USDA Zones 5-9
This sod-forming native American bluegrass is the darkest green, most drought tolerate grass I have even known or grown. Spreading from underground rhizomes, it's classic bluegrass foliage grows from 6-12" high. It is shorter and slower growing in dry sites, but can be aggressive in fertile moist soils with lots of fertilizer. It's strong growing habit is desirable in high trafficked meadows or large scale plantings. The ability to repair itself is a good trait in high use garden settings.
Native to the American southwest, it is endangered or extinct in most of its original habitat. Texas bluegrass is often found in nature in 'vernal' situations (wet in high rainfall periods and bone dry later on). In Texas, vernal pools are called 'buffalo wallows', and that is often where you will find Texas bluegrass in nature.
The foliage of Texas bluegrass is a rich dark green. Soft, yet durable, it feels great under bare feet. This is unusual for many drought tolerate grasses and sedges. The foliage is evergreen in most western climates with little affect from the cold, until temperatures drop into the 20's. With a hard freeze, the foliage blanches tan to winter russet, but greens back quickly with a cut back. Established colonies will go summer dormant without summer irrigation or rainfall, but greens up quickly if cut back and watered.
Texas bluegrass can tolerate a wide variety of soils from sand to clay, but will not grow in boggy or consistently wet soils. Native to vernal settings, Texas bluegrass can tolerate inundation which makes it a good choice for bioswales.
Texas bluegrass grows in full sun but tolerates all but the deepest shade as well. This trait is desirable when plantings move from sun into shade.
Texas bluegrass has showy flowers that rise above the foliage in late April to early May. Its species name, Poa arachnifera, comes from its spider web like silky flowers. The flowers are delicate panicles that nod 8-12" above the foliage. Unlike most grasses though, the flowers do not mature to a showy seed head. Also, the flowers usually do not produce any seed at all. This prevents Texas bluegrass from spreading where its not wanted. This is also why Texas bluegrass is never offered as seed. The old flowers fades to a whitish vestige of its former self and then fades into the foliage. I usually cut the flowers off with a few inches of foliage, when the flowers are no longer attractive.
Texas bluegrass makes a fine natural lawn or base meadow grass. Its ability to grow in a wide variety of soils and to thrive in sun or shade only adds to its appeal. Its great with bulbs and flowering accents and can be mowed to 1.5-2" for paths or sports turf.
Texas bluegrass may be too aggressive for small gardens. But properly grown, ie, regularly trimmed, kept on the drier side, and not over watered, it can find many uses in meadows large and small. In large plantings, the flower displays are breathtaking. Texas bluegrass is also useful as a filler between clumps of large flowering grasses.
Since Texas Bluegrass is a spreading/creeping grass, it is best planted from bare-root divisions, small pots, or plugs. Spacing is usually 12" on center but can be stretched 18-24" on-center if budgets are tight. Plants can be planted as close on-center as budget permits. Plants can be planted any time of year in most climates but is best planted in fall or early spring.
Keep newly planted plugs well watered and do not allow them to dry out until plants are well-rooted (usually takes 2-4 weeks, depending on time of year). Fertilize new plantings every 4 weeks.
After rooting, mow new plantings every 4-6 weeks until plantings fill in.
Cut Texas bluegrass down in fall to stimulate new growth in cooler winter months. Cut down from 1-3" as desired. I also cut Texas bluegrass after flowering to remove the unsightly heads and reduce the biomass before the hot summer months.
Pests and Disease:
None. Over-watering may produce root rot and poor stunted growth. Rust, a common ailment of Kentucky bluegrass, is rarely seen in Texas bluegrass.
Texas bluegrass grows well by the beach but is untested in direct salt spray. The sandier the soil, the more summer water is needed to keep it green.
Texas bluegrass can tolerate desert heat but cannot be allowed to dry out in hot summer months.
Texas bluegrass is not for hot, steep, sunny slopes. It might find use on shadier slopes with sufficient summer water.
John Greenlee's Takeaway:
I cannot explain why this grass is not more widely used in the west, southwest and southeast. I've been talking about it for over 20 years. Life among thee philistines.