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Use less water with drought-resistant plants like buffalo grass

By Gregg Eyestone

A good method to water management is to grow plants that are more drought tolerant. As a rule of thumb, plants that have blue/gray foliage require less water. For example the perennials dianthus ‘Firewitch,’ lavender, and catnip are low water requiring plants. The lawn grass that fits in this category is buffalograss.

Greg McClure and I will be presenting on buffalograss for home lawns in Riley County. The program is on Tuesday, June 25 beginning at 6:30 pm. Our first stop is at my house at 7670 Anderson Avenue just west of Keats to look at a new planting. Then we will travel to an established buffalograss lawn.

I’m in the process of planting my third buffalograss lawn. June and July are normally the best times for planting due to warm soil temperatures. I am hoping the heat of this last week will bring the soil temperature to optimum planting range. There is still plenty of time to plant buffalograss.

Buffalograss can be started from seed, plugs or sod. Seeded lawns will have both male and female plants. Male plants are distinguishable with their pollen heads above the leaf blades. Female flowers are at ground level and not readily seen. All female lawns are started from plugs or sod.  Since there are no male pollen heads, female lawns may be mowed less.

Nitrogen fertilizer is important for all lawns. I suggest two pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn per season. This is the same as I put on my tall fescue. The timing is different. Fertilizer is put on when the grass is actively growing. June and July is best for buffalograss.

Once established, buffalograss is drought tolerant. It will turn brown and go dormant during extreme drought such as last year. Some irrigation would keep it from going dormant.

The growing season for warm-season grasses like buffalograss is shorter than cool-season grasses. A shorter growing season would mean less water needed.

There isn’t a best home lawn. Kansas is in the transition zone from cooler to the north and warmer to the south. Depending on the season, one grass does better than the other.  If you want to use native grass for your lawn, buffalo is the only one.

If you would like additional information on a horticulture topic, please contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension. Gregg may be contacted by calling 537-6350 or stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or e-mail: and at

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