Waterwise Turf Selection

Topic Progress:

When selecting turf, choose from warm season grasses which are the most water efficient and climate appropriate
varieties for WA.

Warm season turf varieties with underground runners called rhizomes which are capable of rapid recovery include several varieties of Couch, Hybrid Couch, Kikuyu, Zoysia, and Paspalum vaginatum. These lawns are recommended where watering is restricted. Due to their vigorous growth, Couch and Kikuyu need to be carefully managed otherwise they have a tendency to invade garden beds at a prolific rate.

Salt tolerance

A study of salt tolerance in warm season turf grasses as part of a report ‘Amenity Grasses for Salt Affected
Parkland in Coastal Areas’ (2006) ranked the above grasses from most to least salt tolerant as follows:

  • Velvetene
  • Zoysia
  • Couch (particularly Santa Ana)
  • Buffalos (particularly Palmetto)
  • Queensland blue
  • Kikuyu

Warm season lawns that spread by above ground runners called stolons include all cultivars of soft leaf Buffalo, and Blue Couch. Due to their less extensive root systems they have less recuperative ability following
periods of drought.

Cool season turf seed include fine leaf rye, Kentucky Blue, Bent grasses, Chewing’s and Creeping Red fescue. Cool season lawns need more water than warm season lawns and are not generally suitable for home lawns in warm regions of Australia.

Top warm season turf varieties for Western Australia

Wintergreen Couch

Wintergreen is a couch cultivar with a blue green colour, a fine, dense, soft leaf texture with high colour retention under low winter temperatures and partial shade. It has a deep-rooted, dense network of rhizomes and vigorous surface stolons that enable rapid recovery from damage or drought. Wintergreen has a smooth soft hard wearing surface.

Santa Ana Hybrid Couch

A sterile hybrid which won’t seed, Santa Ana has an exceptionally fine leaf and maintains good colour during winter. It is the most salt tolerant of the couch varieties and grows well in coastal areas but also performs well in clay soils. Being both rhizomatous and stoloniferous Santa Ana is very hardy. It is the most shade tolerant of all the couches and its dense habit makes it very resistant to wear. Relatively high maintenance, it can require annual de-thatching.

Empire Zoysia

Empire Zoysia was released in 2003 and is hard wearing, drought tolerant and reasonably shade tolerant. Requiring less mowing and fertilising than other warm season grasses it is a sustainable choice. A no mow trial over a year in Bullsbrook showed it to manage without mowing and fertiliser and still resemble a reasonable lawn. It is salt tolerant and will grow in heavy, poor draining soils. In terms of winter colour retention it rates higher than couch but below buffalo and kikuyu. It does lose colour over winter in frost prone areas. Empire Zoysia has excellent drought tolerance due to its massive rhizome systems but is less invasive than couch or kikuyu. It shows good
resistance to insects and turf diseases. A new variety of Zoysia macrantha has recently been introduced as Zoysia ‘Nara’. It appears very promising with increased salt tolerance, a fine leaf and rapid growth rate.


Kikuyu has a soft wide blade and bright green leaf colour. Widely used for sporting fields, parks and gardens and rural applications due to its quick growth and rapid repair. It can become very invasive and is a declared weed, so the male sterile varieties are recommended.

A relatively new variety of male sterile kikuyu currently on the market is ‘Village Green’. A ‘winter active’ variety it gives dense coverage and good weed resistance.

Though not ranking highly in terms of salt tolerance, kikuyu does show good ability to recover from sand drift in coastal locations.


Velvetene is a superior cultivar of seashore paspalum developed in Perth. A fine leafed sterile grass with a wax coating, giving a bright green, shiny appearance, it is useful when water quality is limited. Providing drainage is adequate, Velvetene can be watered with seawater so it is an excellent choice for coastal locations. Velvetene will
also survive storm surges or rising water tables in low lying boggy areas. It is not as invasive as couch or kikuyu. According to a study by the Victorian Golf Association Turf Research Board, funded by HAL, Velvetene is not as drought tolerant as Zoysia.

Soft Leaf Buffalo

Competition has driven constant improvements in the quality of buffalo lawn. The lawn that is called buffalo in Australia is generally known as St Augustine grass. The soft leaf cultivars that are now available are far superior to the original variety. Soft leaf buffalos are reasonably drought tolerant, non-invasive, relatively low maintenance and have good shade tolerance. Useful for small home lawns as they do not invade garden beds as readily as couch and kikuyu. Individual cultivars have various benefits. For site appropriate information, contact your local turf supplier.

Queensland Blue Couch

Queensland Blue Couch has a distinctive blue/green colour that sets it apart from all other warm season lawns. This fine leaved, soft textured grass is not actually a couch or from Queensland. Less aggressive than normal couch and low to no thatching, it is comparable to buffalo in watering requirements.