Zoysia Grass, and How I got rid of it

Zoysia grass is probably wonderful, if you live in an area where it is warm year round. By warm, I mean days and nights never below 50 degrees fahrenheit. If the temperature falls, like it does in the great north-east of America, where I live, that thick, rich green, strong grass, starts to turn coco mat-straw beige. If you live in New York State, and have it, expect your infected lawn to be that NOT to LOVELY beige from mid October until almost mid June, when days, and nights again pass the MAGIC 50 degree mark. While it is beige, people will also think you burnt your lawn using too much fertilizer.

Zoysia grass is different from the grasses that make up Eastern lawns, like fescue, blue grass, and perennial rye grass. They all have a root system that grows down into the soil looking for water. Zoysia grass, on the other hand, grows horizontally crawling and creeping more along the top of the soil surface, and choking out any other grass in its path. The root of the zoysia grass is called a stolon, and to me it resembles coarse textured spanish moss.

Somehow, years ago, I got a zoysia grass INVASION in my lawn. I am not sure how, but I think it could have been hiding in the bagged mulch I bought, or in the soil of a perennial, or shrub, that might have been started in a southern state, and shipped north. However it came, I was not familiar with that type of invasive grass, and did nothing about it for a few years. Then all of a sudden, every fall, a BIGGER and BIGGER part of the lawn turned beige, and I knew I had to do something.

My first attempt at eradicating the zoysia grass proved to be worthless, or even helped it to be more invasive. I initially thought kill it with Roundup (a non-selective herbicide)(non-selective means it kills everything it is sprayed on), then rototill the area, and reseed. Thinking that was all it would take to eliminate Zoysia grass was a FANTASY! As I said before, zoysia grass roots (stolon) crawl horizontally. The roots can be 12 to 18 inches long. Growth pops up all along the STRING LIKE root, and it grows our from that string. So in a way, it grows in all different directions. If you don’t get (kill) every inch of that string root, and you go and rototill it, you have just shredded that root into small pieces, and if it is alive, you just made MANY new baby plants.

My second attempt was a success. This is how I did it.

#1..In early spring, when you can see where the beige zoysia grass is, and where your healthy green grass is, take Roundup, and spray a ring around the zoysia grass area, about 12 to 14 inches into the healthy green grass area. Next wait for the zoysia grass area to green up, and let it grow long, so there is a lot of blade surface for the Roundup to lay on. Cut the healthy grass, weekly, as usual, but skip cutting the zoysia.

#2..Wearing safety glasses, a dust mask or respirator, rubber gloves, and protective footwear (every time you spray the Roundup) give the now “long bladed” zoysia a good spraying from a gallon Roundup container, with spray attachment. I had big spots to spray, so I marked off the area into zones, with bamboo garden stakes, that I laid on the ground. I addressed one zone at a time, until all were treated with a good spraying. Three or four days after spraying the Roundup, you will see the zoysia starting to turn beige, and die. After the first application, wait a week or two, and see what you missed, and reapply the Roundup.

#3.. Take your lawn mower, lower the blade, and cut down the dead zoysia close to the ground as possible. You might have to lower the blade a few times to get it down to nothing. Now rake up all the shredded grass.

#4..Start watering the cut down grass area, hopefully encouraging any zoysia root that was not killed by the Roundup to start growing. Do this for a few weeks, to see if anything emerges.

#5..Now the fun part! (Ha Ha)!! With a straight spade or shovel, start digging up the remaining dead zoysia grass and its roots. Wearing a dust mask, and safety glasses, try to knock off as much dirt as possible from the dead grass, and root system of the zoysia. Make sure to pick up any loose roots that you see, and throw them away. Take the discarded sod, and place it ROOT SIDE up, in the sun for one day. That will dry it out. Try banging off any extra dirt again, before throwing the sod away. Bag all the zoysia sod, and root system, and put it in the trash. You don’t want to compost this material.

#6..Now it is time to reseed the spot. Add extra new fill, if needed. For the next year, or two, keep an eye on the old zoysia grass area, and if you see anything beige(ing) up in the fall, eradicate that spot quickly! If you did a good job, the first time, and were careful to kill it all off, and dig it up, you will not have this problem again.

So tell me, would you do all these LABOR INTENSIVE steps to eradicate the zoysia grass, hopefully once, and for all? Have you ever addressed this issue before, and were you successful doing it? I welcome your comments!

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About fredgonsowskigardenhome

Your eyes deserve to view beauty. I hope Fred Gonsowski Garden Home helps to turn your vision, into a reality.
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35 Responses to Zoysia Grass, and How I got rid of it

  1. Judy Lucas says:

    My neighbors zoysia is growing into my fescue. Help!

    • Hi there Judy, dig it out NOW so it does not spread much on your land. Put a long strip of black garden bed edging, hopefully forming a barrier, between your land and theirs so its roots can’t come into your property. Having it next door, you will have to keep watching for its migration every Fall, when and if it gets past the plastic strip You will know it, if the grass turns that beige tone, when days and nights go below 50 degrees. I got rid of mine, but have an eye out for any piece that got past me. A beige spot in the lawn makes me wonder if it returned. Good Luck with the eradication.

  2. Julie says:

    I had patches of zoysia grass that were attempting to take over my entire yard. Paid landscaper to kill off everything, cutout the sod, bring in layer of top soil and reseed. Unfortunately, my landscaper who claimed to know what he was doing, clearly did not – the zoysia grass came back and stronger than ever! The following April/May of 2012, I started applying Roundup on the entire yard, every few weeks with the hope of putting a new yard in by fall… It’s now the summer of 2013 and I am still trying to kill this stuff. Every week I am out there with Roundup spaying everything and anything green. Needless to say the landscaper that I had paid several thousand dollar to eradicate the zoysia grass and put in a new yard is no where to be found. If anyone has any adivse, I would greatly appreciate it. At this point, I am at a total loss for how to kill this stuff and have too much invested to give up. Help!
    FYI – I live in Northeastern Ohio

  3. Donna Bonarrigo says:

    If you keep using Roundup, you will kill yourself before you kill that grass! It is the most toxic crap and most detrimental to your longterm health of anything out there. Do some research on glysophate (main ingredient in Rpundup and Agent Orange)
    . You won’t like what you find.

    • Hi there Donna, thank you for your concern about using Roundup. Sometimes a person has to use things that they don’t really want to use, because there is no other way of attacking a problem. I understand how you feel, and I really don’t like using too many chemicals, but some times you have to do, what you have to do. I live in an area of golf courses and homes with manicured lawns, and who knows how much chemical product is applied to the land. Last week I applied WeedBeGon to my lawn and my mothers, and before that I had to do grub control to my place, as the lawn was being eaten alive. Do I want to really have to do those things, and pay for that product??? But to have a lawn, I have to do things as they happen. I do try to spread out applications of some chemicals, and only use them when the problem/an issue comes up. Thanks for your comment. Maybe one of my other articles would be a less stressful for you to read. Have a Happy Summer ;-}

  4. hi fred. i started about 1 month ago. i used glyphosate 4 plus. i sprayed a large area on one side of my driveway. i sprayed every week. i then checked for new grouth. where it came up i squirted gasoline on it. sofar i have seen no new groth i am holding of planting grass until next spring. o n the other side i have covered a large area with black plastic and then canvas. i i tend to keep it covered for 1 month.. then mow and spray..ill let you know what happens. pat keough bkrspd99@comcast.net

  5. hi fred well here i am back again. the driveway side is still clear. however . the covered side did not work, only the upper half died the lower side still has sparce green grass . so iam back to the glyphosate 4 .it appears that some light may have gotten in as the land is on a slope.about the gas. i spilled some gas while refueling my mower. its been over a year and there is no zoysia growing in that spot. pat

  6. hi fred. well it taken a while. the sparce grass has caused a problem. however i think i know why. the first was with S . it did not kill.the next spray i added a fertilizer. thinking it would help. the grass was still greeen. the third spray was with F. still nothing.. ithink the F was making the grass stronger. the forth spray was just G. the grass started to die. now it is all dead. i have mowed it to bare ground. every day i check for new growth. so far i have found only one blade of zoysia. i will wait till next spring to start planting grass. pat the first S was ment to be G

  7. Joel says:

    In the south, we just over-seed the zoysia with rye in the fall. The rye stays green until the zoysia starts to turn green and the sun,heat,drought burns the rye out. Then you have a beautiful green yard all year long! Low Maintenance.

    • Ed Hendricks says:

      Would thus work in Northern VA?

      • Hi there Ed, If you have a zoysia grass problem in Virginia, you have no other option than to try eradicating it with the Roundup. It is either attack it or suffer through it invading your lawn. A neighbor who has professional lawn maintenance told me that the grass service told him that they can not guarantee the complete eradication of the zoysia if it is infesting a lawn. Once a person has it, and gets rid of it, they will still have to keep an eye open to even the smallest piece of root starting up the grass again. I’ve seen places here where it has spread from one property to another, and in some places it is not in a straight line. I wonder if it can be spread through the air, even thought you don’t see it setting seeds, as you see spots of it here and there, and nothing connecting the infested areas. I wonder if people also get it when buying grass seed packaged by national seed manufacturers. I now will only buy seed from local garden centers that have seed blended and packaged just for our area. Hopefully if the seed is just for a certain area, it won’t be contaminated by any zoysia grass seed. Good luck with your lawn project!

  8. Holli says:

    Twenty years ago I was having trouble getting a nice lawn and my brother bought some Zoysia ‘plugs’ to randomly plant around my yard. Needless to say, about 10 went by before I realized those plugs had spread, but my lawn was a mishmash of brown spots and green spots. I bought “Killzall” (stronger form of RoundUp) and spent the summer killing my entire front lawn. I sprayed every 2 weeks for 6 weeks. Then I let it go for 6 weeks. I dug up what dead roots I could and then set fire to the dead lawn. Another 2 weeks went by before I reseeded. Everything appeared good until about 2 years ago, when I started noticing brown/beige patches. Thinking it was mold, I simply hired a lawn company to treat my lawn 4 times per year. Just last week I started raking my yard and drew up one of those dreadful long roots growing by a bush and my heart sank. Evidently it has been growing from under that bush all along. I started really looking at my lawn and it’s infiltrated throughout AGAIN! I could just cry. To go through the process of killing my entire front yard again makes me sick to my stomach. I have spent so much money on the fertilizing treatments all for naught. So, in essence, I’m back where I started from 10 years ago. I have NO idea how to get this crap out of my lawn! Ugh!

    • Hi there Holli, I controlled the zoysia grass in my lawn for many years, but it has also returned in patches, here and there. I noticed it last year, but last year and this year has been spent dealing with a family member who had a major health problem, so it spread, This coming Spring, before it even greens us, I’m going to dig it out again. I have seen it here, on different people’s lawns spreading in odd ways, even growing under sidewalks. I do think mine came from soil or mulch that came with a plant bought at a garden center. It seems zoysia grass likes to grow on lawns of people that it bothers, and never shows up where the people would not care if they had it or not. Always something, not pleasant, to have to handle 😦

  9. Ron says:

    Thanks Fred for all the advice. I have the zoysia and hate it. But, considering all the work involved, I decided to just deal with it. Was hoping I could just seed over it, but obviously that’s not going to help.

  10. Larry says:

    I have sprayed with roundup all summer and then took my tiller and dug out the roots. These roots look more like scotch bright rather than long shoots. It came back the next year. This fall (2015) I mowed the Zoysia very low ,hoping some Kentucky 31 will come up.

  11. Katherine says:

    A tiny little patch started a few years ago and I foolishly ignored it when it turned green because it was thicker than most of my other grass. Now it covers half of my yard and I’m starting to panic. I bought florescent orange spray paint and circled the areas in the yard that need removing. That is so I can see it when it turns green. I started to hoe it out but that is too difficult. I’ll try the round up method beginning this weekend. It is very frustrating hearing of the successes and failures trying to get rid of Zoysia… has anyone tried a flame thrower?

    • Hi there Katherine, zoysia grass is a sneaky plant. I’ve seen it in spots on peoples lawns, in my area, and then is in spots across the street on another neighbor’s properties. I’ve even seen it sneak under sidewalks. I think once you have a zoysia grass problem, it never really gets eradicated. I’ve had no problems with it for year, then all of a sudden it shows its ugly head again. I think once you see the beige grass, which when walked over is cushier than regular grass, you have to go after it as soon as possible. Here in the north east, zoysia grass is not a seed that people would plant, but I think people get their lawns infection with it when they purchase mulch or plants that initially came from a southern state. The mulch or soil around the plant could have some zoysia roots in it and they grow out from there. Good luck with your problem.
      If a person could come up with a plant killer that would completely eradicate zoysia, I know they would easily become millionaires, probably many times over ;-}

  12. Jim says:

    I also have this issue with my grass, is it better to use the Round Up or Gasoline
    to kill this grass ?

    • Hi there Jim, Did you read about the gasoline in Patrick Keough’s comment? I never tried the gasoline, and think it might be very dangerous, especially if someone is on the treated area, and a spark happens. Don’t try it close to your house, the neighbor’s property, or any outbuilding or fence that could easily catch fire. You know, you would be liable if something bad happens. You could bet sued.

      • jim says:

        thanks, I would not use it, just sounds like everyone works so hard to remove it and it comes back,
        did it come back in the area you killed it or was it beyond the borders where you had killed it ?
        maybe the new roots are much further out than 12 to 14 inches

      • Hi there Jim, it came back from under a bush that I did not Roundup too close to and along the side of a flower bed that has edging. A bit of root could have survived the Roundup then started growing again. In a few weeks I will work on eliminating those spots, as best as I can. Always something to address.

  13. Eric says:

    This stuff has been the bane of my existence for the past 10 years! When I bought my current house it was the summer and I didn’t realize what I had until that fall when it all turned brown. I was a landscaper and horticulturist once upon a time so I was familiar with this stuff, needless to say I been fighting the good fight ever since. I don’t use chemicals ever because I’m on a well so I’m forced to mechanically remove the stuff which as you know is a losing proposition. I would love to meet the genius who decided this was a good place to use that stuff. It has no business being this far North, I’m in Northern NJ btw.

    • Hi there Eric, I think I got mine from either mulch or it was in the containers of potted plants that I planted out in the lawn. One of the places I got it was around ornamental grasses that are planted in the lawn. I initially thought it came from the seed from the plums that the grass makes in Fall. I have some small patches of it that resurfaced again, and I have marked the areas edges with Roundup and I will be hopefully eradicating it soon. Have you ever thought of solarizing it, by covering the area with plastic; to heat the area and burn it out and also eliminating water to the area?. That might be a possible way of getting it once and for all. Good luck to us both, with our every so often battles, with the zoyzia grass ;-}

  14. Jill Wentworth says:

    I have been fighting (and losing) the battle with zoysia “grass” for ten years also (in Pennsylvania). I have the additional curse of having my lawn border my neighbor’s zoysia grass lawn (for 197 feet). This means I am guaranteed a continual creeping into my space. I spent a couple years CUTTING it out, when i first discovered what was happening, because I am adverse to using Roundup. But, as determined as I can get, I do not wish to devote so much of my life to eradicating this stuff. I relented and used Roundup in one area, and though it did eventually return, it was not as quickly or vigorously as the other areas. My neighbor told me that the grass clippings themselves will lead to zoysia growth, so every time they mow (like clockwork, Saturday morning, i get a new dose. I tried “solarizing” it with plastic, but it continued to grow underground. I called a company that sells this crap and was told I need to put a physical barrier between my grass and my neighbor’s, approximately 8″ deep (as i recall). I haven’t done that (yet). I haven’t tried gasoline, but i have tried to burn some of the dried out stolens, and even they won’t burn! This is grass from hell, as far as I’m concerned.

    • jim says:

      I am in the process of killing it off now, I did the spay paint thing while is was still brown and other grass was green back in April, I then went 2 feet beyond the ring with roundup
      my plan is to bring in 6 yards of loam in September then have it hydro seeded
      I have two spots one 15 foot radius the other 30 foot radius

    • Jim Hill says:

      Hi, Jill, after killing the grass off with round up 2 months ago, I rented a sod cutter
      and cut up the areas, then rolled all dead sod and roots up and disposed of it out behind
      my shed, this weekend I have 6 yards of loam coming to add to the missing 2 inches
      of recessed area I think this might work

      • Hi there Jim, could you put down a landscape fabric first in the area that you dug up, then put the soil over it. If there were any zoysia roots below the landscape fabric it would make it impossible for them to grow through. If you try the landscape fabric get a 12 year one, it is really heavy and should last for years. Something to think consider.

  15. Rhonda Hendricks says:

    Cannot believe someone has not invented something to get rid of this stuff. They would be so rich and many would be so thankful!

      • Charlene says:

        I tried a small area between sidewalk and the road 5 years ago, covered the zoysia grass with cardboard at the bottom and river stones on the top for 6 to 8 months. I think that I started in October or November. Then, in June the next year, I decide to return the area back to grass. When I was removing the stones and cardboard away, I found nothing growing in that area, which means zoysia grass died “completely”, I hope. The area has been 5 years now. So far so good, except at the edge of the area, some zoysia grass started growing. I believe that this is because I did not cover the area big enough then. 😦

        I have zoysia grass all over my yard. Use cardboard and stones seems impossible. 😦

      • Hi there Charlene, Love your way of eradicating it, thanks for your comment. How about laying down plastic first, then cardboard and covering it with mulch. I can see a person eliminating it in rows, one after another until it is all gone. I know my readers will try your way of handling that dreadful bit of nature. Thank You!

  16. gloria pittman says:

    I live in southern Illinois and I love my zoysia MOSTLY. it’s been a problem around flower beddings, but this year Iv’e decided to dig a trench around the flower bedding and put in that black edging that pretty deep. 4-6 inches down in ground. Other than that, i love the zoysia and embrace it 😉 it’s cushy and greens up so nice.

    • Hi there Gloria, zoysia grass is probably in regions, where it never/hardly ever goes below 50 degrees, an attractive grass. In northern locations where it gets cold, or has a winter, it becomes an unsightly beige color, which takes forever to green up in the spring. All kinds of grasses are OK, if they are in places where you want them, otherwise they are an annoyance. The same pertains to flowers that over self-seed. Volunteers in the wrong place become weeds. Thanks for your comment.

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