How To Kill Zoysia Grass For Good

Getting rid of zoysia grass is often tricky, as although it is difficult to maintain properly, it grows very aggressively and invasively. 

If you’re looking to finally eliminate your zoysia grass for good, you’re in the right place! 

With a few helpful techniques, you’ll be able to get rid of this pesky, difficult grass without fear of it growing back.

Killing zoysia grass for good is a multi-step process. You’ll need to apply a nonselective glyphosate herbicide to the grass, let it die off, and then reseed your lawn with new grass. You’ll then need to maintain your lawn correctly, i.e., mowing and watering often to keep the zoysia from returning.

Read on to learn more about zoysia grass, why it’s so notoriously awful to care for despite its attractive aesthetic, and how you’ll be able to get rid of it once and for all.

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What Is Zoysia Grass?

Zoysia is a creeping grass that thrives in warm weather with few temperature fluctuations. 

Thanks to its polished, neat-looking aesthetic and vibrant green color, it’s a popular choice for golf courses. 

Homeowners in warm, southern areas with very mild winters also enjoy maintaining this type of grass. 

Additionally, zoysia grass can withstand drought, hot weather, and heavy foot traffic very well. 

For a particular type of climate, it’s a great-looking, fairly easy-to-maintain grass, despite being a bit sensitive to heavy rains and sudden cold fronts.

In general, zoysia prefers warm, sunny climates, and it thrives in temperatures between 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C) and 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C) or so. 

It also enjoys a very limited amount of shade, though too much of it will turn brown quickly, particularly if it becomes too cold in shaded areas.

What Is Bad About Zoysia Grass?

While zoysia grass has a lot of advantages if you live somewhere very warm year-round, it also has a lot of caveats worth noting. 

For one, it doesn’t handle cold weather well at all and will quickly turn yellow and brown at the first sign of temperatures dipping below 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C) or so. 

As we touched on earlier, it only really thrives between 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C) and 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° c) or so, which means it’s pretty picky about the temperature range it tolerates. 

This is perfect for states like Florida or similarly warm and humid areas year-round, but the further north you go, the worse zoysia grass fares. 

It will immediately stop growing at the first sign of frost and will turn from a bright green to an unappealing brown in the winter in most cooler zones. 

Even a single night of freezing temperatures will quickly turn zoysia grass dry, brittle, and brown. 

However, it will quickly return once temperatures become warm enough to tolerate again. 

This means while it looks great in the summer, depending on where you live, there’s a good chance you’re going to be stuck with a brown, sparse lawn for the rest of the year.

Overall, zoysia just isn’t worth the trouble for lawns in areas with seasonal temperature and humidity fluctuations. 

It’s also somewhat difficult to mow and maintain long-term, mainly if you don’t live in a consistently warm and semi-tropical climate.

How Do You Kill Zoysia Grass?

Zoysia is often challenging to eliminate because of its unique ability to bounce back after turning brown in harsh conditions. 

It’s a perennial grass, so it will keep coming back year after year once temperatures warm up in the spring and promptly wilt away again the second summer comes to an end.

Fortunately, there is a way to get rid of zoysia grass permanently, though it will require a bit of diligence and follow-through on your part. 

Remember, this grass is persistent, so simply spraying the soil surface with an herbicide once won’t be enough on its own.

You’ll first need a nonselective herbicide, ideally, one containing glyphosate, as it works incredibly well on stubborn plants and grasses like zoysia. 

We recommend using Control Solutions’ Eraser Max Super Concentrate Herbicide, as it contains almost 44% glyphosate.

Keep in mind, though: this will kill off any other plants it touches, as “nonselective” means it won’t differentiate between what you want to keep and the zoysia you wish to eliminate. 

Make sure you mark off the area where you plan on applying the herbicide, so you don’t accidentally use it near flowers, crops, or other plants you don’t want to harm.

You should apply the herbicide to a “test area” of the zoysia grass first, wait a couple of days, and see if the grass begins to turn brown. 

If it starts to die off and you’re happy with the results, then you should be able to go ahead and apply it to the rest of your lawn wherever you want to get rid of the zoysia.

It will take a couple of weeks for the herbicide to entirely kill off the zoysia grass down to the root. 

Remove any remaining dead grass or weeds and wait a few additional days before reseeding with your preferred type of grass. 

If you don’t wait long enough, the grass will either return because its roots will remain in the soil, or you’ll end up killing your new grass.

From there, maintenance and prevention will be vital to ensure it doesn’t return. 

Keep these tips in mind moving forward:

  • Once you’ve reseeded with your new grass and it’s grown in, keep up with regular mowing and maintain the grass appropriately, so the zoysia isn’t able to grow back in the same spot.
  • Water your lawn at least once a week (but not too often) to keep the new, healthy grass adequately hydrated.
  • Aerating your entire lawn will prevent soil compaction and keep thatch buildup to a minimum, ensuring the roots of your new grass stay strong and can access the water and nutrients it needs.
  • Fertilize a few times a year. This will keep your new grass growing strong and healthy, so the zoysia cannot grow back in, ensuring a beautiful lawn in the long term.

How Do You Kill Zoysia Grass Without Chemicals?

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Unfortunately, to fully eradicate zoysia grass, your best and almost only option is to use a nonselective glyphosate herbicide as the one mentioned earlier. 

Because of how aggressive and invasive zoysia is, there aren’t many non-chemical options if you don’t want to end up with it persistently growing back.

There is, however, one method, albeit tedious, pricey, and time-consuming, if you are adamant about not using a nonselective herbicide on the zoysia grass. 

To do this, you’ll need to use a sod cutter, which is pretty laborious to use, especially for large patches of grass.

If you’re considering this option, you’ll most likely need to rent a sod cutter tool, as buying one is costly and not economically sound as you’ll (hopefully) only need to use it once. 

This will remove the entire turf down to the roots in large strips, and you’ll need to fully replace any missing soil and reseed the area with your preferred type of grass afterward.

Using a sod cutter will eradicate the zoysia permanently if done correctly. Still, this method is not recommended over using an herbicide as it takes far more time, money, and effort. 

There’s also solarization, which essentially uses the sun’s heat to bake the grass until it dies off. 

This method will only work if you live in an area with sweltering, intense summers, though, and you’ll need to keep the grass mowed as short as possible, water it heavily, and then cover it with thick, dark plastic sheets for as long as two months to entirely eliminate the grass.

Solarization is effective but even more time-consuming than using a sod cutter. 

It also only works for a particular type of climate, and you’ll need to leave your lawn covered in ugly plastic sheets for a pretty long time to ensure the zoysia is eradicated. 

Still, if you’re not a fan of the environmental damage herbicides can do, it’s an option worth considering.

Check out these ground cover plants to prevent weeds from taking over as another option.

Does Vinegar Kill Zoysia Grass?

Interestingly, vinegar is a reasonably effective nonselective herbicide. 

It is commonly used as a weed killer; 5% white vinegar successfully removes most unwanted plant growth. 

However, with zoysia grass, you ideally should be using an herbicide with glyphosate like the one recommended earlier. 

Vinegar isn’t quite as effective for something this aggressive and invasive and doesn’t penetrate the roots of the grass as successfully. 

This means there’s always a chance the zoysia will eventually return if you use only vinegar to eliminate it.

Does Roundup Kill Zoysia Grass?

Again, due to how aggressive zoysia is, a single application of Roundup generally isn’t enough to fully eradicate zoysia grass. 

While some homeowners have cited moderate success with Roundup to kill zoysia, they’ve found it requires multiple applications and isn’t always reliable.

You need a nonselective glyphosate herbicide to fully penetrate the roots of the zoysia and ensure it doesn’t return. 

While many formulations of Roundup, such as Roundup For Lawns, do include glyphosate, it usually isn’t concentrated enough to eliminate invasive species like zoysia grass.

How Do You Keep Zoysia Grass From Spreading?

If you have a small area of zoysia grass and want to keep it contained to said small area, you should do a few things to ensure it doesn’t spread.

One of the best ways to keep zoysia contained to a certain area is to install lawn edging or a plastic or aluminum barrier solid enough to prevent the zoysia from growing through or around it. 

Keep in mind the edging will need to be at least 4 to 6” inches deep underground with at least 3” inches or so above ground to keep the stubborn grass at bay.

Alternatively, you have the option of spraying a nonselective herbicide around the area, though this isn’t as easy to control and potentially will kill off other wanted grasses and plants.

Check out some sneaky weeds that look like grass, so you don’t let them in your yard.

Better Alternatives To Zoysia Grass

If you’re looking for attractive grass similar to zoysia, which will look better year-round and not only in the warmer months, consider something like red fescue. 

Red fescue looks great and is just as vibrant in color as zoysia, yet it requires very little maintenance and doesn’t die off at the first sign of frost.

Bermuda grass is also a decent, attractive-looking alternative, as it is hardier than zoysia and holds up much better under heavy foot traffic. 

Although bermuda grass is similarly not very tolerant of very cold weather, it is a very drought tolerant, tough grass otherwise. 

Bermuda grass is also generally less expensive to plant and maintain than zoysia grass.

On the flip side, we have a post on how to remove Bermuda grass for those wanting to replace it.