Buffalograss is a warm-season grass that spreads by above ground stems called stolons. Reproduction is dioecious -- female and male flowers are located on separate plants. Seed heads on male plants are located high in the turf grass canopy, while female seed heads are found near the base of the plant. Because male flowers extend above the canopy in unmowed turf, selecting a cultivar with both male and female plants can be an aesthetic consideration. The female burrs, or protective shells, each containing one or more seeds, are difficult to harvest because of their location deep in the turf grass canopy. For this reason buffalograss seed is more expensive than the seed of most other turf grass species.
Buffalograss adapts best to full sun, but acceptable turf can be grown with 6 to 8 hours per day of direct sunlight. It is one of the most heat and drought tolerant of turfgrass species. During extended dry periods without moisture, buffalograss goes dormant to avoid drought stress and will remain dormant until moisture is available. Buffalograss has better cold tolerance than other warm-season turfgrasses, but the degree of cold tolerance varies among cultivars.
Buffalograss may be seeded or it may be vegetatively established using either sod or plugs or both, depending on the cultivar. Seeded cultivars will have both male and female flowers, while sodded types are predominantly female.The best time to plant is late spring or early summer, although sod and plugs may be planted as late as August or early September, assuming that the weather remains warm enough for a root system to develop before winter. Success with a late-summer planting also depends on cold hardiness of individual cultivars.
Keys to weed control in buffalograss
Patience and perseverance are often the key to establishing a buffalograss lawn. Buffalograss does not germinate as a dense stand like tall fescue. One seedling per square foot is adequate because buffalograss becomes progressively thicker each year as the stolons spread. During the first and second years, persistent attention to weed control may be required. Weeds may be removed by hand or by spot spraying with Roundup.
Buffalograss seed burs should be planted at a rate of 1 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Seeding at the higher recommended rate should provide complete lawn coverage in one season. Seed burrs should be planted at a depth of 1/16 inch or less. Grooves can be made in the soil to receive seed using a verticutting machine or with a slicer-seeder machine that opens grooves in the soil and then deposits seed during one operation. It is important to use burrs that have been primed for germination by soaking in potassium nitrate to weaken the coat. Burrs may also be broadcast on the prepared seedbed using a box (drop) fertilizer spreader. Hulled, deburred seed is sometimes available but is much more expensive than burrs. Gently rake broadcasted burrs into the soil surface and then roll to ensure good burr-to-soil contact.
Lightly water the seedbed daily when there is no rain. As seedlings emerge and develop, irrigate less frequently but often enough to prevent drought stress. Mow seedlings at a height of 2 to 3 inches when the new seedlings have reached a height of 3 inches. Try to remove no more than one-third of the vertical growth at each mowing. About six weeks after seeding, apply a slow release nitrogen fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.