There are more than 12,000 varieties of grass that include such diverse plants as bamboo and corn. These bear little resemblance to the grasses that we use as lawns. These tend to be low growing varieties that can run, like couch and kikuyu or clump like rye or fescue.
Different grasses are used for different applications as some are much hardier to foot traffic than others. The climate, cool and temperate or warm and tropical, as well as the aspect is important as some are suns loving and others prefer a shadier aspect.
Sun or shade
Grasses for sunny areas with cold winters where the grass becomes dormant include Bermuda and hybrid Bermuda, Zoysia and kikuyu. These are running or trailing grasses and will quickly cover a bare spot and they will also recover well from heavy foot traffic. They are tolerant to higher levels of salt and do well in coastal situations and tend to be tolerant of lower levels of moisture. Snow is not an issue for these types.
Year round sunny climates favour the fescue grasses, a clumping variety that is hardy but not in snowbound or colder winter climates where they either die or become dormant. Maintenance is easier with these grasses as they won’t invade garden beds and other areas that you want to be free from grass invasion. They can survive a low to medium level of foot traffic but are not at all tolerant to salt such as urine from dogs.
For those shady areas consider a cool climate grass such as bluegrass, often called Kentucky bluegrass with a higher tolerance to shade than the fescue varieties. Usually sold as a bluegrass blend these fill in patchy areas quickly in the warmer months.
The majority of lawns contain a mixture of grass types making them suitable for a variety of situations. Plus your yard may be shady with sunny areas or mainly sunny with a few large shade trees. This means that the one grass would not be suitable for the whole yard.
An example of a mixed lawn is a 15% bluegrass seed added to a fescue seed variety. The bluegrass will tend to fill in worn areas and the deeper rooted fescue actually brings more moisture to the shallower rooted bluegrass.
Another excellent mix is a sports field blend that works well in many different situations, from hot and dry, cool and damp from season to season. This mix will contain a perennial rye grass variety that tolerates being mowed down to short lengths and a Bermuda or trailing grass which is good for filling in worn areas.