Sapphire vs Sir Walter Buffalo Grass: Which to Choose?

Sir Walter is recommended for heavy traffic areas but will also require more frequent mowing.

So, you’ve decided on a buffalo grass lawn, but now you have to decide whether to get Sapphire buffalo or Sir Walter buffalo grass.

Both of these turf species are excellent for Australian gardens but which one do you choose?

Let’s delve into the important similarities and differences between the two to make your decision a little easier.

Key similarities

First, let’s look at the similarities between these two turf species:

  • Both varieties are tough and drought-tolerant buffalo grasses
  • They can both be grown in full sun or partial shade needing only 3 hours of sun daily
  • Both are soft underfoot and non-allergenic
  • Because these species are buffalo grass, they do tend to build up thatch, especially when grown in full sun
  • Both species can be grown in most parts of Australia including cold areas

Key differences

Now, here are the notable differences between Sapphire and Sir Walter buffalo grass:

  • Sapphire has slightly thinner leaves giving it a finer look
  • Sapphire is also marginally more shade-tolerant than Sir Walter
  • Sir Walter is slightly faster growing and will require more frequent mowing
  • Sir Walter will also produce more seeds than Sapphire
  • It’s recommended to select Sir Walter for really heavy traffic areas as it repairs a little faster due to its fast growth
  • Sir Walter keeps its green colour in winter a little better than Sapphire

Making your selection

When making your selection, it’s important to remember that Sir Walter buffalo grass has been grown in gardens around Australia for over 25 years. It’s also DNA-certified, tough, hard-wearing, shade-tolerant, and suitable for most climates.

On the other hand, Sapphire is a newer variety that was actually bred from Sir Walter buffalo grass. Therefore, turf growers have selected all the great qualities found in Sir Walter buffalo grass and tried to improve on them with Sapphire buffalo.

Some of these improvements include the fact that Sapphire is slightly more shade-tolerant than Sir Walter. So if your lawn area is going to be shaded for a large part of the day, you might be wise to choose Sapphire buffalo over Sir Walter.

In independent trials, Sapphire slightly outperformed Sir Walter in areas with 70% shade cover.

You should also consider the wearability of the turf species that you choose. If you have young kids and pets that like to play on the lawn regularly, you want a turf species that will recover quickly if it gets trampled often.

To that end, you might consider Sir Walter over Sapphire. The main reason for this is that Sir Walter is a slightly faster grower. This means that it will self-repair a little faster than Sapphire.

However, this faster growth also means that it will require mowing more frequently.

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Research results from a trial carried out in Queensland

In a research study conducted by the Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries Department at the Redlands Research Station in conjunction with Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL Project TU04013), it was found that Sapphire has less wear resistance than Sir Walter.

In the same study, it was also found that Sir Walter was slightly more disease resistant than Sapphire. This is an important consideration if you live in a humid environment where there is the possibility of constant summer rain.

In this situation, you would be better off selecting Sir Walter buffalo rather than Sapphire.

Another important finding from this study was that Sir Walter was slightly more drought-tolerant than Sapphire. However, the difference was very slight.

From these findings, we can conclude that Sapphire might be a good solution for drier parts of the country as long as irrigation water is available while Sir Walter Buffalo is probably a better choice for more humid areas due to its higher disease resistance.

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Sapphire vs Sir Walter Buffalo FAQ

What are common problems with Sapphire Buffalo?

The most common problem with Sapphire Buffalo is the brown patch fungus disease. This is a result of incorrect or too much watering. Letting the lawn dry out and aerating the soil will help to control this disease. You can also get a fungicide to treat it if these cultural practices fail.

What are the most popular buffalo grass varieties?

The most popular buffalo grass varieties are Sir Walter, Sapphire, Prestige, and Palmetto. Sir Walter buffalo grass is the original buffalo turf grown in Australia and most of the other species have been bred from it. 

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Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


2 thoughts on “Sapphire vs Sir Walter Buffalo Grass: Which to Choose?”

  1. Hi, We live on the Gold Coast and want to put new turf down. Most of our yar is in the shar for 60-70% of the day should we use Sir Walter or Saphire grass. One part of the yard will be a high traffic area around the kids playground.

    Regards Jess


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