Ultimate Flora versus Empire Zoysia

Discussion in 'Florida Lawn Care Forum' started by billyandholly, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. billyandholly

    billyandholly LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    I am looking for pros and cons to compare Ultimate Flora and Empire Zoysia for a resod of a lawn in NW Florida. 30% of the lawn is moderately shaded by high Southern Pines. It is a flat yard near the coast. Good irrigation. Thanks for any tips or experiences!
  2. Greg Amann

    Greg Amann LawnSite Member
    Messages: 162

    Our experience with Ultimateflora on sandy soils in central Florida has been awful.
    In the four years we have been watching it, it never develops a thick vertical root system. In full sun it constantly exhibits drought stress.
    I am seeing where sod companies sold a customer "Empire". When in fact the growth habits even as long as 4 years later make me think it is "Ultimateflora". In the Villages I have seen them side by side and there is a distinced difference.
    We treat both Empire lawns and Ultimateflora. We have Empire that is cut at about 3/4 of an inch and all the clippings are removed. It looks like a golf green. Three houses down the street we have one that is cut at about 3 inches and it is fluffy but beautiful.
    We warn the people when we pickup a yard that we feel is Ultimateflora. It is usually someone who has resodded in the last 4 years and has already tried at least 2 other companies.
    We are starting to see Jamur show up here. I like the color the best of all the local zoysias. It is more of a blue/green. So far, drought resistence and spring green up look good on it.
  3. billyandholly

    billyandholly LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    Thanks - very helpful!
  4. Landscape Poet

    Landscape Poet LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,638

    I picked up my first UltimateFlora Zoysia lawn this week. The chemical company that treats it is a good company, has lots of experience in handling zoysia very well, better than most IMHO.
    The lawn as a whole has some serious issues...many of which exhibit what Greg stated. In full sun it appeared that it was in drought stress. Did not appear to be recovering from Brown patch incurred in winter where as Empire or even St. Augustine would no longer have any signs of BP if properly managed this far into the season.

    The root system is also as Greg has described. The chemical company had take a plug out in two locations to inspect. Upon listening to the tech for the company explain it sounds like one area it was almost as if the lawn had never really grabbed. The other area the roots where reported to be less than a inch deep (this was the better of the two).

    I will report that on this lawn, it does appear that the Ultimate is doing much better than Empire would in full shade. Although not really thick, the property does have a acceptable stand under a large tree which provides dense shade. Dense enough shade that if I was being called for SA installation I would of recommend Seville or at least Palmetto.

    We will be reel cutting the lawn so I am hopeful that we can get it to be much denser by doing so, however it does concern me on the root system being so lackluster. The home owner has stated that they would be open to replacing the areas in full to good sun with empire if all else fails which may be ultimately the best solution but I refuse to suggest that until all other attempts have been made to save the existing turf.

    The chemical tech and myself spread a 40 lb bag of sand in one of the week areas to see if it helps density at all. Irrigation audit was done and it appears that coverage is good to very good in areas where the ultimate flora "appears" to be in drought stress.
  5. Keith

    Keith LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,979

    Wow, man! Thats some good info. Maybe this why I hate "Empire." You just described most of them I mow. 6" of rainfall over a few days and it looks good. Dries out for two and is all stressed out. I call it crackhead grass. If it doesn't get it's daily fix it flips out.
  6. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,122

    Maybe the rooting issues have something to do with nematodes. Ultimate Flora might be nematode sensitive and that problem shows up in residential areas. There's a whole host of subsurface pests I have to think about now that Diazinon is no longer legal. Zoysia also grows better at a pH range between 6-7. Deviations from that range just makes the grass more sensitive and hard to keep nice. Zoysia is found wild in Asia in extreme environments in the wild. However, under those conditions, the grass is not mowed alt all and people certainly do not expect it to look nice. I keep on hearing about how zoysia will tolerate salt, alkaline soil, acid soil, low fertility and drought. I know that I am not in the business of torture testing the grass or trying to do the bare minimum for political or financial reasons.
  7. bugsNbows

    bugsNbows LawnSite Member
    Messages: 170

    Nematodes are certainly a possibility but, it our experience, the nematodes typically take some time to develop damaging populations. Additionally, the damage / symptoms are sporadically occurring throughout the lawn. We have pulled some samples and sent them up to the Nematology lab. Some come back with Lance, Sting or Stubby Root, but without pattern or correlation to actual sites.The problematic UltimateFlora lawns went south from the get-go, and the symptoms were widespread. Additionally, this is usually muck grown sod and thus totally different from our sand based soils. One could conjecture that during the UltimateFlora breeding and development process some root involvement has occurred that (in the field) interferes with root initiation, development and tack-down. Our bottom line take away (so far) is that UltimateFlora is not a desirable variety for this locale. The Empire variety seems best for here primarily because it can tolerate rotary mowings... which is what is most often employed. I'd prefer to see reel mowers used, but it's not likely to become a widespread trend. As Greg stated Jamur is showing up and seems quite nice also.
  8. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,122

    I have the odd feeling that the most Mclane and Tru-Cut mowers are sold per capita in Hawaii. Any homeowner that is not mowing a weed patch has one and the majority of mowing people have reel mowers. How are the nutrient levels in the areas where the Ultimate Flora has trouble taking root? When people have actual sand in their yard, I stop trying to apply everything in 30-45 day shots, never mind a spread and forget. Rain and irrigation will leach much of what is broadcasted past the grass roots causing pollution. Now, a good practice that I follow should I be working with pure sand is to till in 6" of composted organic matter before grassing an area.
  9. bugsNbows

    bugsNbows LawnSite Member
    Messages: 170

    The predominately sandy soils here are rather devoid of OM. We have relatively high Phosphorus levels as it is mined nearby. Everything else pretty much has to be regularly supplied... kind of like hydroponic lawn maintenance! LOL. I sure wish these folks would use more reel mowers to deliver finer cuts rather than shredding everything to bits.
  10. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,122

    Got it. Too much P is just as bad as not enough. Lawns that have gotten too much 10-30-10 or 16-15-15 then have problems with micronutrient deficiencies. It is amazing how well grass grows when the fertilizer program includes monthly applications of liquid micronutrients. You know, I hate it when a zoysia variety is advertised as "can be mowed with a rotary". Those varieties that "can be mowed with a rotary" look better when cut with a reel at 1-11/2". Unless someone is keeping a lawn wet at night or it is raining constantly, I do not see large patch on zoysia in Hawaii. The only people that seem to have disease problems are the ones that have zoysia kept at over 11/2". A low cut reduces humidity in the turf canopy. Zoysia leaves are always very fibrous. Especially if the grass is on a starvation fertility program. What that means is shredding of the tips when mowing. Rotary mowers are dulled within seconds of use. The sand being vacuumed up into the blades hastens that process. Worse than that is usage of string on zoysia. A dull reel or a reel set for no contact and all of the relief angle cut off the blades is equally destructive. A reel set for zero contact and no relief is dull in an hour or two. That method of reel set up works on a golf course where the golf mechanic re grinds the blades every week and they are cutting bent or bermuda.

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