Choosing the right lawn for your situation depends on the level of shade, how much wear, desired maintenance, aesthetics, available water, where you live and off course cost.
Firstly if you have more than 70% shade no true grass will work. Go instead for a ground cover such is the spreading fine leaf lily turf called Isabella® Liriope muscari ‘LIRF’ PBR. This is a mow once per year lawn that needs to be planted by plugs, or small pots.
If you have between 45% and 70 % shade you’ll want to choose a Buffalo type. Buffalo however does also work well in full sun, and is the most popular lawn type in Australia, so it ticks most of the boxes, and can be used in most situations.
Choosing which type of Buffalo can be confusing, particularly with all the advertising hype surrounding Buffalo turf. The most tested and proven types are un-doubtably Palmetto, Sir Walter, and Sapphire. All three are good lawns.
Research has shown Palmetto is clearly the lowest maintenance Buffalo, requiring far less mowing and edging, and it also has the best winter colour. In fact, it is the biggest selling lawn in the world.
Sir Walter is a solid Buffalo, and has become quite popular, but often it is more expensive than the others. Sapphire has the same basic benefits as Sir Walter but with a much finer leaf and according to department of Primary Industries shade research data, is the best in shade. These three types of buffalo are soft so they are low allergenic. Some buffalo types like the old common Sydney buffalo have Scratchy barbs further down the leaf so make sure you choose a soft one. Also avoid thatchy and spongey types.
As impressive as Buffalo is, there are some circumstances where other turf types are better. If you have a dog, and it’s a sunny yard with very little shade, then Kikuyu is the best. Kikuyu is also the cheapest grass, but be warned it is a lot of work.
Kenda Kikuyu has the best winter colour of any drought tolerant turf and best of all, it has 4 times as many underground runners, which really helps it cope with rampaging dogs. If you don’t have a dog in your back yard, go for another grass. (unless you love to use your mower?)
If you want the ultimate low maintenance drought tolerant lawn, go for a Zoysia. For full sun to 40% shade, this lawn will provide you with a lot more free time. Probably the most impressive things about a Zoysia Lawn, is the fact that they are more lawn grub resistant, and that they are so wear tolerant. There are 2 types widely sold in Australia. Empire is well known, and has the nick name EZ grass. It needs a third the mowing of Kikuyu, and 30% less than Buffalo. Nara, is the other, and it is Australia’s only instant lawn native turf. This Aussie native is real toughy, yet truly beautiful.
There are more lawn types than this, but most are not as suitable for home lawns except for very specific use. Couch due to its tendency to scalp, and poor home performance is best left for high maintenance sporting fields, and Tall fescue needs way too much water for the Australian home lawn, unless you live in a high rainfall colder climate. Queensland Blue couch lets weeds in too easy, but it is pretty drought tolerant.