Iowa state outlinePicture of a patch of sod in Iowa

Iowa Sod Guide

In this article we'll explore the optimal sod varieties for Iowa. We'll also delve into their associated costs and the ideal times for laying to ensure growth.

cool season

By choosing grass types tailored to the climate and laying them at the right time, you can cultivate a stunning lawn that thrives in Iowa's distinctive environment.


Iowa rolls out the red carpet for a humid continental climate, boasting warm, muggy summers and winters that are cold and dusted with snow. This particular climate sets the stage for the type of grass that takes root in the state.

Grasses that can withstand the switch between sweltering heat and icy cold, coupled with fluctuating humidity, are tailor-made for Iowa's conditions. If you're planning to lay grass in Iowa, spring and fall are your golden opportunities.

These seasons offer milder temperatures, and usually, a generous supply of rain to kickstart new growth. Be wary of the height of summer and the depths of winter - these extreme temperatures could prove harmful to fresh grass growth.

Iowa sits in the heart of the grass zone - a vast area where grasses are the star of the show. This zone, spanning much of central and eastern United States, is a melting pot of grass species.

Which grasses grow best in Iowa?

In the world of landscaping, not all grasses are created equal. Each thrives in a specific climate zone: cool, warm, or transition.

A geographical map highlighting Iowa located in the cool season region of the United States
Iowa is a cool season state and falls in the region higlighted above

Iowa, with its cool season climate, prefers a particular set of grasses that relish the lower temperatures. The following grasses are the easiest to grow and maintain in Iowa:

Tall FescueCool-season grass, shade-tolerant, deep-rooted, ideal for lawns, pastures, and sports fields in cooler climates. The price per square foot for Tall Fescue generally ranges from $0.60 to $0.85 per square foot.
Kentucky BluegrassCool-season grass, lush green, fine texture, good for lawns, golf courses, and sports fields in cooler regions. The price per square foot for Kentucky Bluegrass generally ranges from $0.35 to $0.70 per square foot.
Perennial RyegrassCool-season grass, fast-growing, excellent wear resistance, often used for overseeding, ideal for lawns and sports fields. The price per square foot for Perennial Ryegrass generally ranges from $0.30 to $0.65 per square foot.
Fine FescueCool-season grass, shade-tolerant, fine texture, low maintenance, ideal for low-traffic lawns and erosion control. The price per square foot for Fine Fescue generally ranges from $0.45 to $0.75 per square foot.

While it's possible to grow grasses meant for other regions with proper care, attention and timing, these are the most common grasses in Iowa for residential lawns.

What is the best time to lay sod in Iowa?

Since it is considered a cool-season location, the ideal time to lay sod is in early spring or early fall. These periods offer moderate temperatures, leading to less stress on the sod and providing optimal conditions for root establishment before extreme temperatures of winter or summer. Avoid the summer, as high heat can stress the sod.

As you can see in the image below, you'll notice the most shoot growth (the grass above ground) and root growth in the spring and fall for cool season grases:

A graph showing the growth of cool season grasses throughout the year
Plant cool-season grasses during the Spring and Fall for best results

Best Grasses for Shade in Iowa

In the land of noisy cicadas and cornfield panoramas, we Iowans handle shade like pros. Grass? Not so much. So, what's the best grass for shade in our state? In the turf wars, two contenders reign supreme: Fine Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass.

Shady Nebraska (we're looking at you, Omaha) can keep their Zoysia. For Iowa, Fine Fescue is our top pick. It's the dark horse of the cool-season grasses, comfortably thriving on just 4 hours of sunlight. No diva behavior here, it's tough, low maintenance, and cool with dry soils. But, be warned, we're talking partial shade, not a moss-worthy Woodlands chronicles setting.

Now, if the shade factor is borderline medium, bet your last corn dog on Kentucky Bluegrass. This fair-green Midwesterner is in for A-game with approximately 6 hours of sunlight. In the right conditions, we've seen it outlast not only the harsh winters but also the blistering summer heat. And bonus, this lawn lovin' grass is nicely dense, kicking pesky weeds to the curb.

Ryegrass deserves an honorable mention. It's like the youngest sibling who tries harder. It's fast-growing and can tolerate some shade with about 5 hours of sunlight. In a bind, it'll work, but it's not our first-string pick.

For Iowa's shade-favoring lawns, aim for drought-tolerant, cool-season seed mixes. That's the winning game plan. Start in early fall, prep your soil right and remember, for the love of all greens: don’t drown the poor thing in water.

But remember, grass isn't corn. It has a greener thumb than a green thumb. Lawns are temperamental canvases. Too bad we can't just paint 'em green! For those challenging patches of shade - consider a shade garden instead. A touch of woodland charm, perhaps?

So, there you have it, folks. Armed with your Fine Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass, go forth and conquer the shadows!

A picture of a shade tree over a lawn in Iowa
Shade tree over a lawn in Iowa

What grasses stay green year-round in Iowa?

As with anything agriculture related, there is some nuance to this question. There are many grasses that can stay green year round in but it depends heavily on your location within the state as well as any microclimates that may exist.

The following grasses have the ability to stay green year round in Iowa:

Grass TypeCaveats
Tall FescueIt typically stays green throughout the year in milder climates, given that it isn't overly stressed by heat or drought in the summer.
Kentucky BluegrassIt can retain its green color for much of the year when well-maintained, though harsh winter temperatures can push it towards dormancy and a browner hue.
Perennial RyegrassIt can stay vibrant and green throughout the year in many climates, unless conditions are extremely cold or dry.
Fine FescueIt keeps its green color throughout the year in ideal conditions. If the winters are particularly harsh, it may lose some color.

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