Zoysia tenuifolia is very different from all other Zoysia grasses. Often referred to by different names including No-Mow Grass, Min Mow and Petting Grass , Zoysia tenuifolia is more of an ornamental style of grass which can have many different purposes, of which - this grass will not be suitable for use as a general lawn.
The reason for this unsuitability as a lawn is this grass's very slow growth rate, which also makes it a perfect grass for many other applications, including as a lawn in areas which are not generally used for playing or walking on.
So what should Zoysia tenuifolia be used for?
Tenuifolia has a very fine and very attractive bright green leaf, if left to grow without lawn mowing it will develop a clumping characteristic where it will naturally raise higher in areas, but will never grow high like other grasses can. This clumping is a characteristic of this grass, so if you don't like this more natural appearance - then tenuifolia may not be a good choice for you.
If considering Zoysia tenuifolia - ensure to do a Google image search to fully understand the nature and appearance of this grass prior to purchase.
Tenuifolia is a good drought tolerant lawn which can be mowed once or even twice a year to give it a more trimmed appearance, but will not look good as a lawn if it is regularly mowed, the grass just isn't suited to be treated this way.
It is very slow growing which means it will take a long time to cover a lawn surface after planting from pots. This slow growth is also a highly desirable trait which allows this lawn to be extremely no to low maintenance, and more easily controlled and managed than any other grass.
Zoysia tenuifolia is most often sold in punnets or pots, and as a sub-tropical grass will not be suitable for all areas of Australia, so if you may be interested in this grass, step out of the gigantic hardware supermarkets and ask your local nursery for their advice on the supply and suitability of Zoysia tenuifolia in your local area.
Some specialised turf farms do grow and supply this grass as roll on sod, but these farms may be few and far between. You should also expect to pay a higher price for tenuifolia than other grasses because it takes so long to grow a crop on the farm.
The very first thing to understand about Zoysia tenuifolia is it's slow growth rate which makes this grass unsuitable for use a lawn which will be used for any type of general traffic areas. The very slow growth will not allow tenuifolia to withstand or repair itself from damage within any suitable time frame which is required for general use lawns.
So as a general grass - Zoysia tenuifolia is not suitable.
However, many homeowners have areas of lawns in their yards which never get used as a lawn for walking or playing on, such as verges, slopes and courtyards. The same is true for many council areas, including vegetated roundabouts, median strips and verges.
And it's in these areas where Zoysia tenuifolia will often be a great alternative to regular lawns. We can have a lovely bright green lawn which looks exactly the same as other lawns, but needs almost zero lawn mowing, low water and almost no other lawn care.
With a grass like Zoysia tenuifolia available, there is absolutely no need to ever put down plastic grass in those unused lawn areas, when we can instead use a real grass which needs almost no care, and yet has all the massive environmental benefits which only lawns can provide - including the cleaning of pollution and other contaminants from our city air.
As a very slow growing grass which needs no mowing if left alone, and with it's bright green and fine leaf, tenuifolia is a great attractive filler grass for between stepping stones and paving within garden areas, it can fill in around steps and other similar areas, as well as looking great in rockeries and around patios.
The only thing we must keep in mind is that Zoysia tenuifolia is still a real grass and will continue to spread (albeit at a slow rate), therefore it will not be suitable as a general garden plant, but should be used as a grass in areas where ground coverage is desired, and where a no to low maintenance grass is best suited.
Credit and acknowledgment:
Special thanks to Peter Harrison, Principal Scientist of Above Capricorn for his assistance with this article, and for supplying all pictures. Above Capricorn promotes and supplies Compadre Zoysia in Australia.