Cultivars for Cool Season Grasses

There are a number of standard and improved grass cultivars available to the public. A cultivar is a variety of a specific plant that is created and maintained through cultivation. Turfgrass researchers take a specific grass and breed certain improvements into them. Some cultivars were created to develop a deeper color, more improved disease resistance, or a number of other improvements.

Grass seed can be confusing to some people. A lot of seed is marketed under "catagories", such as Shade Tolerant Grass, or Spot Fixer, or Full Sun Grass. However, some lawn seed is not compatible with other grasses. Make sure the grass that is growing in your lawn is compatible with the seed you are planning to spread. This page is to help you with identifying different grass types and various cultivars.

Here are some common turf industry definitions:

  • Cultivars- improved varieties of grass that are maintained by cultivation. "Cultivar" and "variety" are often used interchangeably.
  • Quality- refers to overall appearance and could include some or all of the following such as density, texture, color, resistance to insects and disease.
  • Color- rated for its color up to very dark green.
  • Density- how thick the turf will become.
  • Seeded variety- indicates that this grass species is started by seed.
  • Texture- indicates how thick or narrow the blade is.
  • Vegetative variety- Grass is started by plugs, squares, or sod.
  • Disease Resistant- i.e. Brown Patch Resistant- improved varieties that are bred for greater resistance to a disease or diseases common to that species.

Note: In plant terminology, the word "Resistant" doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t get the disease. It means it has been made more resistant than the original or previous varieties. To what degree of resistance it offers fluctuates with varieties and the care the grass receives.

Not all cultivars work equally well in all areas of adaption. Certain grasses have a very narrow range of adaptation. Check with your county extension office for the varieties that are best where you live. Go to Climate Zones for range of grass adaption.

Below are some common lawn grasses and recommended varieties. Note: There may be additional varieties within each group than those listed here. There is currently many experimental varieties that may be available to the public in the future.


There are two basic types of bluegrass. They are the “common” varieties and the “improved” varieties. Common bluegrass cannot take much fertilization or it may become disease prone. Often when disease starts to affect fertilized turf that consist of various grass types, it begins in the bluegrass first. If you will be applying regular fertilizer treatments, use the improved varieties of bluegrass. The improved varieties were developed for use on fertilized sites.

Common bluegrass cultivars:
For use on sites with little or no nitrogen fertilizer and little to no irrigation:

Baron, Baronie, Caliber, Canterbury, Dragon, Eagleton, Kenblue, North Star, South Dakota

Improved bluegrass varieties:
For use on sites where a fertility program is in place:

Advocate, America, Apollo, Arcadia Award, Baronie,

Tall Fescue (Turf-Type)

Until about 18 years ago, tall fescue was a field grass. Many improved varieties have been developed for turf use with excellent results. Turf type fescue is a smaller and prettier plant than the older forage varieties. All have good shade tolerance.

Avenger Barlexas II., Blackwatch, Coyote, Davinci, Dynasty, Falcon II, Grande II, Justice, Laramie, Millennium, Olympic Gold, Picasso, Prospect, Rebel, Rembrandt, Sentry, Stetson, Titan Ltd., Watchdog, Wolfpack

Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue is often sold in retail stores. Some bags will say “For field and turf use” while smaller bags may just say it is for lawns. It is actually a field grass.

You should look for lawn seed that have several varieties of turf type tall fescue mixed together for the best quality turf. Blending fescue and bluegrass is also common and the grasses blend well. Be aware, however, bluegrass is sometimes blended with other seeds because it is a fairly inexpensive seed. If the site will be maintained under intense fertilization or considerable shade, check the variety of bluegrass to ensure it is an improved type.

Fine Fescue

These grasses originated in Europe and are among the finest textured grasses. Fine Fescues are known for their shade tolerance. They cannot tolerate heat or drought conditions and are best adapted for the cooler regions of the U.S. The seed is usually marketed as shade tolerant grass. Creeping Red does better in cooler, wetter regions. If planted in full sun, it will usually die. They do not survive well outside of their adaptation zone.

Fine Fescue types:

Chewings fescue, Creeping Red fescue, Hard fescue, Sheep fescue

Perennial Ryegrass

Ryegrass is often used in the southern states to overseed winter Bermuda. It also makes a quality turfgrass is cooler areas of the U.S. and in parts of the transition zone. Ryegrass is best when mixed with at least three different varieties.

Applaud, Brightstar SLT, Citation Fore, Integra, Jet, Manhattan IV, Morning Star, Quicksilver, Shining Star, Silver Dollar, Windstar

Unfortunately, annual ryegrass is sometimes marketed as a permanent turf type grass. Don’t be fooled by this marketing. Annual rye has a life cycle of only one year. If the bag is a lawn seed mixture where annual ryegrass is just one of several grass types, then that may be okay. In that case, it is probably being included because of its short germination period. It can germinate in as little as three days compared to a few weeks as with some other grasses. After the primary lawn seed germinates and becomes established, the annual rye will die back.

cultivars-2 (Warm Season Grasses)

Many improvements have been made with warm season grasses in the last few years. Click here for a list of popular "warm season grass cultivars".

Climate Zones for Turf Grass Adaptation

Go here for help in selecting the best turfgrass for your area based on the zones of grass adaptation. This zone chart is primarily for the U.S. but southern Canada may find it helpful as well.

Understanding Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis made easy! Understanding basic plant function will greatly improve your lawn care, especially fertilization. You will never look at your grass the same way.

Plant Structure and Growth Habits

In the world of turf grass, understanding plant structure and growth can provide helpful insights to maintaining a beautiful lawn.

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