The Best Grass for Sandy Soil – 5 Types To Choose From

We all dream of a perfectly uniform, perfectly green lawn spreading across our yard.

For some, achieving this dream seems easy enough. But for others–meaning those of us with sandy soil–trying to make the dream of a perfect patch of grass a reality can quickly turn into a nightmare.

But that doesn’t mean you should give up just yet.

Even if you have sandy soil, you can still grow a lush, green lawn. You just need to pick the right type of grass to grow, first.

In this article, we will walk you through the special considerations of growing grass in sandy soil and how to maintain a brilliant lawn despite this less-than-desirable medium. Most importantly, we’ll introduce you to the five best kinds of grass for sandy soil and how you can use each to achieve the perfect lawn.

The Best Grass for Sandy Soil - feature image

Disclosure:It is important you understand that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. All opinions are our own we pride ourselves on keeping our articles fair and balanced. For more info see our disclosure statement.

What Makes a Grass Good for Sandy Areas?

grass struggling to grow in sandy soil

Sand creates a tough environment for plants to thrive. Understanding why sandy soils are so different from other types of soil is an important step in determining which types of grass will do best in this unique environment.

Drought Tolerance

Because sand is so porous, it does not retain water well. That means that even if your climate sees plenty of rainfall, plants growing in sandy soil may still experience stress from a lack of water.

Choosing grasses that are tolerant of drought is the first step to growing a lawn that can thrive in sandy soil.

These grasses can survive off less water and their roots aren’t easily damaged by the large pockets of air commonly found within sandy soil. Many are also capable of coming back to life after long periods of dormancy due to extended drought.

Hardiness

A lack of available water isn’t the only problem encountered in porous, sandy soils. As water moves quickly through the substrate, it pulls nutrients along with it. This means that any plants growing in the sand have fewer nutrients available to them than those growing in less porous soils.

Hardy grasses cannot just withstand long dry periods but also thrive in environments where nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients are scarce.

Additionally, hardy grasses are less likely to be compromised by pests. Since nematodes and other lawn-destroying bugs often live in sandy soils, choosing a hardy grass means you won’t need to rely on pesticides to keep your lawn looking its best.

Root Structure

The ability of drought-tolerant, hardy grasses to thrive in sandy soils has a lot to do with how their roots grow.

To catch and find moisture and nutrients that slip quickly through the sandy substrate, many of these grass varieties have long, deep root systems. Longer roots can reach below the sandy top layer to find moisture. At the same time, the increased surface area means more nutrients can be absorbed.

These long roots also help keep the grass in place despite the unstable environment provided by the sand. Horizontal growing rhizomes and stolons increase stability further by forming thick mats similar to more traditional types of sod.

Best Grass Varieties for Sandy Soil

Knowing what characteristics grass varieties must possess to thrive in sandy soil makes it a lot easier to find the perfect lawn. But just in case you don’t have time to research all the available grass species out there, we have put together this handy list of the best grasses for sandy soil.

Some of these thrive in hot, sunny climates, while others are perfect for shady or cold conditions. Keep reading to find the perfect variety for your new lawn.

Centipede Grass – (Eremochloa ophiuroides)

centipede grass on a lawn
Michael Rivera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Shade Tolerance: medium
  • Water Requirements: high
  • Drought Tolerance: low
  • Cold Tolerance: low
  • Mowing Frequency: low

Centipede grass is an exception to the rule that grass needs to be deeply rooted to be well-suited for sandy soil.

This unique type of Eremochloa has an exceptionally shallow root structure. And instead of spreading via an underground rhizome, it spreads using above-ground stolons. 

These stolons create thick carpet-like sod. Because of this, the unstable structure of sandy soil does not affect well-established centipede grass. It also allows the grass to trap more nutrients and moisture at the soil level before it has a chance to drain away.

Still, this grass needs more water than many other varieties on this list. It is also less hardy and can only survive light frosts.

Centipede grass is perfectly suited for hot, humid climates and yards that get a lot of sun.

It is slow-growing and requires infrequent mowing and little maintenance or fertilization in the right climate. It has a pleasant light to medium green color and lush, thick texture.

This grass is most commonly found in the Southeastern United States and Hawaii.

Bermuda Grass – (Cynodon dactylon)

Bermuda Grass - (Cynodon Dactylon)
Bidgee, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Shade Tolerance: low
  • Water Requirements: low
  • Drought Tolerance: high
  • Cold Tolerance: low
  • Mowing Frequency: high

This variety is unlike others in the warm-season grass category in that its roots grow exceptionally deep–up to six feet in some environments. This deep rootedness combined with a high tolerance for drought makes Bermuda grass well-suited for sandy soils.

This grass prefers well-draining soil and is especially happy in areas that get long hours of direct sun. 

It utilizes both above-ground stolons and below-ground rhizomes to spread. This double-action, sod-forming growth pattern makes Bermuda grass especially hardy and resilient. It can withstand a lot of foot traffic and grows back quickly even after extreme stress.

Like centipede grass, it is best for warmer climates like what is found in the Southeastern US. However, its high drought tolerance also makes it a great choice for the hot South and Southwest.

Bermuda’s deep green color remains vibrant all winter long in areas with exceptionally mild winters but will turn brown during the cold season in most climates. To keep it looking its best, you will need to fertilize this grass more often than many others on this list.

Zoysia Grass – (Zoysia)

Zoysia Grass - (Zoysia)
Hey Skinny from San Diego, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Shade Tolerance: low to medium
  • Water Requirements: low
  • Drought Tolerance: high
  • Cold Tolerance: medium
  • Mowing Frequency: low

When it comes to heat-hardy grasses, zoysia grass tops the list. This genius of warm-season sod-forming grasses contains multiple varieties capable of producing deep root systems that allow them to survive in very dry conditions. They are also more tolerant of cold than others we’ve looked at so far.

The deep root system, a tendency to form dense carpets of sod, and a low nutrient need make zoysia grasses perfect for sandy soils. They have a slightly higher shade tolerance than many sun-loving kinds of grass but still do well in direct sun and high heat.

These grasses will remain green through mild drought but will turn a straw-like yellow during exceptionally dry periods and winter. They quickly green back up once temperatures rise or water is applied.

Zoysia grasses are highly adaptable and grow well across the Southern United States up through the Transition Zone.

Unlike Bermuda, zoysias are slow-growing and need time to establish those deep roots. In sandy soil, this means more care and attention upfront. But once matured, these grasses require infrequent mowing, only twice-yearly fertilizing, and relatively little water.

Bahiagrass – (Paspalum notatum)

Bahiagrass - (Paspalum Notatum)
John Robert McPherson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Shade Tolerance: low
  • Water Requirements: low
  • Drought Tolerance: high
  • Cold Tolerance: low
  • Mowing Frequency: low

Bahiagrass is less common in the United States but is well suited to a few very specific areas. Within these regions, it is known to grow exceptionally well in sandy soil.

This grass is the first choice for homeowners in hot environments living on the coast. The deep root system and very low nutrient need allow this grass to thrive along the beach where heat, sand, and salty winds prevent other types of plants from establishing.

While it is superbly built for growth in sandy soil, it does not have the rich color or thick texture of other choices. It grows slowly and in thinner patterning with a coarser feel.

It will turn brown in the winter but stays green longer and returns to green earlier than many warm-season kinds of grass.

While not the first choice for many, Bahiagrass is often the only choice for those with especially sandy, sun-baked yards. It is used most frequently in the Deep South and along the Southeastern coast.

Fescue – (Festuca)

Fescue - (Festuca)
Guzzardo Partnership, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Shade Tolerance: high
  • Water Requirements: low
  • Drought Tolerance: high
  • Cold Tolerance: medium to high
  • Mowing Frequency: medium to low

Fescues are a genius of lawn-like and clumping grasses that are more tolerant of cold and shade tolerant than other sand-loving varieties.

All fescues have a deep root system and require little maintenance or fertilization. They prefer cooler climates and partial shade. Some varieties will not grow at all in hot climates.

There are multiple varieties of fescue that do well in sandy soils, each offering something a little different.

Hard fescue is a common fine fescue that is exceptionally hardy in cold climates. It is drought tolerant and does not require much mowing or fertilizing. However, it is a cold season grass and cannot survive in overly hot regions.

Creeping red fescue is another fine fescue commonly used for lawns. It is especially well-adapted to fast-draining, pebbly soil. As long as it doesn’t receive a lot of direct sunlight, it can be grown in hotter climates and is the perfect low maintenance lawn for sandy soil within shady yards.

Tall fescue has thicker, more traditional looking blades than the two fine fescues mentioned above and makes an excellent choice for lawns. It tends to grow in clumps and requires some extra attention to spread seeds evenly enough to encourage a more uniform look. But it is worth the extra effort for sandy yards with a mix of sun and shade.

If shade is more of an issue for your lawn than sandy soil, you may want to take a look at our article on the best grass for shade.

How to Grow Grass In Sandy Soil

man and son growing grass

Growing grass in sandy soil takes a little extra work, even if you do pick the right variety.

While most of the mature established forms of the grasses mentioned above require little maintenance or attention, most do need some extra help getting to that point. That attention generally comes in the form of more water and more fertilizer.

Exactly how much effort you need to put in depends on whether you choose to seed, lay sod, or use plugs. But in any case, expect to spend a significant amount of time preparing your sandy soil to give your grass the best chance at thriving.

Once your grass is established, your workload will decrease. Still, growing the perfect lawn in sandy soil will require you to pay closer attention to how often you water, when you fertilize, and how frequently you mow.

Preparing Your Soil

adding nutrients to sandy soil

Amending sandy soil will help add nutrients and increase its water-holding abilities to give your new lawn the best chance for success. While these changes won’t last forever or completely reverse the issues sandy soil brings, it will give your seeds or sod a better chance of surviving.

Once you have cleared the intended lawn area of rocks and debris, the first thing you want to do is add nutrients to the soil.

Since sand is low in nutrients, adding a good, rich compost or manure to the topsoil is the best way to assure your young grass gets what it needs to start growing.

Spread the compost over the entire area. Make sure to spread it a couple of inches thick, or more for very sandy soil. Then, use a tiller to mix the compost with about six inches of soil. Since sand is naturally non-compact, there is no need to till too deep.

If you live near the ocean or your soil is naturally high in salt, make sure to use only plant-based compost since these will add the least amount of extra salt to the soil.

If your soil is especially sandy and precipitation is infrequent, it may be worth mixing peat or vermiculite into the soil, as well. These additives will help trap water where your young plants can easily access it and may cut down on how often you need to water during droughts.

Laying Seed

spreading grass seed to sandy soil

Laying seed is the cheapest way to start your new lawn, but it does take the longest to establish. Most grass varieties are available in seed form, but you may have to order online if you are looking for a less common variety.

In some cases, using a mix of different types (such as warm-season and cool-season grasses or shade-loving and sun-loving varieties) might be warranted.

Use a rolling seed spreader to create even coverage (we like this mini broadcast spreader from Scotts). This is especially necessary if you are using a clumping variety like fescue. Go over each area until you have achieved the suggested level for coverage density.

Water your seed immediately after setting it to avoid losing it all in the next big gust of wind.

Laying Sod

Laying sod on a sandy soil

Laying sod gives you the satisfaction of a finished, perfect lawn in a fraction of the time compared to seeding. But it can be much more expensive.

While almost all sand-loving grasses can be found in seed-form, it can be more difficult to find local sod in the variety you want. It is worth checking your options before deciding on this approach.

Start by rolling out your sod against a flat edge, such as along a straight border or square patio. Continue rolling out and cutting each section to fit. Be careful not to walk on the freshly laid sod as you go.

Keep your seams tight to avoid gaps or open areas. If you do end up with a small sliver or section of raw dirt, fill it with topsoil or potting soil. Your new grass should fill in the area quickly but do make sure to pull any weeds that sprout there first.

Once your new sod is in, use a sod roller to press it firmly to the soil. This will help the roots establish quickly and avoid the sod drying out. 

Allow your sod about three weeks of rest before you walk or play on it with any frequency.

Planting Grass Plugs

planting grass plugs in the lawn

The third option for plating your new lawn lies somewhere in between seeding and sodding.

Grass plugs are small tufts of grass that come in flats similar to other types of flowers and ground covers. They are planted in a checkerboard fashion across the dirt area you have prepared for your new lawn. Over time, the grass fills in the bare dirt by spreading outward.

Plugs are cheaper than sod but more work than seeding. They also require a bit more maintenance to keep the bare areas free of weeds while the grass slowly takes over. But, for varieties like zoysia grass, plugs are often your best option.

Plant the plugs in a square pattern with each set 12 to 18 inches apart. Water the plugs immediately once you are done planting. Continue to water both the plugs and the growing area around them daily until the lawn has filled in.

Watering

man watering the lawn

Newly sodded or seeded lawns need to be watered frequently, about once a day on cloudy days and up to multiple times per day during hot sunny weather.

Once your lawn has been established, though, you will need to water much less frequently.

While it is true sandy soil dries out quickly, all of the grass varieties listed here (except centipede grass) are well-adapted to dry conditions.

These deep-rooted grass varieties thrive when they receive infrequent, deep waterings. Instead of watering every day, double your watering time and set your sprinklers to only two or three times per week. You may not even have to water manually water if you live in a wet or humid climate. 

If you notice your lawn drying out or going dormant, or the weather is especially hot, you may need to increase your watering frequency until conditions normalize.

Fertilizing

wheelbarrow of soil

Just as most of the varieties listed here are drought-tolerant, most of these grasses also do well with less than ideal nutrient access. This means that you can get away with fertilizing less, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be breaking out the lawn feed less often.

Because nutrients get washed out of sandy soil so easily, it is better for your lawn, budget, and the surrounding environment to fertilize more frequently using smaller amounts during each application. This gives your grass plenty of opportunities to absorb nutrients without wasting a lot of fertilizer.

Using a fertilizer with slow-release nitrogen will also help assure nutrients stick around long enough for your lawn to benefit from them. If weeds are also an issue, choosing an appropriate weed and feed fertilizer will save you time and money.

Just how often and how much you need to fertilize will depend on the type of grass you use, how much precipitation you receive, and just how sandy your soil is. Many of the slow-growing, hardy varieties listed above will use less overall fertilizer even in sandy soil than more common sod types will need in average soil.

Maintenance

mowing lawn

One benefit of really sandy soil is that it tends to slow the growth of lawn which, in turn, reduces the maintenance burden.

Slow growing lawns require less mowing once they are established. This combined with a lower need for watering and fertilizing makes for a pretty easy yard to care for.

However, slow-growing lawns can be problematic during the seeding and fill-in process because they allow more time for weeds to establish. It is essential that you diligently pull and cull weeds until your lawn has filled in well.

Grass varieties that form thick sod-like carpets are less penetrable to weeds than lawns with thinner coverage. In either case, you will have to dedicate some amount of time to weeding or spraying, especially in the spring, if you want to keep your new lawn looking its best.

There are some super-hardy grass varieties that will grow quickly in sandy soil and will require more frequent mowing and edging. These types are a great choice if keeping the weeds out is more of a struggle than pulling out the mower a couple of times per week. 


If you do choose a grass variety that requires frequent mowing, then we recommend purchasing a high-quality cordless lawn mower to make mowing easier.

Final Word On the Best Grass for Sandy Soil

When it comes to growing a beautiful, lush lawn in sandy soil, the key is to find a grass variety that is hardy and drought-tolerant. It should be able to form thick sod mats or deep root systems to withstand the unstable nature of sandy soil and be resistant to the pests that often dwell there.

Centipede, Bermuda, zoysia, bahiagrass, and many varieties of fescue all fit this description perfectly. But which one is right for your yard depends on how cold your winters get, how shady your yard is, and exactly how sandy your soil is.

Have more questions about growing the perfect lawn in sandy soil? Drop a comment in the box below and we will help you find the answer.

About The Author

Aaron is the founder of and Essential Home and Garden. He likes to spend his spare time with his family, and doing DIY projects in the home and garden.