Zoysia grass is a warm-season grass that is considered a high-maintenance grass. It requires quite a bit of fertilization and care to thrive.
Does Zoysia Grass Need Fertilizer?
Zoysia needs more nitrogen and potassium than any soil contains. It also needs more phosphorus than most soils contain. Without proper fertilization, zoysia grass will not grow to be a lush, thick lawn. It will be thin and will not be able to choke out weeds. The color is often light green instead of the dark green most people want.
Types of Fertilizer
There are several different forms of fertilizer. Here are the types usually used with zoysia grass.
Liquid fertilizers for zoysia lawns usually come in a package that is attached to a hose and sprayed on the lawn. Liquids are absorbed by the leaf blades quickly and are especially good in sandy soils, where fertilizers leach easily. Liquids are sprayed on the lawn in a side-to-side sweeping motion as you back slowly across the lawn. It can be difficult to spray the entire lawn evenly with liquids.
Water-soluble fertilizer is in granular form or a powder. Most of the time, it is put in a hose-end sprayer and sprayed on the lawn just like a liquid. Sometimes it is spread and then watered in like a granular fertilizer.
Granular fertilizers can look like pebbles or be pellets or pills. They are generally spread by either push spreaders or hand-cranked spreaders. The best way to use them is to walk back and forth in a north-to-south direction across the lawn. After you are finished, walk back and forth in a west-to-east direction. Doing this is the best way to avoid missing spots when fertilizing.
Granules generally require water to activate them, so you water the lawn after spreading the fertilizer. Granules can be quick-release, or they can be slow-release. Quick-release granules start working as soon as they are watered. They do not generally last a long time. Most granules are a combination of quick-release fertilizers and slow-release fertilizers.
Slow-release fertilizer has a coating on each piece that gradually wears away. As the coating erodes, nutrients in the pellet are released. Slow-release fertilizer starts working in a week to two and can last months.
Organic Versus Synthetic Fertilizer
Organic fertilizers have ingredients that are obtained solely from nature. They are also required to be on a list of allowed ingredients. Manufacturers submit their fertilizer to a certifying agency that verifies it only contains the stated ingredients before they are allowed to call the product organic. Organic fertilizers feed the soil microbes that break the nutrients into forms the plant can use.
Synthetic fertilizers have ingredients that are made in the laboratory. They may also have some natural ingredients in addition to synthetic ingredients. Synthetic fertilizer tends to be more concentrated than organic fertilizers. They feed the plant directly as opposed to feeding the soil microbes. Because most contain petroleum products, they may be worse for the environment than organic products.
What Should I Consider When Choosing Zoysia Grass Fertilizers?
When you go to the store to choose a fertilizer, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices. Here are some things I use to narrow things down a bit.
Time of Year
The time of year will dictate what your fertilizer needs to contain. Zoysia grass needs a complete fertilizer at green up and nitrogen and potassium (but not phosphorus) from green up through the end of the summer. In the fall, it needs potassium but not nitrogen or phosphorus. That means you need at least three different products to fertilize your lawn each year.
For the first fertilization of the year, look for a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio (for example, 12-4-8 or 16-4-8). For the rest of the spring and summer, look for a 1-0-1 ratio, such as 15-0-15. In the fall, look for a 0-0-1 ratio, such as 0-0-60.
Buy the best fertilizer you can afford. Cheaper fertilizers usually have cheaper ingredients that are not as bioavailable as premium ingredients. In other words, cheap ingredients are not as useful to the zoysia grass as premium ingredients are. Cheap fertilizer is better than nothing, of course, so use what you can afford.
Top 5 Best Fertilizers For Zoysia Grass
Here are my picks for the best fertilizer for zoysia grass in several of the most popular categories.
1. Simple Lawn Solutions Advanced 16-4-8 Balanced NPK – Best Liquid Fertilizer for Zoysia Grass
Simple Lawn Solutions Advanced 16-4-8 Balanced NPK is my pick for the best liquid fertilizer for zoysia grass.
Simple Lawn Solutions has quite a few different liquid fertilizers. This one is best for the spring, about three weeks after the grass turns green. It has an NPK ratio of 16-4-8 and is ideal to start the season with. In addition, the fertilizer contains seaweed and fish, providing a range of micronutrients and amino acids to your zoysia grass.
This fertilizer will cause your zoysia grass to be a dark green color. This is a premium fertilizer made of feed-grade ingredients. One package covers 3,200 square feet and can be used on all grass types.
Simple Lawn Solutions is a family-owned company with over 25 years of experience in commercial turf management. All their products are made in the United States of America.
To use Simple Lawn Solutions Advanced 16-4-8 Balanced NPK, simply hook the package up to your hose. Turn on the water and turn the sprayer knob on, then spray your grass in a sweeping side-to-side motion until you have covered all of the grass. After fertilizing your zoysia grass, water it for twenty minutes.
In the absence of a soil test, Extension recommends an application of a complete fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 16-4-8. Simple Lawn Solutions Advanced 16-4-8 Balanced NPK is a good fertilizer to use for that.
I would only use it in the spring because zoysia grass doesn’t need added phosphorus for the rest of the year.
I prefer granular fertilizer to liquid because I have trouble getting the grass evenly sprayed. I don’t want spots that are too heavily fertilized or light spots because I missed some grass. If I was going to use a liquid, this is a good brand to pick. The package just goes on the end of the hose without any mixing or fuss.
The package is not expensive, especially since you only need one to treat most zoysia lawns. I also appreciate the premium feed-grade ingredients. I don’t want cheap nitrogen sources on my lawn where my dog plays.
I would wait until the water dries after you water the fertilizer in before letting pets and children back on the lawn, just to be safe. One application of this fertilizer should help complete your lawn’s green-up and hold it until late spring when you start giving it just nitrogen and potassium.
If you know your soil is high in phosphorus, you can use another fertilizer for green-up, such as Espoma Lawn Food for All Seasons.
- Easy to use
- Premium Ingredients
- Easy to spray unevenly
2. Espoma Lawn Food for All Seasons – Best Organic Fertilizer for Zoysia Grass
Espoma Lawn Food for All Seasons is my pick for the best organic fertilizer for zoysia grass.
The NPK ratio is 15-0-5, and it contains calcium, sulfur, and iron. The iron is supposed to be a non-staining formulation, so your sidewalks and driveway do not get rust stains on them. In addition, this fertilizer has a number of soil microbes in it that are intended to break down the fertilizer into forms your zoysia grass can use. They also improve the soil.
When the fertilizer is applied as directed on the label, it will not burn your grass. It is also safe for children and pets to play on. A large amount of this fertilizer is slowly released, so you do not have to fertilize as often.
One bag covers 6,000 square feet of lawn. The microbes start dying off after the best-by date on the bag, so make sure you get a fresh bag and store it in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
Espoma has been manufacturing organic specialty fertilizers since 1929. They are owned by the fourth generation of the same family that founded the company.
Espoma Lawn Food for All Seasons should be applied to a dry lawn that has been recently mowed. Set your spreader to spread 3 1/3 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn. See the instructions for the best way to spread your fertilizer above.
Water the lawn after spreading the fertilizer. Apply in late spring, mid-summer, and in late summer, up to six weeks before your average first freeze date. Do not apply after that.
I like Espoma products and use them whenever possible. This one is USDA-certified biobased, as opposed to certified organic, but it is what I recommend for zoysia grass if you want a safe, effective fertilizer.
The large amount of slow-release nitrogen helps keep this fertilizer from burning the zoysia grass. Espoma includes safe ingredients that don’t pose a danger to my dog or to children.
I wonder about the included soil microbes and if they really work. Do they become invasive in my lawn, or do they work with the pre-existing microbes in the soil? I have not had problems using products with soil microbes in them in the past, and this fertilizer causes zoysia grass to be green and lush when used as directed.
Espoma Lawn Food for All Seasons is expensive, but one bag is enough for a whole season for most people, so the extra cost is negligible. Premium products cost more, unfortunately, but I think this one is worth the extra cost.
- Slow-release formula won’t burn grass
- Includes soil microbes to improve performance
- Microbes start dying off as the fertilizer gets older
3. Scotts Turf Builder Starter Fertilizer for New Grass – Best Starter Fertilizer for Zoysia Grass
Scotts Turf Builder Starter Fertilizer for New Grass is my pick for the best starter fertilizer for zoysia grass.
The NPK ratio is 24-25-4. Even in areas you are not allowed to use phosphorus on your lawn, you are allowed to add phosphorus for new lawns. The phosphorus is essential for good root formation in new grass, whether seed, plugs, or sod.
This fertilizer is specifically designed for new lawns. It makes lawns grow 70% faster and 35% thicker than untreated lawns. Good roots help protect the lawn from heat, drought, and cold.
One bag covers 5,000 square feet of lawn. It is not organic. The package has the spreader settings for Scotts brand spreaders but not for any other models.
Scotts was founded in 1868 by a Civil War veteran to provide good grass seed to farmers. Scotts expanded to homeowners and then began making products to make grass grow better. They now have a whole lawn of turfgrass products.
To use Scotts Turf Builder Starter Fertilizer for New Grass, set your spreader to spread three pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn. You can spread the fertilizer before or after using plugs but should spread it after planting sod.
Water the lawn when you are finished spreading the fertilizer. Water at least once daily until the new grass is two inches tall. Feed once more 2-4 weeks after the first feed. After that, use a regular fertilizer for the grass.
I think Scotts Turf Builder Starter Fertilizer for New Grass is a good product. It is a bit pricey, but given that you only have to use it twice before switching to a regular fertilizer, it isn’t too costly.
If you have soils high in phosphorus, you will want to use a fertilizer like the Espoma or Simple Lawn Solutions because the amount of phosphorus in this fertilizer is pretty high. However, if you need phosphorus, this fertilizer is a good one to choose.
I know Scotts has a very good research and development department, and they tailored this fertilizer for new grass.
After you spread the fertilizer, I would wait until the grass is two inches tall before letting children and pets on the new lawn. New grass can be sensitive to a lot of foot traffic while it is trying to become established. It also doesn’t need dog-on-it urine problems, as that will burn the grass.
- Specially formulated for new grass
- Easy to use
- A bit pricey
4. Hi-Yield (33408) Weed & Feed – Best Weed and Feed Fertilizer for Zoysia Grass
Hi-Yield (33408) Weed & Feed is my pick for the best weed and feed fertilizer for zoysia grass.
The NPK ratio is 15-0-10. The fertilizer also contains Trimec herbicide, which is a combination of 2,4-D and two related compounds. It kills over 200 broadleaf weeds.
There are a lot of cautions on this product because of the weed killer. Do not spread it underneath the dripline of trees and shrubs, as it can injure them.
Keep people and pets off the lawn for 48 hours after spreading the fertilizer to give it time to work. The bag covers 5,000 square feet.
Hi-Yield is owned by Voluntary Purchasing Groups and was developed to help independent dealers compete with big box stores. The same company owns Ferti-Lome.
Before applying, mow the lawn about two days prior to application. Water the lawn well one day before application. Apply in the morning when the grass is wet with dew. If there is no dew, water the lawn long enough to completely wet the weed leaves.
Set your spreader to release 3.6 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Spread the fertilizer. Do not water for 48 hours to give the weed killer time to be absorbed by the weeds.
After 48 hours, water the lawn sufficiently to wash the fertilizer off the leaves of the weeds and grass. The lawn is safe to play on after the water dries. If the weeds are thick, you may need to reapply the weed and feed in 30 days.
Do not use it more than twice a year. Make sure you apply the fertilizer no closer than 30 days apart.
In the south, where zoysia grass is usually grown, this product should be used between January and April. However, the best time to fertilize is about three weeks after green up. So, you either fertilize too early or spread herbicide too late in the year to be maximumly effective.
Extension recommends that you use a complete fertilizer in the spring, then spot-treat weeds with a spray-on herbicide. In addition, weed and feeds may not have enough herbicide for tough weeds. However, if you are going to use a weed and feed, Hi-Yield (33408) Weed & Feed is a good one.
The herbicide in this product is not good for people. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, close-toed shoes, gloves, and a face mask when applying the fertilizer to avoid skin irritation and lung irritation. Wash the clothes before wearing them again.
The bag of fertilizer is not expensive and will treat a typical lawn twice.
- Puts herbicide or fertilizer on at the wrong time
- May not put enough herbicide down to kill mature weeds
5. Down to Earth OMRI Organic Solution Grade Potassium Sulfate – Best Fall Fertilizer for Zoysia Grass
Down to Earth OMRI Organic Solution Grade Potassium Sulfate is my pick for the best fall fertilizer for zoysia grass.
The NPK ratio is 0-0-50. It also has sulfur in it. In the fall, zoysia grass should be fertilized with potassium to prepare it for the winter. Using nitrogen at this time will delay dormancy and can lead to tender new grass freezing.
This fertilizer is pure potassium sulfate and is certified organic. This product is water-soluble. Keep away from children and pets. This fertilizer, like most fertilizers, is a skin and lung irritant, so wear protective clothing and a face mask to spread it.
Down to Earth was founded in Eugene, OR in 1977 to provide natural and organic gardening products to consumers. All Down to Earth products contain only the highest quality ingredients.
To use Down to Earth OMRI Organic Solution Grade Potassium Sulfate, set your spreader to spread two pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Water the lawn after you finish spreading the fertilizer.
If you want to prepare your zoysia grass for winter, Down to Earth OMRI Organic Solution Grade Potassium Sulfate is a good source of the potassium it needs. Your grass won’t grow a whole lot after applying this, which is good because there will be less grass to freeze.
However, the grass should get thicker and have more vigor so it can survive the winter. Even though this is an organic product, it is pretty powerful, so don’t spread more than directed.
I take two pounds of fertilizer and mix it well with two pounds of garden sand (not sandbox sand) and spread that to make it easier to spread.
I do not recommend letting children or pets on the lawn until the water has dried on the grass. As mentioned, fertilizer is a skin irritant, and you don’t want your kids or pets to have skin problems from it.
Store this fertilizer in a cool, dry place. One pound of fertilizer is not expensive, but you will want two one-pound packages per 1,000 square feet of lawn.
The fertilizer also comes in a five-pound package, but Amazon doesn’t list that one. You can probably find it at nurseries.
This fertilizer should be the last fertilizer you spread until green up. Do not fertilize zoysia grass during the winter.
- Can irritate the skin and lungs
When Do I Fertilize My Zoysia Grass?
When you fertilize your zoysia grass is important. Here are some things to consider.
Time of Day
It is best to fertilize before 10 a.m. in the morning. Most fertilizer is either a liquid or requires watering to activate it. As the sun gets higher, the water droplets act as prisms for the sun and can burn holes in your grass. The other advantage of fertilizing early is that the grass blades are dry by nightfall. Grass that is wet overnight is more likely to develop fungal diseases.
Time of Year
Zoysia grass needs different nutrients during different times of the year. In early spring, when the grass starts growing, zoysia needs a complete fertilizer. In late spring and summer, zoysia needs nitrogen and potassium but not phosphorus. Finally, in the fall, zoysia needs potassium but not nitrogen. Zoysia should not be fertilized in the winter.
How Do I Fertilize Zoysia Grass?
Extension recommends how much and how often you fertilize zoysia grass based on research. Here are their recommendations.
Do not apply more than four pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year. The amount of phosphorus and potassium in a fertilizer is calibrated to the amount of nitrogen, so if you use the right amount of nitrogen, the other two minerals will be correct. Divide your nitrogen as follows:
½ pound in the spring
½ -1 pounds in early summer
½-1 pounds in late summer
2 pounds 0-0-50 in the fall
How do you tell how much fertilizer to apply to get the recommended amounts of nitrogen? Use this formula:
Amount of fertilizer for 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet=1/percent of nitrogen in fertilizer expressed as a decimal.
For example, if a fertilizer is 20% nitrogen, you would need five pounds of fertilizer to spread one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. 5=1/.2
Fertilize zoysia grass four to five times a year. That means early spring, late spring, early summer, late summer (no closer than six weeks to the date of the first freeze), and fall.
Some Tips For Fertilizing Zoysia Grass
Here are some tips for fertilizing your zoysia grass safely and well.
- Always wear personal protective equipment when spreading fertilizer. This includes long-sleeved shirts, long pants, closed-toed shoes, waterproof gloves, and a face mask. Most fertilizers will irritate the skin or your lungs, so protect them.
- When using a spreader to spread fertilizer, close the gate before you turn, then reopen the gate once you are facing the new direction. Otherwise, the grass where you turn gets too much fertilizer on it.
- Always apply potassium to your zoysia grass when applying nitrogen. Zoysia grass needs potassium to improve the growth the nitrogen causes.
- If you use weed and feed products, use them when the weeds are actively growing in the spring and when they are storing food in the fall. During the summer, herbicides are not as effective because weeds are not sending much from the leaves to the roots, which is what the herbicide in weed and feed products kills.
- If you fertilize your zoysia grass properly, it will need to be mowed once a week. If the grass is not growing this much, something is wrong.
- You may need to apply additional potassium in sandy soil. Potassium leaches out of sandy soil very easily.
- If you fertilize too much, the zoysia grass will develop thatch problems.
- Zoysia grass in places with a short growing season will need less fertilizer than zoysia grass in areas with a long growing season. Your Extension agent can tell you the best dates in your area to fertilize your zoysia grass and how much fertilizer to use each time.
- If you are fertilizing your zoysia grass with a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, you can mix the amount of fertilizer required with an equal amount of sand to make it easier to spread. If you do that, set your spreader to double the amount of fertilizer you need to spread.
- Never fertilize before it rains. Extension used to recommend doing so but found that most of the fertilizer was swept away into creeks, rivers, and lakes. Not only did the fertilizer not help your lawn, but it caused algae blooms that killed fish. Fertilize after a rain or when nothing is forecast for the next 48 hours.
- Applying iron to your zoysia grass will cause it to be a darker green without increasing the thatch. Be careful to sweep the fertilizer off your sidewalks and driveway because it will make a rust stain when water hits it.
- Most slow-release fertilizers are pellets coated with sulfur. The sulfur wears away over time, releasing the nutrients in the fertilizer. Sulfur also helps plants form amino acids.
- Measure your lawn at least once with a tape measure. Yes, it is a pain, but most people overestimate the size of their lawn. This means you spread too much fertilizer, which causes problems.
- Granular fertilizers are usually less expensive than liquid fertilizers and have a longer shelf life.
- Do not attempt to spread granular fertilizer by broadcasting it. Research has shown it is almost impossible to correctly spread the fertilizer by this method. Use a spreader instead.
Zoysia grass needs different nutrients depending on the time of year. Here are my recommendations for fertilizers for zoysia grass throughout the year. Simple Lawn Solutions Advanced 16-4-8 Balanced NPK is my pick for the best liquid fertilizer for zoysia grass. Just attach the package to the end of your hose and start spraying. My pick for the best organic fertilizer for zoysia grass is Espoma Lawn Food for All Seasons. The slow-release formula won’t burn your grass. Scotts Turf Builder Starter Fertilizer for New Grass is my pick for the best starter fertilizer for zoysia grass. This fertilizer is specially formulated to give new zoysia grass everything it needs to grow well. I don’t like weed and feed fertilizers, but if you are determined to use one, Hi-Yield (33408) Weed & Feed is the one I recommend. It is easy to use. Down to Earth OMRI Organic Solution Grade Potassium Sulfate is my pick for the best fall fertilizer for zoysia grass. The potassium helps keep the zoysia grass alive through the winter.