How to Ensure Your Lawn Survives Drought

10 Steps to Summer Drought Survival for Your Lawn

Drought and heat often coincide during the summer. When drought occurs, lawns turn tan or golden brown instead of the lush green we like to see. The undesirable browns are not a sign of outright dead lawns, rather drought-induced summer dormancy. Most of our southern grasses (Zoysia, Centipede, Bermuda) are simply slowing down by going dormant to minimize the long-term negative effects of drought. When rainfall returns or irrigation restrictions are lifted these lawns will recover their green color and normal growth.

To reduce your worry over water requirements, choose TifTuf Bermuda for its drought tolerance. University trials demonstrate that TifTuf uses 38% less water than Tifway Bermuda; therefore, it remains green even under the stress of drought.

Our experience has shown that certain lawn care practices reduce the risk of permanent drought damage to most warm-season grasses adapted to the South. The following 10 Steps to Summer Drought Survival for Your Lawn will ensure a healthy, green lawn once rainfall and permitted irrigation return.


Reduce frequency or completely curtail mowing on stressed grass that is not irrigated.

Cutting Height

If you do continue to mow, raise the cutting height by as much as 50% of normal, even on irrigated lawns, and make certain the mowing blade is sharp.


Cease fertilization on stressed lawns. Fertilizers will only increase the rate of growth and, because of the lack of water, severe stress can result in damaged grass.

Water Deeply

When permitted, water as deeply as possible without causing run-off. Light, frequent irrigation is not only less efficient but can result in a shallow-rooted, stress-prone lawn.

Best Time of Day to Water

The most efficient and ideal time to irrigate turfgrass is between midnight and 10:00am.


Do NOT water during windy times; reduce water loss due to evaporation by watering when winds are calm.

Periodically Inspect

During drought, inspecting your lawn becomes even more important. Early detection and control of weed and insect problems is essential to ensuring the return of a healthy lawn once rainfall occurs or water restrictions are lifted.

Grow Drought-Tolerant Grasses

If you are growing a Zoysia, Centipede, or Bermuda lawn – consider letting the lawn go dormant – these grasses will recover once rainfall occurs or water restrictions are lifted.

With TifTuf Bermuda, you won’t have to worry about the grass going dormant unless the drought becomes extremely severe. Though you won’t need to water TifTuf, we still recommend following the other drought-time recommendations on this list.

Follow the Law

Obey all state and municipal ordinances and restrictions that apply to your lawn and landscape watering.

Temporary Irrigation Exceptions for New Plantings

Most states and municipalities have made temporary irrigation exceptions for newly installed landscapes. The exceptions are adequate for establishment of sodded drought-tolerant turf. (Example: In many areas of the state of Georgia irrigation can be applied to newly sodded lawns for a period of 30 days. This is enough time to root sod, such as Zoysia, Centipede, and Bermuda.)

How Much Water Does My Lawn Need?

If turfgrass receives 1 inch of rain in the southern and eastern US, that is plenty for a beautiful green and growing lawn. Remember to reduce irrigation by the amount of rainfall each week; if you receive ½ inch of rain in your rain gauge, you will need to apply only ½ inch of water by irrigation that week.

Remember: infrequent deep irrigation is preferred. Avoid run-off and waste. For more information, read How and When to Water.