal USDA Growing Zones5 to 11
Peak SeasonLate spring and summer months
Ideal Soil pHSlightly acidic soil pH (6.0-6.5) is best.
Sunlight RequirementsFour hours a day of direct sunlight.Or, 8 hours of at least 50% sunlight.
Fertilizer Requirements2 lbs. of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet/season.
Watering NeedsIt needs one inch of rainfall or irrigation per week.
Ideal Mowing Height1/2 inch to 2 inches tall
Drought ToleranceExcellent
Cold ToleranceMedium

Zoysia Grass Overview

According to many lawn experts, the best grass for sandy soils is Zoyisa. It has an extended, slender root network allowing it to handle drought and heat very well. Furthermore, once the Zoysia grass establishes itself in the ground and spreads, it will form a thick mat of lush, green, and dense turf that is exceptionally resistant and tolerant of foot traffic.

However, it is essential to remember that Zoysia grass grows slightly slower than other grass types mentioned here. You might get it to grow quickly by using a fertilizer with high nitrogen or 5-10-5 NPK Fertilizer. Likewise, Zoysia will need to be mowed a bit high in regions of lawn covered with shade or receiving less than 4 hours of sunlight per day.

Lastly, if you decide to go with Zoysia grass, please remember that it is a warm-season grass that will go dormant and brown in regions with a cold winter. However, you can still overseed your lawn with cool-season grass from the choices below.

RELATED: Zoysia Grass – Popular Types | How To Choose The Right Zoysia For Your Lawn

Zoysia Grass Pros & Cons

ProsCons
Tolerant of traffic
Remains green during drought
Low maintenance
Holes up well against weeds
Does not lay too flat after mowing
Growth stunted by shadeIt spreads slowly.
It dulls mower blades quickly
Challenging to get established from seeds
Browns in winter

2. Tall Fescue Grass

Tall Fescue Grass

Tall fescue also has a deep root structure and can retain water even in sandy soils.

Tall Fescue Grass At A Quick Look

Tall Fescue Grass Basics & Requirements
Grass TypeCool season (C-3 metabolism) perennial grass
Ideal USDA Growing Zones3 to 6
Peak SeasonFall and spring
Ideal Soil pHBetween 5.5 and 7.5
Sunlight RequirementsIt requires 3 to 4 hours of direct sunlight.
Fertilizer Requirements3 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer / 1,000 sq. ft. annually
Watering NeedsOne inch of water every week, ideally, NOT all at once.
Ideal Mowing Height2 to 3 inches
Drought ToleranceExcellent
Cold ToleranceExcellent

Tall Fescue Grass Overview

If you are looking for grass that also grows well in sandy soils, you cannot go wrong with tall fescue grass. However, tall fescue grass does not just grow well in the sand! It is a very adaptive plant that can survive in pebbles, gravel, and beaches.

Furthermore, tall fescue is known for its rich green color, and it can grow and spread very quickly if given the right conditions. However, you must ensure that you plant the seed or sod densely if you want a dense carpet-like lawn. If you do not, the tall fescue grass will grow tall and grow in clumps, giving you a yard full of small grass patches here and there.

That is not all, though. Tall fescue is also a very low-maintenance grass and is an excellent choice for lawn owners who do not have a lot of time to tend to their lawns. Moreover, you can also try planting red fescue grass that grows well in sandy soils.

RELATED: Fescue Grass 101 | Types, Best Time To Plant, Benefits & Much More!

Tall Fescue Grass Pros & Cons

ProsCons
Moderate shade tolerance
Low to moderate fertilizer requirement
Good wear tolerance
Can mow tall
Available as seed or sod
It needs to be often cut
Unable to repair bare or damaged areas
Susceptible to wet climate issues
Cannot handle extended droughts
It will need to be reseeded relatively often.

3. Bermuda Grass

Best Grass For Sandy Soil

Bermuda grasses grow successfully on sand, loam, and clay soils with good drainage.

Bermuda Grass At A Quick Look

Bermuda Grass Basics & Requirements
Grass TypePerennial warm-season grass
Ideal USDA Growing ZonesUSDA plant hardiness zones 5 and 6
Peak SeasonLate spring through hot summer months
Ideal Soil pH6 to 6.5
Sunlight RequirementsAt least 7 hours a day of direct sunlight
Fertilizer Requirements4 to 5 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer / 1,000 sq. ft. annually
Watering Needs1 to 1.25 inches of water every week
Ideal Mowing HeightOne inch for common varieties.1.5 inches for hybrid varieties.
Drought ToleranceExcellent
Cold ToleranceMedium

Bermuda Grass Overview

If you want to establish a lawn quickly but have sandy soil in your backyard, I recommend you go with Bermuda grass. Compared to other grass types on this list, Bermuda grass spreads speedily and forms a dense, lush grass carpet.

Another feature that helps Bermuda grass stand out is its excellent drought resistance. Bermuda can survive with very little water; if the drought is prolonged, it will go dormant. However, do not worry! It will spring right back when water becomes available.

However, please remember while Bermuda grass grows well in sandy soil, it needs quite a bit of sunlight to maintain its color and healthy growth. If your lawn is heavily covered by shade or has large trees and tall buildings around it, Bermuda isn’t for you.

RELATED: Bermuda Grass & Shade: What Is The Best Shade Tolerant Bermuda?

Bermuda Grass Pros & Cons

ProsCons
Heat and drought tolerant
Handles heavy traffic
Grows fast and spreads quickly
Cheap to establish and maintain
It can be mowed very short
Requires plenty of sunlight
Needs full sun
Can invade flower beds
Browns in cold winter.
Browns during extended droughts

4. Centipede Grass

Centipede Grass: Best Grass For Sandy Soil

Centipede grass does well in sandy, somewhat acidic soil, even with minimal nutrients.

Centipede Grass At A Quick Look

Centipede Grass Basics & Requirements
Grass TypeWarm-season perennial turfgrass
Ideal USDA Growing ZonesUSDA Plants Hardiness Zones: 7 to 9
Peak SeasonSpring and early summer
Ideal Soil pH5.0 to 6.0
Sunlight RequirementsIt needs at least 6 hours of direct sun
Fertilizer Requirements0.5 to 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year
Watering NeedsRequires about 1 inch of water per week
Ideal Mowing Height1 to 2 inches
Drought ToleranceGood
Cold ToleranceNormal

Centipede Grass Overview

If you reside in a hot area with sandy soil in your backyard, I recommend choosing Centipede grass to establish turf. Centipede grass is prevalent in the southwest regions of the US, and you do not have to worry about sun heat burning the grass.

What is excellent about Centipede grass is that it is very tolerant of foot traffic, and no matter how roughly you use it, it will thrive without any considerable damage. Moreover, it quickly recovers from injury, making it excellent for lawns, walkways, and sports turfs.

Also, unlike Zoysia and Bermuda grass, finding Centipede grass seeds is relatively easy. However, please remember that Centipede grass is very coarse in texture. So, it might not be the right choice if you are a fan of soft meadow grass to rest your head.

The rough nature of Centipede grass also means that you might have to service and replace the blades on your lawn mower machine much more frequently.

Centipede Grass Pros & Cons

ProsCons
It doesn’t need mowing as often
Good at tolerating drought
Good resistance to insects and disease
Low fertilizer requirements
Tolerates infertile soils
Browns in winter
Cannot tolerate shade
Heavy water use needed
Performs poorly under high traffic 
Requires plenty of sunlight

5. Bahia Grass

Bahia Grass

Bahia grass is well-adapted to sandy beaches because of its deep root system.

Bahia Grass At A Quick Look

Bahia Grass Basics & Requirements
Grass TypePerennial warm-season grass
Ideal USDA Growing Zones7 to 11
Peak SeasonLate spring through the hot summer months
Ideal Soil pH5 to 5.5
Sunlight RequirementsNeeds at least 6 to 7 hours of direct sunlight per day
Fertilizer Requirements2 to 3 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year
Watering Needs1 to 1 1/4 inches of water per week
Ideal Mowing Height3 to 4 inches
Drought ToleranceExcellent
Cold ToleranceGood

Bahia Grass Overview

Even though it is not my first choice, Bahia grass grows well in sandy soils. And, due to its extensive root network, it can grow on seashores and beaches. Furthermore, Bahia grass needs less water than most grass types that grow well in sand. You can grow it in even the driest and arid regions of the country without any significant trouble.

Besides that, I must mention that Bahia grass may look slightly different from other common lawn grasses. It has broader leaves that are pretty coarse. Also, Bahia grass will not perform well in the shade and needs full sunlight throughout the day.

Some people also choose to plant Bahia grass on their lawns because of its distinctive seed heads. These seed heads shed their seed when the right time comes and save you from reseeding your lawn repeatedly. What else do you want?

Lastly, please note that Bahia grass goes dormant and turns brown in winter.

Bahia Grass Pros & Cons

ProsCons
Unique color palette
Tolerates poorly-drained soils
Suffers few diseases and few pest attacks
Low-maintenance costs
It has low fertilizer needs
It takes longer to establish a new lawn
Patchy and uneven appearance
It’s intolerant to salty water
It can’t be mowed evenly, so it looks shaggy
Hard to maintain and control.

Things To Consider Before Choosing

Even though all grasses can grow in sandy soils, provided they have enough nutrients and water. However, whether or not they will create a lush lawn is another matter. After germination, commonly used lawn grasses will struggle to spread and thrive.

Using the above-mention grass types might help, but if you want a perfect lawn, you need to consider not only the grass type but also pay attention to your landscaping needs, region, and sunlight availability in your yard, among many other things.

So, let’s discuss these factors in detail and help you pick the best grass for your lawn.

Food Traffic

Best Grass For Sandy Soil

The best way to handle high foot traffic in your yard is to start with the best turf.

A lawn is not just a thing that contrasts your otherwise dull property or something to admire from your patio. It is where you arrange your outdoor gatherings, and kids and pets often use it as their playground (obviously, if there are any in your home).

In addition, lawn grass could be where you could take your evening walks. Nevertheless, this frequent use of grass is known as foot traffic, and depending on the type of grass you have on your lawn, it could go almost entirely unnoticed or damage your grass.

Zoysia grass and Bermuda grass are the most traffic tolerant of the grasses mentioned above. Zoysia grass has a two-foot deep root system that provides a strong foundation.

Also, it grows densely and heals quickly. In contrast, Bermuda grass is not as thick but has a six-inch deep root system, making it quite hardy and sturdy. Besides that, Bahia grass and Centipede grass have moderate resistance to foot traffic. 

In comparison, fescue grass (tall and red) becomes easily damaged by high foot traffic.

Sunlight & Shade

Best Grass For Sandy Soil

Sunlight is a vital element of your grass’s health; without it, the grass won’t thrive.

Most commonly used grasses for home lawns prefer a balance between sunlight and shade. However, types of grass that grow well in sandy soils often prefer full and direct sunlight. In other words, these grasses grow best under prolonged periods of direct sunlight.

Even if you manage to get them to grow in shady conditions, they will not thrive. Nevertheless, if possible, you can quickly fix the shade situation in your yard. For example, look for large trees, hanging branches, or anything you can remove. 

It will allow more sunlight to come through and help your grass thrive.

Heat & Humidity

Best Grass For Sandy Soil

Lawn grasses become more prone to attack from fungal diseases in high temperatures & humidity.

When growing grass in sandy soils, one of the most challenging things is dealing with extreme and sudden high temperatures and humidity changes. Since sandy soils do not retain water well, people often overwater their lawns and yards.

It could often increase overall humidity, making the property prone to fungal infections and attacks. Therefore, if you often overwater your lawn and have sandy soil, look for yellow spots or fungal threads on the grass, and you might be able to save your grass.

Similarly, increased heat is also a problem with sandy soils. If direct sunlight hits the sand, its temperatures rise very rapidly, and if the grass is not immune to the effects of heat, it will wilt, dry and turn yellow, ruining your lawn’s and grass’s aesthetics.

Therefore, look for grass with high heat tolerance and can thrive in sand.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, now you feel much more confident and have decided to buy the right turfgrass for your sandy soil backyard. Once again, when purchasing grass, please note your area, local climate, and soil type and have your lawn soil tested to see if it needs any amendments.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Do I Treat My Lawn In Sandy Soil?

One way to treat sandy lawn soil is to add a bit of compost to the top. It will improve the nutritional profile of your soil and help the grass anchor itself in the ground. The compost will also help the grass form thatch over time, increasing the soil quality.

How To Grow Grass In Sand?

When planting grass in sandy soil, good preparation is the key. So, start by clearing your lawn of debris, such as leaves, sticks, and stones. Next, till the upper few inches of the soil and mix it with compost. Following that put down a good starter fertilizer and spread the grass seed at the recommended rate. Lastly, cover the grass with topsoil and water it well.

However, be sure not to overwater, and remember sandy soils are not good at retaining moisture and nutrients. So, you might have to work a bit hard on maintaining your grass.

How Long it Takes for Grass Seed to Grow in Sandy Soil?

In ideal conditions, most grass seed species will begin to grow in about 8 to 10 days. However, it will take about 14 days to see results when planting grass in sandy soil. Nevertheless, grass seeds will germinate well in sandy soil if kept evenly moist.

What month is best to put grass seed down?

Timing is everything when it comes to seeding your lawn. And the ideal planting month for grass seed varies depending on where you live. However, generally, you can sow grass seed mixtures between March and October. But be sure to check first.

Is Kentucky bluegrass good for sandy soil?

Kentucky Bluegrass is a perennial turfgrass that can also thrive in sandy soil. However, you must amend the sandy soil, make it fertile, and keep it well-watered.

Sources For Further Reading

Soil Amendment for Lawns and Landscapes | Nebraska Drought Resources | Nebraska. (2023). Retrieved 12 February 2023, from https://droughtresources.unl.edu/soil-amendment-lawns-and-landscapes.

Maintaining Lawns on Sandy Soils | Purdue University Turfgrass Science at Purdue University. Retrieved 12 February 2023, from https://turf.purdue.edu/extpub/maintaining-lawns-on-sandy-soils/

Soil texture determines how much and how often to water. (2012). Retrieved 12 February 2023, from https://extension.oregonstate.edu/news/soil-texture-determines-how-much-how-often-water

Those are our list of best grass for sandy soil. Make sure to also check out my other articles:

What Grass Types Are Used On World’s Best Golf Courses?

What Is The Best Time & Temperature For Grass Seed Germination?

What Is The Best Height To Cut Your Grass For A Healthy Lawn?