For many people wanting a new lawn for their homes there's just no escaping all those ads for buffalo grass, which may lead some people into a false reality of knowing what lawn types are available in Australia, and which ones are best for what properties. Some people may even fall into the trap of only comparing buffalo grasses between their brands and not looking at other grasses… again based on clever marketing claiming this buffalo is the best, this one is premium, this one is the winner etc etc.
So lets forget all that advertising, and look at facts.
So if you're looking for an alternative to Sir Walter, Palmetto, Sapphire, ST 26, Shademaster, Matilda or any other alternative to buffalo grass, this is the article for you.
Which Buffalo Grass Is Best
Most soft leaf buffalo grasses do pretty well against each other in comparison ratings, while in some tests there can be huge differences between the grass brands. We can only say that one should head on over to our buffalo grass comparisons to find out which buffalo grass is best for each situation, and then choose the best buffalo grass for your home based on truth and hard researched facts.
We should also remember that buffalo grass is a lawn type which is best suited to partial shaded conditions and will not perform as well as many other grasses in full sun.
Now lets look at alternatives to buffalo grass.
Zoysia is a relative newcomer to the family of home lawns being sold in Australia, yet it has been developed, bred and loved around the world for a very long time.
Zoysia is fine to medium leafed, very low maintenance, highly drought tolerant, and highly resistant to lawn weeds, pests and diseases, and will tolerate almost all weed sprays we could possibly throw at it.
Zoysia also competes directly with Buffalo grass because it too is highly shade tolerant, and will never develop the thatch problems that buffalo grass develops when it's grown in full sun or partial shade.
For most people living in warmer regions of Australia, Zoysia should be the number one lawn choice for low maintenance, low environmental impact, and for a lawn to be grown healthily in both full sun and partial shade.
Zoysia can tolerate up to 40% shade, which is much better than Couch and Kikuyu at 10%, but not as good as Buffalo at 70%.
So for lawn areas which will experience more than 40% shade then buffalo grass would still be the best lawn choice.
However, for lawns which experience low to medium levels of shade, then Zoysia is the best alternative to Buffalo grass, as well as being the best grass type for full sun conditions around all the warmer regions of Australia.
Couch is an old favourite in Australia with many different variants now available for sale, although some of the very best Couch grasses which have been bred overseas are still not available in Australia yet.
Couch has a fine leaf and is suitable only for full sun conditions, and as buffalo is a lawn best for partial shade, these two grasses would never compete against each other in their strengths. Whereas buffalo does best in partial shade and less well in full sun, Couch is exactly the opposite.
Couch can be prone to thatching and scalping from lawn mowing, requiring vertimowing, and can be fast growing - needing more lawn mowing and maintenance, and will send its underground runners into garden beds and under fences to invade surrounding areas.
However, for those people willing to put the extra effort into their lawns in the full sun, then Couch can look great when mowed with a cylinder mower or a rotary mower. Just be aware that for a Couch lawn to look its best as a showpiece lawn, it will need a lot of care and maintenance.
As a grass best suited to full sun, and buffalo grass to partial shade, Couch is not really an alternative to buffalo grass, unless the location of the lawn was for full sun conditions.
Kikuyu is a grass which is best suited to growing in full sun and will not tolerate shade, which is exactly the same as Couch grass. And as Kikuyu performs so poorly in shade and is best suited to growing in full sun, there really cannot be comparison between Kikuyu and Buffalo grass, because Buffalo is the opposite in that it performs best in partial shade and grows with a few problems in full sun.
Kikuyu has a place in Australia for some sporting fields and for turfed areas which will regularly experience high traffic conditions from children, pets, large animals or motor vehicles. And in such cases a Male Sterile Kikuyu should be planted such as Kenda Kikuyu or Village Green Kikuyu, or other Male Sterile Kikuyu variants.
Kikuyu is a grass for heavy traffic areas being grown in full sun, so Kikuyu could never be an alternative to Buffalo grass, which is a shade grass suited to low to medium traffic levels.
Queensland Blue is another sun loving grass which is in a similar league to Couch and Kikuyu as preferring sun, and not tolerating shade very well. And as such cannot really be compared to buffalo grasses for partial shade.
However if growing a lawn in full sun, the buffalo will naturally develop that thick heavy thatch layer at greater speed than if growing in partial shade, so in this respect Queensland Blue is a better grass for full sun conditions.
Queensland Blue has a fine to medium leaf, a slight blue hue, and can be a very attractive grass for growing in warmer regions of Australia. The one downside to Queensland Blue is its intolerance to some weeds sprays. Though luckily for us, new varieties of this grass have been developed in recent years with improvement with far greater success and tolerance with weed sprays.
As a grass best suited to full sun, and buffalo grass to partial shade, Queensland Blue is not really an alternative to buffalo grass, unless the location of the lawn was for full sun conditions, in which case Queensland Blue would then become an alternative.
Conclusion Buffalo Grass Alternatives
Buffalo grass is best suited to partial shaded conditions and can develop heavy thatch when grown in full sun. On top of this is the prevalence of buffalo grass being regularly invaded by common Kikuyu, and thus being eventually transformed into a Kikuyu lawn.
For heavier shaded conditions between 40% to 70% shade then buffalo grass remains the number one choice for Australian lawn owners.
However for full sun conditions we really should be looking for another grass other than buffalo.
Zoysia is attractive, has a fine leaf, is very low maintenance, can be cut short or kept long, has excellent resistance to weeds, pests and diseases, can tolerate wear and tear extremely well, can tolerate all weed and pest treatments, and can grow in partial shaded conditions of up to 40% shade. For these reasons, Zoysia is the number one alternative to buffalo grass in low shade and in full sun conditions.
Couch and Queensland Blue are full sun grasses with fine leaf, and will not tolerate very much shade at all, so would only become an alternative to buffalo grass if someone were considering growing buffalo grass in full sun, which we don't believe is a good idea. However Couch and Queensland Blue will require more maintenance and are more aggressively growing than Zoysia, and Queensland Blue will have lower tolerance to weed sprays.
Male Sterile Kikuyu variants, which are far less harmful to the environment than old common kikuyu - and also perform so much better in all aspects of lawn quality, is a lawn type best suited to growing in full sun conditions and when heavy traffic is expected for the lawn area, and in these environments a Male Sterile Kikuyu will always perform the very best.