How to Grow Drought Resistant Grass

If you’ve been dealing with drought more often in recent years, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, increased drought and the expansion of dry areas in the United States don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The good news is, there’s a way to make your lawn more drought-resistant. The key to a drought-resistant lawn is soil health. Growing drought-resistant grass is as easy as understanding soil health. Clean Air Lawn Care owners are experts on nurturing healthy soils and healthy lawns. So, we have a tried-and-true approach to keeping your lawn healthy even in dry conditions. Read on for more information on keeping grass healthy in drought. Or get in touch with a local Clean Air Lawn Care owner for more information about growing a healthy, drought-resistant lawn.

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How to Make Your Existing Lawn Drought Resistant

drought resistant grass in Oklahoma
A drought-resistant lawn in OKC

Healthy soil leads to drought-resistant grass. The University of Illinois extension explains, “Drought stress will occur faster on turf stands with poor soil conditions underneath. Soil compaction, clay fill, high pH, and generally poor conditions for root growth becomes very evident under stress conditions such as drought…work on improving rooting of the lawn grasses.” So how do you “improve rooting of the lawn grasses”? We lay it all out for you below. 

Organic Treatments

Organic, natural treatments like the Clean Air Liquid Fertilizer and Clean Air Soil Builder work within a lawn’s soil to encourage healthy root growth and grass. These treatments contain essential nutrients for healthy root development, blade growth, and soil health. They also contain active microbes that are the building blocks to truly healthy soil. Without active soil microbes, it’s impossible to have healthy soil. Chemical and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides kill soil microbes and throw the soil health off-balance. This leads to unhealthy soil that can’t survive in dry, hot conditions, or extended droughts. Avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides is the key to growing drought-resistant grass.

Compost Topdressing

Applying compost topdressing is another important part of growing drought-resistant grass. The idea behind getting a compost topdressing applied to your lawn is similar to staying up to date on your organic fertilizer treatments, but with a big bonus. The biggest benefit of compost topdressing is its organic matter. As opposed to liquid fertilizers, compost topdressing adds a layer of organic matter to your lawn. This organic matter is incredibly important to healthy soil and drought-resistant grass. Organic matter improves the consistency of your soil, adds important soil microbes, and feeds the overall soil life. All of this leads to a big boost in water and nutrient efficiency.


Getting your lawn aerated annually makes a big impact on its health and water efficiency. An annually aerated lawn is more water-efficient and drought-tolerant because water can penetrate to grass roots more efficiently. Aeration prevents soil compaction, which leads to poor water penetration, unhealthy grass, and a stressed lawn. Another benefit of lawn aeration is an increased uptake of nutrients, which is why it is wise to pair your aeration with a compost top dressing and/or liquid organic treatment. Get your lawn aeration at least once a year, or twice a year for optimum drought resistance.

Mow High

Mowing high is a tried-and-true healthy lawn practice that Clean Air Lawn Care has been utilizing and preaching from the beginning. From our general approach to organic lawn care to our weed control method, you’ll find mentions of mowing high all over the website. That’s because mowing high is a simple, proven way to keep grass healthy and lush. Cutting grass too short stresses the grass, which decreases its water efficiency, health, and ability to withstand dry conditions.

Leave Grass Clippings

Skip the bag and leave your clippings on the lawn! Leaving grass clippings on the lawn returns nutrients, moisture, and organic matter to the soil. Leaving grass clippings is a win-win for everyone; it reduces mowing time and waste, too!

Water Appropriately

As long as there are no water restrictions in your area during a drought, you can continue to water your lawn to keep it green and healthy through a dry spell. The key to watering grass is to water deeply and infrequently. Deep, infrequent watering will encourage strong, deep root growth. Stronger, deeper roots resist drought and damage because they can access water further down in the soil, where moisture is retained for longer periods of time than in the shallow top layer of soil.

Replace Your Lawn with a More Drought-Resistant Grass

drought resistant grass zoysia sod
Before and after a full Zoysia lawn replacement in Orlando.

If your current lawn consists of water-hungry grass that can’t withstand drought or dry conditions no matter how lovingly you treat it, you might want to consider replacing it with a more drought-resistant grass type. While growing a whole new lawn will require more water in the beginning, it will conserve water in the long run. Warm-season grass lawns can be replaced by sod, while cool-season grasses can be replaced with seed or plugs.

Drought-Resistant warm-season grasses include Zoysia, Bermuda, and St. Augustine grasses. Drought-resistant cool-season grasses include tall fescue and fine fescue. Kentucky Bluegrass (especially the Huntsville variety) can also be considered as a drought-resistant cool-season grass because the underground rhizomes work to repair drought-damaged patches in order to bounce back after a dry period.

Replace Your Lawn with a Drought-Resistant Garden

drought resistant garden
This drought-resistant wildflower garden reduces lawn space and water consumption.

Another way to ensure drought resistance is to replace all or part of your lawn with a garden that is filled with plants that require very little water. A landscape design that balances hardscape materials like rocks, pavers, or boulders with low-water plants is ideal for locations that deal with persistently dry conditions. If you are unable to follow the above recommendations for your lawn, replacing part or all of your lawn is a great idea. Many families require some lawn space for pets and children but find that some of the space could be better used as a low-water garden.

Before replacing a lawn with a garden, be sure to spend time planning, designing, and budgeting. You’ll want to be sure to include plants that are native to your area, drought-resistant, and low maintenance. Your local extension office or nursery will be able to help you determine which plants will do best in your area. While the time and money spent when installing a brand-new garden can be high, you’ll probably find that your investment will be a sound one in the long term. Some cities offer monetary incentives for replacing lawns with drought-resistant landscapes, so do a quick search to see if your garden will qualify.

There are many benefits to growing drought-tolerant plants instead of grass. Your local pollinators, birds, and wildlife will thank you for an increase in habitat. Your wallet will thank you for a decrease in water bills. And your family and friends will thank you for a little time spent in a little oasis of color, watching the butterflies, bees, and birds flitting about.

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