The right grass for a lawn in a tropical garden

Yesterday, after getting a much needed haircut, I passed by a couple of garden landscapers in preparation for the much delayed garden project. We have bluegrass and I’m not so happy with it.

lawn with bluegrass

It came with the landscaped garden and we weren’t really planning on overhauling anything except that there is a portion of the garden that is lower than the rest where the soil had been dug to provide extra parking space. As a result, that portion of the garden, originally part of the lawn, is sans grass. Well, we’re not parking any car in the garden so we went about leveling the area and planting bluegrass. Shucks, bluegrass grows oh, so slowly, and the only way I can describe the texture is to liken it to the thinning hair of an aging man who is on the verge of turning bald. Nothing personal against bald and balding readers.

Anyway, so I went to some garden landscapers yesterday and, as I feared, they didn’t give me too many options. Apparently garden landscapers in the Philippines offer only three kinds of lawn grass — carabao grass, bermuda grass and bluegrass. I hate bermuda grass because the blades are stiff and spiky and I like sitting on the grass so it’s not an option.

garden lawn with carabao grass

Carabao grass is soft, propagates fast but the irony is that when we had carabao grass in the old house, I wanted to replace it with bluegrass. Why? Because we have pets. If cat or dog poop gets on the grass, it’s hard to find and scoop up. In fact, when something smelled, it was like hide-and-seek. With grass with thinner blades, like bluegrass, finding the smelly culprit won’t be as difficult. So I wanted to replace the carabao grass with bluegrass. I didn’t and, on hindsight, it seems to have been the wise decision considering how I’m hating bluegrass right now.

The funny thing is that what landscapers refer to as bluegrass might not even be real bluegrass (real blugrass only grows in cold climate) but any of several varieties of zoysia grass.

The decision? Find the specie of zoysia grass used on golf courses — the kind that makes a beautiful green carpet but can take a lot of foot traffic. It’s either that or plant jutes. That’s “grass” too.

  • Connie Veneracion

    LOL Kaya na pinangunahan ko na, ano? LOL Eh pero makapal naman buhok mo ah! You mean that has changed since we last saw each other?

    I don’t think I like the super manicured type because that will look too formal and, you know, like it’s screaming “Keep off the grass!!!” I’ve never come across the perennial ryegrass, am off to Google for pics now, thanks for the tip. I’ll probably go to Manila Seedling and inquire there.

    • All Things Considered

      Long-time reader, first-time commenter. Thanks for an informative blog!

      I live in the central coast of California, where drought is always a concern. What I noticed here is that people are more willing to forgo grass lawns to save water. Those who really want grass for aesthetics plant it in the front yard, for curb appeal, and cover the backyard with wood chips or mulch. We have mulch in our backyard, and it’s made cleaning up after the dog a lot easier. And I don’t have to deal with the yellow spots on the grass caused by dog pee. Another alternative is creeping ground cover plants. I don’t know any of the names, but in Washington where I used to live, some landscapers use ground cover plants that are native to the area instead of grass for lawns.

  • Connie Veneracion

    Actually, we want grass less for aesthetics than for keeping the grounds cool. Literally. With all the concrete around us, we can at least minimize the heat by not pouring concrete over the garden.

    Re “creeping ground cover plants”

    That’s what Speedy suggests — the plant called peanut. I don’t think we can walk and sit on it though and that’s the drawback.

    • chris

      Connie, =( Lets just not talk about it hehhehe. It’s been a couple of stressful years.

  • phynkee

    try looking for “manila grass” it’s also zoysia matrella, para mas madali ka makahanap… common name yan diyan sa atin.
    the use of grass depends on the amount of sunshine it gets… ang pagkaalam ko yung tinatawag na bluegrass needs a lot of sunshine to grow faster, carabao grass is mostly used in shady area.

    • Leigh Laney

      I am looking for grass SEED. All I have been able to find is sod. Have you found anyplace in the Philippines that carries grass seed?

  • Connie Veneracion

    Chris, oh my… :shock:

    Phynkee, ah my walking encyclopedia on anything garden related. Thank you!

  • Connie Veneracion

    I was able to find wheat grass seeds but that’s about it. And wheat grass I think is more ornamental (juice extract is supposed to be healthy too) but no good for lawns.

    • Amgard


      As an Englishman, I have had some experience with lawns and their management back in England and despite the hard work and regular maintenance required of premium lawns, the pleasure and satisfaction I have reaped from admiring neighbours and friends is immeasurable.

      I am just about to start landscaping around our new house in the mountains of Cebu and have consulted landscapers who all recommended the three local grasses you mentioned. I have found Kentucky Blue grass seed at True Value and am currently experimenting with the first 500 square metres. The germination period is about over so I should start seeing little green shoots in the next few days.

      If this fails I will try ordering from an on-line company in Uk which sells several varieties for different applications. One such company is Lawn UK -their premium seed costs about 1000 pesos per kilo which will cover about 15 square metres. Other lower quality but hard wearing ryegrasses costs about half this. According to their website they deliver to the Philippines.

      When you find seed I learned a tip from a friend who was ground keeper responsible for bowling greens in England. Mix the seed with fine sand and compost, keep it damp and in the dark for about a week before sowing. This will allow the seeds to germinate, prevent birds from eating the seeds and heavy showers from washing them away. It also makes sowing easier but avoid sowing on a windy day.

      There are also companies which sell flower and vegetable seeds on line with delivery to the Phils -one of which, Thompson Morgan, I have already tried and successfully received deliveries here.

      Good planting


      • Connie Veneracion

        You think grasses coming from abroad can survive the Philippine summers? Because that was one of my worries that’s why I decided to stick with varieties that have proved resilient in the heat. Perhaps your house is in an elevated location? That would be a distinct advantage and imported grasses might thrive. We live in a hilly suburb (Antipolo, don’t know if you’re familiar with Metro Manila’s suburbs) but, even here, summers can be really bad.

      • James

        Hello I live in Pangasinan pozorrubio I wanted a nice front yard, so my wife used a landscaping company to plant Kentucky bluegrass, I am not happy with this grass at all, maybe it not really Blue grass, 2/3 of my front yard is brown, it seems just the tips of the grass is green, a waste of time and money, I like a green yard year round and I don’t mind in using my sprinkler.

  • grasshunter

    tulong po. saan po ba nakakabili ng grass seeds? kelangan ko rin pong ayusin un likod bahay namin.salamat po!

    • Connie Veneracion

      Bili ka na lang ng banig-banig na damo. Di naman mahal.

      • James Curtis-Smith

        I would like to plant a lawn which will be under a shady big leafy jack fruit tree. I live in Angeles City, Pampanga. What do you suggest as an appropriate variety ?

        • Connie Veneracion

          I’ve been told that only carabao grass grows well in the shade.

          • James Curtis-Smith

            Thanks Connie. Can u buy seed or is it best to get ready grown from a lawn supplier ?

          • Connie Veneracion

            Personally, I find easier to propagate already growing grass.

          • Terry

            Hi, Im looking for carabao grass seed – does anybody know where I can get it in PH?

          • Connie Veneracion

            You can buy them as tiles. I’m not so sure you can get the seeds commercially.

          • Victoria Evarretta

            Had I came across this site before, I would have opted for the carabao grass then for my roadside garden that’s only sunlit in the morning. Unfortunately, the tiled “blue grass I ordered will come tomorrow. I am surprised to know on Internet research that the real blue grass is actually two feet in height and different from the “blue grass” commercially sold by landscapers here in the Philippines. A friend told me that the soil should be sandy/pebbly so the grass creeps and not grow tall. In other words, the nutrient-rich garden soil should not be used for the blue grass, bermuda grass, or carabao grass. Is this info correct?

          • wantans

            I’m curios to know what is the scientific name for Philippines grass? i have been searching in the net, but none can be found.

          • mmg1112

            Paspalum cojugatum is the scientific name. Tough grass specially in the shade.

      • maintenance

        does carabao grasses grows long near by the sea?

        • Jojit


          First time to follow this blog and I really like reading all sorts about grass and sod. By the way, I am here in the Cayman Islands and work as a supervisor for a landscaping company coupled with sod farming particularly zoysia.
          Just to let you know that I am learning from you guys…

  • butch

    I live here in the US . I’m looking for a carabao grass. can you please someone sent me a carabao grass i need at least 5 pounds.

    • Connie Veneracion

      Hi. I live in the Philippines and I don’t sell carabao grass or any other kind of grass. :)

  • Emily

    Hello ,
    Gusto ko lang po sanang itanong kung ano pwede gawin para maiwasan may ibang damo o ligaw na damo na tumutubo sa carabao grass. Mas dumarami pa ang ligaw na damo kaysa carabao grass.
    Salamat po.

  • Bing

    Check the new Thermal Kentucky Blue Grass. More drought and heat tolerant than the regular Kentucky Blue Grass.

  • Irene

    Can you suggest a supplier or landscaper who uses zoysia matrella or Manila grass here in the Phil’s?

  • Ian

    I know the three grasses can all be bought as ’tiled’ sods of turf from most garden shops here in Angeles – but it’s not a cheap option circa 100 pesos/ square metre for blue grass. Is there anywhere locally you can buy seeds and weed killer? Wilcon or Ace the logical places carry neither.

  • chris

    Nasaktan pa rin ako. =(

    hehe, from my understanding, the golf course grass is water intensive, but that should be no problem in a tropical country. There are generally three kinds, one that grows on the “rough” areas (I kinda like that one), the fairway grass, and the uber manicured greens.

    From a friend who had one done in his backyard, the supershort manicured type used for the greens is called Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera palustris), and you can get seeds at most orchard supply stores.

    The fairways apparently use a combination of either bermuda grass, zoysiagrass, or perennial ryegrass, but how they will affect your bum’s comfort levels, I wouldn’t know hehe. I guess it’s time to take a trip to valley golf and have an impromptu picnic on the fairways. =)

  • mark

    hello. we are currently building our house somewhere at qc. we can’t decide if mggragrass kmi or tiled garden nlng. if grass what grass would you recommend, concern ksi if umulan bka mgputikputik. thank you tnx for the very informative blog:)

  • Connie Veneracion

    Paki kumpleto yung vowels kasi mahirap maintindihan exactly yung tanong mo. :)