The Top Types of Grass For Shade, Sun, Drought & Dogs (2019)

Sir Walter Buffalo vs Sapphire Buffalo

How do you choose between the shade-tolerant buffalo grass brands?There’s plenty of conflicting information around, and it can be hard to know what’s important and accurate.

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Types of Grass

In the bad old days of weedy, dead beat lawns you didn’t have much choice about the type of grass you had.

But now there are so many premium varieties of grass available and choosing the right type of grass can make all the difference between having a beautiful evergreen lawn and something that resembles a motocross track.

Here’s a really definitive list of the most popular types of grass available in Australia.

Our 30 years plus of experience growing instant turf for Australian conditions means we can also help you choose the right type for your local conditions and requirements.

Atlas Turf Types

Different types of grass

It’s a fact that Australians love their lawns. A good lawn can increase your property value by as much as 18%. We’re not talking about artificial grass here but real living grass.

But not all grass types are equally suited to your local weather and soil conditions or your specific requirements.

Sunshine hours, rainfall, frosts, salt spray, soil type, and wear and tear are important factors you need to consider when choosing the right type of grass for your needs.

The most popular types of grass for Australian lawns include:

  • Sir Walter Buffalo
  • Buffalo Matilda
  • Buffalo Sapphire
  • Palmetto
  • Empire Zoysia
  • Kikuyu
  • CT2 Couch

Each of these grass types boasts unique growing qualities that make them ideal for specific settings.

Scroll down for more detail on just which type of grass is best suited for specific conditions.

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How to Identify Types of Grass

The most obvious difference between grass types is in the leaf size, shape, and texture.

Grass TypeLeaf SizeTextureGrowth Habit
Sir Walter Broad Medium Soft Lush
Sapphire Finer than Sir Walter Rapid Grwoth
Zoysia Fine, Narrow, Tapering Very Soft Slow Growth
Couch Fine Soft Rapid Growth
Kikuyu Medium Size Soft Rapid Growth
Palmetto Long, Broad Soft Medium Growth

Some varieties such as Buffalo and Kikuyu were traditionally coarser than today’s versions but focused breeding programmes have created varieties with softer leaves while still retaining and even improving on the rugged durability of the earlier versions.

Difference Between the Main Grass Types

  • Sir Walter Buffalo: soft leaf, superior quality and durability, suited for most Australian conditions, outstanding drought and shade tolerance, and weed, disease, and wear and tear resistance.
  • Buffalo Matilda: soft leaf, lush growth, ideal for shade, good durability
  • Buffalo Sapphire: soft leaf, lush growth, ideal for shade, good durability
  • Palmetto: soft leaf, fast growing, excellent drought or shade tolerance, medium maintenance turf, recovers quickly from damage.
  • Empire Zoysia:soft leaf, tough, minimal maintenance turf, exceptional drought tolerance, excellent in full sun and thrives in hot, humid areas, good shade tolerance.
  • Kikuyu: broad coarse leaf, super tough, good damage recovery, excellent drought resistance, not so good in damp or shady areas.
  • CT2 Couch: tough drought resistant grass, relatively low maintenance, discolours in cold conditions (below 5 degrees Celsius).

You can read more here about the differences between the grass varieties available at Atlas Turf.

Difference between main grass types

Types of Grass Seeds

Australia’s most popular grasses were originally imported from other countries.

Some of these grasses in their native form quickly became invasive weeds thanks to their rapid growth, output of runners, prolific seed production, and Australia’s climate.

Kikuyu and Couch, in particular, have been labelled as highly invasive because of their ability to spread rapidly to neighbouring properties.

Fortunately, you can purchase modern grass varieties that produce only sterile seed or none at all. This helps to limit the spread of your grass to other parts of your property.

Atlas Turf specially select varieties with a safe non-invasive growth habit. Types of grass seeds

What’s the Best Type of Grass for:

Sometimes the right grass type can require some compromises.

For example, because you have children and/ or a dog you might need a lawn that repairs itself and recovers quickly from damage.

However, you might not want the hassle of mowing the lawns frequently. The compromise is that rapid re-growth usually goes hand in hand with higher maintenance.

My Lawn

When deciding on the best type of grass for a lawn you need to ask the following questions:

Am I only interested in a beautiful fresh green lawn all year round for its appearance?

Do I want a hardy lawn for my children or dogs to run around on?

Is the physical feel of the lawn more important to me?

Palmetto Buffalo is a good choice for all year round colour, drought and shade tolerance, as well as having a lovely soft green leaf. It delivers medium growth and strong damage recovery.

Sapphire Buffalo produces a very lush and vibrant green lawn with lovely soft leaves. It’s fairly hardy too with good damage repair abilities.

Matilda Buffalo copes well with shade so this might be a good choice for a lawn surrounded by trees.

Kikuyu is probably one of the toughest grasses around so if you’re looking for a super tough lawn then this is a great choice.

Sir Walter is also delivers great performance for year round hardiness and damage repair as well as lush soft green growth.

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My Dog

Dogs will love your new grass lawn but it pays to choose the right type of grass especially if you have very active dogs.

No grass can withstand constant wear and tear for long periods without sustaining some damage. But it’s not just a matter of choosing the toughest grass either.

You may need to take into account:

  • Sunshine hours
  • Shade
  • Frost severity
  • Dog activity levels
  • Maintenance requirements
Grass TypeDurabilityMaintenanceSunshineShadeFrost
Kikuyu Super tough Very high Very happy Not happy
Sapphire Tough Moderate Happy Happy
Palmetto Tough Moderate Happy Happy
Sir Walter Super tough High Happy Very happy Happy
Zoysia Tough but slow recovery Low Happy Very happy Rapid Growth
Couch Very tough Moderate Happy Happy Not happy

Your lawn may also develop brown dead patches as a result of the nitrogen in your dog’s urine.

Make sure your dogs get enough exercise and drink plenty of water.

Both these steps will help reduce the nitrogen content in their urine.

Also immediately water any areas where your dogs urinate; this will usually dilute the urine sufficiently to avoid dieback.


If mowing your lawn is your pet hate then Empire Zoysia is the ideal choice. It is one of the lowest maintenance grasses available in Australia.

You’ll only need to mow every 7 to 14 days and it is extremely drought resistant.

Couch is another good low maintenance lawn, which offers good general hardiness through both the warmer months and the colder months.

Couch may discolour if it is subjected to prolonged temperatures below 5°C.

Best Types of Grass for Mowing

Cricket Pitches &  Football Fields

Sports fields have to take quite a beating.

A high degree of wear and tear as well as exposure to full sun, frequent neglect, and drought conditions is the norm for many sports grounds and playing fields.

Couch is a great choice for sports grounds due to its rapid re-growth and tolerance for a wide range of conditions.

You can also cut it very short making it especially popular for cricket pitches.

Kikuyu is another popular choice on sports grounds for the same reasons.

However, it won’t cope so well if the area is shaded.

Couch Lawn Great for Sports

What Type of Grass Grows:

The Best Growing

If by best growing you mean the fastest growing grass then you’re probably looking at Kikuyu, Couch or Sir Walter Buffalo.

But remember, soil types, climate, and sun/shade exposure all play a part in how quickly a lawn will grow.

Best Grass Types for Lawns

Best in Sandy Soil

Kikuyu is very hardy and will grow in some of the worst soil conditions including sandy soil. In fact, the underground runners will help to stabilise poor soils.

It’s these runners that keep the grass looking good even in the driest periods. Couch is another grass that thrives in all soil types from clay to sand.

Kikuyu - Best Grass for Sandy Soil

Best In Shade

Sir Walter Buffalo thrives in shade and full sun.

Matilda Buffalo will easily cope with up to 80% shade, keeps good winter colour, and yet will survive harsh drought.

Empire Zoysia also does very well in the shade but does not cope well with colder temperatures.

Best Grass Types for Shade

Best or More Dense / Less Weeds

All Atlas Turf grass varieties produce dense lush growth that will keep the weeds at bay.

Weeds generally take hold in your lawn when patches of dead grass are not repaired quickly enough.

Whether damage is the result of children’s rough and tumble play, dog urine, or an extreme dry spell it’s important to make sure the grass recovers before the weeds take hold.

You can read more about some of the common weeds here and what to do about them.

Of course, prevention is better than cure so it pays to follow a good lawn care programme with fertilisers and watering.

What’s the Very Best?

Buffalo and are two highly popular grasses but which is the best? Well that’s a tough one.

Some of the ratings in the table below come pretty close and a + only indicates a slightly better performance in most cases.

You can read a more in-depth comparison of these two exceptional grasses here.

Highest Quality Grass at Atlas Turf

GrassShadeDrought ToleranceDamage RepairWinter ColourSun Tolerance
Buffalo + = + = =
Zoysia = = =

To sum up, both are great types of grass but as a general guide, Zoysia does better in the northern warmer climes while Sir Walter thrives in the more southern areas.


Last updated 12th April 2019

Extremely satisfied…

“We have used and recommended Atlas Turf for the last few years and have been extremely satisfied. Kerrie and Neale grow exceptionally good quality grass of various varieties, that meet both our high standards as well as meeting our customers needs. Availability and delivery has never been an issue and their staff have always been very helpful. If you’re looking at new grass or looking to change suppliers, we would have no hesitation in recommending Atlas Turf.”

– Shelley Conasch, Feature Trees Australia

I would definitely recommend…

“…The turf was delivered and the delivery gentleman from Atlas even informed us, by eye that we had ordered too little turf, and recommended an amount we needed, and was spot on. The process from ordering, to delivering, to laying was all made easier by Atlas and all of their staff, and I would definitely recommend them to any friends or family.”

– Brendan, Sydney

Prompt and lovely to deal with…

“We used Atlas Turf to turf our whole yard, front and back. The staff on the phone were prompt, lovely to deal with and were very knowledgeable not only of their own product but also helped answer many questions about the preparation, maintenance and also a few tips to help lay the turf.”

– Brendan, Sydney

I am extremely happy…

“Just a quick note to let you know that I am extremely happy with my new Sir Walter Lawn. Thank you to the Great Service and Advice I received from all the staff at Atlas Turf.”

– David, Windsor

You were fantastic…

“Just wanted to send you a quick note to let you know how happy we are with our Lawn, right from the start you were fantastic recommending the best lawn for me since I have always lived in a unit it was all a bit confusing. I have a bit of a smile on my face when I walk out on the weekends and my neighbours are all having to mow every weekend but you were right the lawn you selected for me even in summer only needs a quick cut every 3 to 4 weeks to look awesome! Thanks again.”

– Kent, Quakers Hill