Buffalo Grass

Having a beautiful lawn is one of the top priorities for homeowners. The trick to making that happen is choosing the right grass and knowing how to take care of it.

In fact, even the amount of shade or direct sunlight you have on your property makes a difference in which type of lawn to choose. So while the overall look is what you may feel is most important, you have to still be realistic about whether it will work with your situation. Using this information could help you make the best decision for your needs.

Some Facts About Buffalo Grass

Native to Texas, Buffalo Grass is popular for its use as turf, not only because of its durability and uniformity, but because it is attractive as well.

The look is distinct. Buffalo Grass is fine and curly as well as blue-green in color. Of course Texas isn’t the only place you will find this grass. It is native to as far a stretch as Montana to Mexico. Even in Texas it is commonly found from the southern part of the state to the Panhandle. The more sandy soil in the eastern part of the state is not ideal for it.

In addition, parts of the southern part of the state that see heavy rainfall do not always make the best
environment for Buffalo Grass.

This type of grass is also perennial, which means it continues to grow or survive and continually reoccurs without the need to replant. While it may need care and repair at times, it should not be something that you need to plant each year in order to have a healthy and attractive lawn.

Buffalo Grass was one of the grasses that herds of buffalos roamed in the great plains, and the sod was once used by early settlers to help with the construction of their homes.

Characteristics & Traits

When you see buffalo grass it is very easy to recognize. Fine and curly, the blue-green color is unique to just a few types of grasses. It is a popular turf grass and also has some distinguishing characteristics and traits such as:
Buffalo Grass is a low grower and is usually only about 8-10 inches in height. Although the blades may reach up to 12 inches, at this height they fall or curl over and appear shorter.

Seed, stolons or surface runners are the ways in which this grass spreads.

The turf is thin and finely textured with that distinguishing soft blue-green hue.

It is a perennial grass suitable for warm season climates.

It also has both staminate and pistillate flowers.

The difference comes in the male vs. the female plants. While both possess stolons from just inches to several feet that join it together, there are differences including that the female or pistillate has a sort spike or head within the upper leaves.

The plants develop rooting at the node to produce new shoots. It is not very common for both male and female flowers to produce within the same plant and they are actually usually found in patches with distance between them.

Where Did It Come From & What Are The Varieties?

Across the Great Plains from Montana to Mexico is where buffalo grass is commonly found.
This type of grass prefers areas with heavy clay soils, but moderate or even low rainfall. If planted somewhere with heavy rainfall or if this grass is fertilized or irrigated, it is more likely to be invaded by other weedy grasses. Buffalo Grass is native to the countryside, but still only does well in certain areas under certain conditions.

The varieties of Buffalo Grass that make decent lawn choices include:

  • Cody
  • Bison
  • Topgun
  • Plains
  • Bowie

There are a couple of other choices, but they are used mainly for rangeland vegetation or pastures. This is more for function and less for appearance, so not ideal for the average front yard. It should also be noted that certain types of Buffalo Grass are only available in plugs or sod, in other words in an already vegetative state. This gives homeowners a better quality lawn but at a somewhat higher price tag.

Commercially vegetative choices include:

This also means that certain types will do well outside of the Great Plains area where Buffalo Grass originally comes from.

Advantages & Disadvantages

While buffalo grass doesn’t require much if any irrigation, which is an advantage,it does not always fare well in heavy traffic areas, a disadvantage. Some of the other pluses and minuses include:


In addition to yards, Buffalo Grass may also work well for use in parks, school yards, cemeteries, golf course roughs and other areas that get moderate foot traffic.

Buffalo Grass is one of the few lawn choices that actually still looks good when it has grown too high, not to mention it doesn’t look as tall as it is. Because it falls over once higher, it still looks shorter meaning fewer Saturdays spent mowing the grass.


It does not handle heavy traffic as well as other choices. While the established lawn is low maintenance, getting it established can be more demanding than other types of grasses.

While pests are not usually a major problem, weeds can still be a serious issue. Some places buffalo grass may not be a good choice for include:

  • Area with moderate to heavy shade
  • Sandy soil and/or soil likely to be subject to drought
  • Lawns with heavy traffic or use

Establishment & Maintenance

The manner in which your buffalo grass is established will likely depend on the variety you choose.Some varieties are available only in sod or plug, while others are available as seed. This vegetative choice is usually made up of mostly females, because the look is more attractive for lawns.

For seeds – Late spring, April or May, is the best time of year to work with Buffalo Grass seeds. This gives the best amount of moderate moisture and favorable temperatures. If you choose to wait until July – August you should plan to use some type of irrigation system. Waiting until fall is still an option, but keep in mind if using untreated seed the full germination does not occur until the following spring season.

For sod – The seedbed for Buffalo Grass sod should be well prepped and in rows of about 18 inches. You can place plants anywhere from just six inches up to two feet apart depending on how quickly you would like maximum coverage. Sod covered by soil will not likely survive. Grass should actually be planted in fall, spring or the early stages of summer so the moisture level is ideal for this type of vegetation.

Although the established grass is fairly low maintenance, it can be more intensive during establishment. This is less of an issue when using sod as opposed to seed though.

The trade off is that the cost is higher for sod, and Buffalo Grass sod is actually pricier than a choice such as Bluegrass. Keep in mind too that the availability of this type of grass can be more limited.

Watering, Moving & Pest Management

Buffalo grass is not a lawn type that requires much in the way of watering, mowing or pest management.

In fact, irrigation is not usually required for this type of grass. The exception to this rule would be possibly during the time that you are establishing your Buffalo Grass or for public use such as a golf course.

With fertilization, your grass will retain its healthy blue-green color during the spring and summer. Without it, though, your grass may brown and become dormant during hot and dry summer months. However it should still be able to survive. Too much water can cause an invasion of Bermuda Grass.

Without irrigation, the need to mow the lawn is not nearly as often as other types of grass. For irrigated lawns in public places it may still require a weekly cut.

There is also usually little to no need for continued fertilization, however you can consider using light nitrogen applications. Keep in mind that introducing nitrogen could also lead to the introduction of Bermuda Grass.

When it comes to dealing with pests you may be surprised to find that weeds are actually the most common issue.

The trouble is that trying to deal with existing weeds can be problematic because Buffalo Grass can be injured easily. So common herbicides can damage and discolor your lawn.

In spring and fall this is less of a problem, and weeds should be spot treated. However using this type of weed control during the late spring and summer can cause it to brown.

If you actually develop a severe weed problem, it would be a wise choice to use a professional lawn care service to handle the issue. Although it will cost more, you are more likely to salvage your lawn instead of destroy it.

Diseases are not usually a problem for buffalo grass.

As far as pests, in Nebraska there have been problems with mealybugs and a species of the chinch bug. Leafhoppers and grasshoppers are a nuisance but not usually problematic to Buffalo Grass.

If these characteristics and maintenance requirements seem like they fit with your needs and environment,
then Buffalo Grass may be the right choice for you.