How to Identify Buffalo Grass

Figuring out what type of grass you have is the first step to caring for it or dealing with problems.

It is one of the most common varieties of grass in Australia, but understanding how to identify Buffalo grass can be difficult for beginners.

This guide will cover all the ins and outs of common Buffalo grass identification.

By correctly identifying your turf variety, you can better care for your lawn so that it stays healthy and looks great!

What does Buffalo grass look like?

Here are the characteristics to look out for when trying to identify Buffalo grass:

Leaf blade

The blades are broad and thin, with a midrib running down the middle of the leaf.


Depending on the variety of Buffalo you have the colour of the blade could be anything from bright green to dark green.

The blade on the popular Sir Walter Buffalo grass is deep green in colour.

There is no red or yellow colour on the leaves but this warm-season grass may discolour slightly in the colder months.


Grasses are spread through two different types of runners: rhizomes and stolons.

While both spread to create new blades of grass, rhizomes are underground while stolons are above ground.

Buffalo grasses only have above-ground runners (stolons). The stolons are a dark reddish/brown colour and spread flat along the surface of the soil, as you can see clearly in the below video.

The common types of Buffalo grass

If you love Buffalo grass, you’ll be happy to know that there are many varieties.

Unfortunately, this also means it can be difficult to tell the difference between them!

There are many varieties of Buffalo grass, some more common than others. In Australia, the most common varieties include

  • Sir Walter,
  • Matilda,
  • Prestige,
  • Sapphire,
  • Shademaster, and
  • Palmetto.

In the United States, Buffalo grass is called St Augustine.

Due to their respective traits and adaptability to certain climates in different regions, some of these varieties are more popular in certain areas than others (Sir Walter is particularly popular along Australia’s east coast).

How Buffalo grass has changed over the years

The traditional, scratchy Buffalo grass of the past has been drastically improved upon over time.

No longer is Buffalo grass sharp and scratchy, but it has been altered to no be much less problematic for allergy sufferers.

New varieties are known as “soft-leaf” and include the popular Sir Walter DNA Certified Buffalo.

Does Buffalo grass spread quickly?

Buffalo grass is a turf variety that can spread quickly. However, it doesn’t come with the problems associated with invasive grasses like Kikuyu.

Buffalo tolerates shade very well compared to other varieties. It should be able to survive in areas receiving as little as 40% sunlight, or around 3 hours per day.

How do you tell the difference between Buffalo and Kikuyu grass?

You can tell the difference between Buffalo and Kikuyu grass by their appearance:

  • Kikuyu has a medium leaf blade
  • Buffalo has a broad leaf blade
  • Kikuyu is bright green in colour
  • Buffalo is deep green in colour

Also, if you dig up Kikuyu turf, you may be able to identify the under-ground rhizomes, or runners, which aren’t present on Buffalo.

Is Buffalo grass better than Kikuyu?

The quick answer is, yes! This is mostly because buffalo grass is much easier to maintain.

Firstly, it has a very slow growth rate making it easy to control. Kikuyu is more likely to spread outside the boundaries of your lawn over time. This includes into your garden beds, over your driveway, and it may even invade your neighbour’s lawn.

Also, Kikuyu needs more mowing than Buffalo. Buffalo is fast-growing, but not as vigorous as Kikuyu. If your lawn is Kikuyu, you will need to mow it every week during summer to keep it looking its best. Buffalo on the other hand only needs mowing every 2-3 weeks.

Buffalo is also more shade tolerant than Kikuyu.

The benefit of Kikuyu is that it will be able to repair damage much faster. This is because Buffalo only has above-ground stolons, while Kikuyu also uses under-ground rhizomes. They are, however, both very hardy turfs.

Is carpet grass a Buffalo grass?

Buffalo grass and carpet grass are two different species.

Carpet grass is also known as mat grass and has a creeping, stoloniferous growth habit.

It is an excellent choice for low-maintenance lawns because it needs the least mowing and fertilizing of any other lawn grass.

Carpet grass grows well in shade, which makes it a good choice for areas that receive little sunlight, but it is best suited to warm, subtropical climates rather than Buffalo’s more temperate climate range.

How to care for Buffalo grass

Fertilize the lawn in early spring. Over-fertilizing the lawn can burn or kill grasses, so be sure to buy a fertilizer that is appropriate for Buffalo grass.

Water the lawn deeply but infrequently. Buffalo grass needs water on a regular basis to survive, but over-watering can lead to fungal diseases.

Check for pests and diseases regularly. Many types of insects and bugs attack Buffalo grass, as well as common fungal infections. If you think your Buffalo grass has been infected with something, it’s best to contact an expert before the problem worsens.

Mow at a higher level than normal. Cutting Buffalo grass too short is one of the most common mistakes people make when caring for this type of lawn, because it causes excessive stress on the plant and makes it more susceptible to damage from diseases and parasites.

Aerate your lawn regularly by poking holes into the soil surface with a garden fork or aeration tool.

Check that your soil PH levels are correct. If they’re not, then you may need some lime (or sulfur).

Check for weeds. If there are any weeds growing in between patches of dead Buffalo Grass then pull them out as soon as possible using some gloves.

Here’s a great video detailing some techniques for rejuvenating a neglected Buffalo lawn:

Buffalo grass FAQ

Why is my buffalo grass yellow?

You may be mowing your Buffalo grass too short or too often. Buffalo grass is a warm-season grass that is dormant in the winter and green in the summer, so if you have been experiencing colder temperatures, this may also be the cause for a slight discolouration.

What soil PH level is good for buffalo grass?

Depending on the specific variety, Buffalo grass thrives in soil with a PH level between 5 and 8.5.

Photo of author

Steve Kropp

Based in Melbourne, Steve's passion is vegetable gardening, and he’s been writing about it for almost 5 years. He also loves all things DIY and is always looking for a new project. When not working on his own garden projects or blogging, Steve enjoys spending time with his family, cooking meals with produce harvested from his garden, and coaching his son’s footy team.


Leave a Comment