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Best Lawn Grass for the Chicago Area

Best Lawn Grass for the Chicago Area

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The proximity to Lake Michigan is one of the best parts about Chicago. That same proximity is also a large part of Chicago’s signature climate blend of cold winters, humid summers, and wind all year round. Even if you live in the inland part of Chicagoland, you’ll still have to put up with the same climate, which means that you should try to make the same grass choices.


When you ask any Chicagoland lawn expert, one of the first things that they’ll tell you is to look for a blend of different grasses. The precise blend amount will vary, but most of the blends should be predominantly Kentucky Bluegrass with other types mixed in. This will help you get a lawn that will withstand the cold winters and well as the hot summers. Make sure that you check the shade rating. If you have 70% sun or less, then you may want to consider a shade mix.

Kentucky Bluegrass

Bluegrass is far and away the dominant grass for Chicagoans, not to mention the northern two-thirds of Illinois. A big reason for this is because it’s a very winter-hardy grass, and can fill in damaged areas without reseeding. Some of the newer varieties are also much more resistant to diseases than older ones. It works best in full sunlight, which is why it’s often mixed with other grasses for shade blends. Depending on the conditions, it can take one to three months for bluegrass to get established.

Perennial Ryegrass

The grass blends you get will usually use bluegrass for a base, then add in ryegrass and possibly come fine fescues. Ryegrass blends particularly well with bluegrass because ryegrass can get established very quickly. Another reason for a blend is cold tolerance. Bluegrass has a better cold tolerance, which helps fill in the gaps for ryegrass. In general, ryegrass is known for being finely textured with a good drought tolerance.

Fine Fescues

Several different varieties of fescues are often included in the mix with ryegrass and bluegrass, usually red, hard, and chewing varieties. The most common is creeping red fescue, mostly because of the good texture it gives to turf. It can be planted on its own, but its most common in a bluegrass and ryegrass blend.

Grasses to Avoid on Your Lawn

Tall Fescues are popular in the lower half of Illinois because they have a good drought and heat tolerance. However, they don’t?have nearly the cold tolerance of bluegrass, especially when there’s no snow on the ground. Experts also don’t recommend mixing bluegrass with tall fescues, so you’re better off sticking to bluegrass mixes.

Bentgrass can be found all over the Chicago area, and you might hear the name thrown around. Bentgrass is very labor intensive, and takes a lot of work to keep healthy. In fact, you’ll probably only find it on golf courses or in manicured gardens. Unless you have a full-time maintenance staff, you should steer clear of it for your lawn.

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