UC Buffalo Grass and Kurapia

Apr 10, 2023

by Melody Kendall

Drought in California and climate change have made water conservation a very important topic in our area. One of the ways to conserve water in your landscape is to reduce or remove the lawn and replace it with a more water friendly option. The perks of removing your turf grass are numerous and installing native grasses and grass-like plants enables you to reduce your water use. A couple of replacement ideas follow.

UC Buffalo Grass: Buchloe dactyloides, (boo-KLOH-ee dak-ty-LO-id-eez)

UC Buffalo Grass is a key species that originated in the prairies of the Midwest. Buffalo grass is the only turfgrass native to the US. The ‘UC Buffalo Grass' variety was developed for hot dry conditions in California by researchers at UC Riverside and Davis. The resulting variety has dense turf of soft, bright green with very fine leaf blades.


-Needs 50-75% less water than other grass lawn. Once established, has very low water needs.

-Planted in plugs spaced 12” apart it spreads by stolons, but has no underground rhizomes. 

-This variety has few flowerheads, so there are no pollen allergy concerns and few seeds.

-Once established it is very competitive with weeds and only grows 4-6 inches tall.

-Mowing requirements depend on the look desired.  Mow every 2-3 weeks for a more barbered view or not at all for a more natural look.

-UC Buffalo Grass is very resistant to diseases and insect pests. So, no chemicals will be needed in its maintenance.

-Very tolerant of foot traffic


-Can only be planted in ‘plugs'.

-Goes completely dormant in the winter and when frost occurs. It will be brown during those times.

-Does not do well in shade; plant in full sun

The best time to plant UC Buffalo Grass is May. This will allow the little plugs to get settled in and have a strong start to beat the weeds.  It should fill in an area in 6-8 weeks.  If planted later in the summer, make sure to keep the up water schedule so the plugs won't dry out. 

Kurapia Lippia nodiflora

Kurapia, a sterile and non-invasive cold hardy cultivar, was selected and developed in Japan.  It has a deep root structure and a dense deep green canopy making it very drought tolerant.  It can thrive in a variety of soil types and, with its deep root system, has soil stabilization properties as well.


-Green all year round in most California locations except in high elevation areas

-Once established it has very low water needs.

-Rapidly establishes itself and recovers from drought and mechanical damage quickly.

-Attracts pollinators if left unmowed.


-Cannot tolerate heavy foot traffic

Kruapia can be installed as plants or in rolls as sod. It does well in areas like parking strips that receive little irrigation. Its low growth habit means low maintenance with no pruning unless the pollinators are a concern. Then, just mow to remove the flowers.  This thick growth habit discourages weeds. Plant in full sun to part shade. 

Next week three more native grasses and grass-like plants suitable to replace your turf grass will be reviewed: Bouteloua (blue grama grass), Creeping Red Fescue Molate & "CA Native All-Purpose Grass Seed Mixture"

Napa Master Gardeners are available to answer garden questions by email: mastergardeners@countyofnapa.org. or phone at 707-253-4143.  Volunteers will get back to you after they research answers to your questions.

Visit our website: napamg.ucanr.edu to find answers to all of your horticultural questions.

Photo credits: UCANR Mel Kendall

Information links:

UC Davis-UC Buffalo grass


UC Riverside-Kurapia




UC Master Gardeners Napa County-one Kurapia installation story