What Is the Best Grass for Clay Soil?

Last Updated on January 14, 2022 by Grow with Bovees

Growing and maintaining healthy, beautiful grass on clay soil requires different methods and measures than in typical, sandy soil.

Firstly, you’ll need different soil preparation, watering habits and specific grass seed.

Overall, growing healthy grass in clay soil isn’t difficult when you nail these factors, so here we are with our best grass for clay soil guide.

In terms of grass seed, these are the best grasses for clay soil that will grow lush, healthy and thrive throughout the year:

  • Tall fescue grass.
  • Bermuda grass.
  • Buffalo grass.
  • Perennial ryegrass.

Stay with us. We’ll tell you more details about care, characteristics and the growing basics of each grass in clay soil to help you.

grass with a deep root system is best in clay soil

The Best Grasses for Clay Soil

Thanks to extensive plant development, we have plenty of choices to pick from to grow grass well in clay soil.

After in-depth research, we found that four grass types perfectly flourish in clay soil.

Tall Fescue Grass

Tall fescue grass is arguably the most popular grass to grow in clay soil. In particular, it offers excellent tolerance to drought, heat, cold and shade.

These factors make it a versatile grass to provide superb durability and flexibility to most homeowners.

If you live in a northern area, tall fescue is one of the best cool-season grasses that flourishes most in the early spring and fall months.


While being one of the most robust cool-season grasses out there, maintenance is easy.

It requires a solid watering or lawn irrigation system in place to thrive all year round. One thing to note is that it prefers deep watering so the roots stay moist for longer, absorbing as many nutrients from the clay soil as possible.

Also, it’s a good idea to overseed it a few times a year to sustain density.

How to Plant

To have a lush, green and dense tall fescue, plant or reseed it in the spring or fall when it grows most vigorously.

The great thing about tall fescue is that it doesn’t require much fertilizer to maintain its growth and color.

It also grows perfectly in various soils, including clay soils with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5.

Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass is the best grass to grow in warm-season climates. Thanks to its high tolerance to drought, heat, shade and traffic, it’s very popular in the southern United States.

What’s even better is it’s the fastest-growing grass amongst all warm-season types and can recover very fast.

But, with a rapid growth rate, it requires more frequent care, so it is important to have an effective lawn fertilizer schedule to keep it in the best condition.


Bermuda grass requires more maintenance than the other warm-season grasses. In summer, when it reaches its peak growth, mowing twice a week is required.

To keep a lush and dense appearance, mow it to 1 to 1.5 inches for home lawns.

Also, when in peak growth, you need to apply fertilizer once a month for a dense and lush lawn.

How to Plant

Like all warm-season grasses, Bermuda grass comes out of dormancy in spring after the last frost. It’s best to plant it or overseed it at this time as it’s now in the main growth state.

Bermuda grass seeds tolerate alkaline soil, meaning it flourishes well in clay soil.

Keep in mind that it has the best growth performance in clay soil with a pH between 5.8 and 7.0 but tolerates higher numbers if needed.

Buffalo Grass

Buffalo grass is another warm-season grass, drought-tolerant grass that survives perfectly in clay soil with only 1.5 inches of rainfall per month.

It originates in North America and became a very popular drought-tolerant type of lawn grass in the 1980s.

It’s a low-maintenance, blue-green or grey-green soft grass seed used widely as lawn grass and in pastures.


Maintenance is simple and hassle-free.

Fertilize it right after you sow and repeat the fertilization once a month after that. The important thing to remember is not to over-fertilize it, as it will stop its vigorous growth.

It also requires moist clay soil until it’s established. Afterward, Buffalo grass seed thrives with minimal water—1.5 inches per month.

How to Plant

The best time to seed buffalo grass seeds is between April and May.

You can either choose seed or sod for planting. Generally, seeds will have both male and female plants, whereas sods will only have females.

But, there are plenty of buffalo grass cultivars, and if you want to use it on your lawn, then look for male seed plants, as it won’t have seedheads.

If you mix male and female seeds into your lawn, you’ll have many white seedheads that don’t look great and draws insects.

Perennial Ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is widely used in cooler climates among the United States, though it originates in Europe and Asia.

It has great tolerance to cold weather and maintains a lush and green color throughout the winter, making it one of the popular cool-season grasses.

Although it’s mainly a cool season grass, it flourishes well in moderate-heat summer climates as well. It can also withstand light shading.

It’s best known for its fast germination and rapid establishment. Fast germination lets you reseed erosion or pets’ spots quickly and re-establish a beautiful lush lawn promptly.


If you want to keep your lawn dense and lush, keep perennial ryegrass’ mowing height between 1.5 and 2.5 inches. This might sound too high, but it performs the best at this range.

Perennial rye grass requires more water and fertilization compared to other cool-season grasses on our list. It’s advisable to increase watering above the regular amount In cold winters and droughts, if you’d like to keep a lush and green lawn.

How to Plant

Perennial ryegrass grows perfectly in a wide range of soils, including both alkaline and acidic .

Clay soil has an optimum pH range of 5.5 to 7.5, making it more of an acidic soil and a perfect host for perennial rye grass, which flourishes between pH levels of 5.5 to 7.5.

If you’re unsure of your clay soil’s pH level, use a simple soil tester.

The best time to seed perennial rye grass is in the early fall. Its fast-germinating property creates a fine-blade lawn come winter in preparation for the summer heat. Perennial rye grass is also a good stabilizer and can help to stabilize soil on a sloping site.

How Do You Prepare Clay Soil for Grass?

Take time to prepare the clay soil before seeding your lawn to grow the best grass in clay soil.

The good news is that there are plenty of organic options to improve clay soil without costing much time or money:

  • Leaves: If you have a handheld leaf picker upper, spread a generous amount of green and brown leaves onto your clay soil to improve decomposition. Leaves help useful microbes to proliferate and keep the soil moist.
  • Grass clippings: Great for both new grass and an existing lawn. Spreading them over your bare clay soil naturally provides more nitrogen and potassium. Both of these nutrients are essential for green, lush growth and lasting protection.
  • Compost: Homemade compost is already rich in nutrients needed for a healthy lawn. Also, it improves drainage and protects clay soil from drying out.
  • Starter fertilizer: Applying a starter fertilizer is recommended to improve the quality of growing new grass.

After you’ve done applying organic matter to your clay soil, it’s a good idea to finish it with topsoil.

Cover the area with 2 to 5 inches of high-quality topsoil. This will significantly improve the grass’ growing speed and ensure it gets all essential nutrients to stay healthy and germinate.

How Aeration Can Help Your Clay Soil Grass

Heavy clay soil gets very compact, so aeration is essential and required for every clay soil.

Aeration reduces clay soil’s compactness and improves grass growth.

To have a lush, green and dense lawn, its roots need good air circulation, nutrients and water. Compacted clay soils prevent this, reducing a grass’ growth.

Clay soil lawn owners should aerate the lawn every year to avoid the above-listed problems.

Ways To Aerate Your Clay Soil

Aeration is a simple, yet effective process for improving the quality of clay soil. Follow these easy methods:

  • Spike aerator: A multi spike aerator is great for small lawns and doesn’t cost much. It leaves deep-enough holes to let the air, water and fertilizer flow.
  • Slicing aerator: Similar to a spike aerator but has a spinning blade with spikes that cut through the grass and thatch soil.
  • Aeration shoes: Simple and fun way to aerate your lawn. Spikes are located on the sole for you to aerate your lawn as you walk around.

Recommended Method for Watering Grass in Clay Soil

Watering grass seed in clay soil requires a different approach than in sandy soil. Clay tends to keep moisture longer than sand and quite often can become a dense area.

When grass seeds soak in too much moisture for a long time, they’ll rot and slowly die.

To combat this, the best way of watering your lawn is through an irrigation system or grass sprinklers.

You can easily regulate the amount of water for the grass and clay soil with both methods, ensuring it spreads evenly. Efficient water distribution is essential for avoiding standing water.

for a beautiful lawn, spread a thin layer of organic matter onto the dense soil

Establish a Perfect Lawn With the Right Grass for Clay Soil

Growing grass in your clay soil isn’t that frustrating when you know which is the best grass seed and how to prepare the soil.

We suggest picking the perennial rye grass if you live in a more chilly-season climate. It’s a robust and fast-germinating type of grass for clay soil.

Although it requires more maintenance than others, it provides a jaw-dropping lush and green grass.

If you live in warmer climates, go with buffalo grass. It’s drought and heat-tolerant, and is possibly the best grass for clay soil that requires minimal maintenance when established.

See also  When To Fertilize New Grass For Amazing Results