EMPIRE Zoysia Looks Great; Saves Money, Water

EMPIRE Zoysia Looks Great; Saves Money, Water

Reunion, Fla. -­ Developers and homeowners in Florida are discovering a new turfgrass that adds value to their property while saving landscape maintenance costs. EMPIRE® Zoysia, a new, patented variety of zoysiagrass developed by Sod Solutions, Inc. of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., has beendrawing rave reviews for its dense, fine texture, durability, and lush color. It’s also friendlier to the environment and easier to take care of.

“We have had great response from our owners,” says Mark Cole, director of golf course maintenance at Reunion Resort & Club of Orlando, a new resort community under development by Ginn Clubs & Resorts, where EMPIRE dominates the landscape. “They like the look and feel of EMPIRE because it is similar to the types of grass used in the North where many of our homeowners are from.”

Ginn has chosen EMPIRE exclusively for Reunion’s common areas, home sites, and even some areas on its golf courses. The grass performed so well at Reunion that the company has now specified EMPIRE for all 11 of its communities in Florida, South Carolina and the Caribbean.

“I fell in love with the look and I was really impressed with the performance,” said Kevin Clingerman, Ginn’s landscape manager. He found EMPIRE to be durable, versatile, tolerant to a variety of conditions, and less demanding than any variety of St. Augustine or bermudagrass.


As a resort community under construction yet populated and open for business, “We have to be green all the time, even if we don’t have all the infrastructure in place,” Clingerman said. At times, he said, the company had to lay the EMPIRE sod before it could install irrigation. The grass survived for as long as a month and always recovered shortly after the irrigation pipes were laid.

Barry McKently, director of landscape at Universal Studios Escape in Orlando, also attests to its durability.

“We put EMPIRE Zoysia in two of our theme parks and it’s doing great,” he said. “The grass is visually appealing and it holds up well in traffic. We’re very pleased.”


EMPIRE can be manicured with a professional reel mower at a height of less than 1/2 inch or it can be mowed every 7-­14 days by a homeowner at 1-­2 inches with a standard rotary mower.

“This is a great grass,” says Mark Cole, director of golf course maintenance for Ginn Clubs & Resorts. He notes that EMPIRE is in use on Reunion’s golf course roughs and a few tee boxes in shady locations, where it is being kept “pretty tight” (low mowing height) with pleasing results.

The grass does well in sandy loam, muck and clay soils.


Clingerman, the Ginn landscape manager, notes that EMPIRE has done well at many sites under a variety of conditions, including those with appreciable amounts of shade.

“We have put EMPIRE under trees, as well as in full sun,” he says. “We haven’t used any different maintenance regimen for the EMPIRE than we do for the bermudas—nothing special for it.”

Unlike most other varieties of zoysiagrass, EMPIRE tolerates high humidity and heat as well as drought and climates as cool as those found in the Carolinas, making it suitable for any part of Florida, including coastal areas.



Because of its drought tolerance, EMPIRE requires less water than most other grasses and is well suited to areas where water use is severely regulated. It also requires less fertilizer than St. Augustine or bermudagrasses.

After more than five years of testing, insects and disease have not been a significant problem and therefore EMPIRE has required fewer applications of insecticides and fungicides than other grasses. Because of its dense growth habit, weeds are rarely a problem in healthy stands, but the grass tolerates all common herbicides if needed.

Clingerman and Reunion were introduced to EMPIRE by Bethel Farms of Arcadia, Fla. Bethel produces plants, cattle, citrus, fertilizer and several varieties of turf, and currently has more than 150 acres of EMPIRE in production, with plans to expand to several hundred acres. Bethel is one of 29 producers in Florida licensed to grow EMPIRE. The company has expanded its EMPIRE acreage in the last two years in response to growing demand.

“We were one of the first growers in Florida to plant EMPIRE,” notes Will Nugent, Bethel’s president. “When we took it on, we saw right away the value that this grass has for our customers and our industry, especially with regard to water issues. EMPIRE needs less water while in production on the farm, and our customers tell us it needs less water after it’s installed and established at a job site.”

Bethel felt so strongly about EMPIRE that it offered it to Ginn Clubs & Resorts for trial with a guarantee that the grass would perform as promised: an offer almost unheard of in the sod production industry. After the initial trial period, Ginn Clubs & Resorts expanded EMPIRE installations at Reunion and its other properties.


Other large Florida communities embracing EMPIRE include Tesoro in Port St. Lucie; Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota; The Villages in Sumter County; and Sorrento Springs in Orlando. Sod Solutions estimates that EMPIRE growers have installed the grass at several thousand home sites and commercial developments in Florida.

Sod Solutions brought the grass from Brazil, where it had been discovered by Roberto Gurgel of Itograss Agricola in the 1990s. The South Carolina turfgrass developer brought EMPIRE to the U.S., patented it and offered it to selected growers in its network of producers licensed to grow and market its patented proprietary varieties of bermudas, St. Augustine and zoysiagrasses. EMPIRE is now in production in 14 U.S. states, Australia, and Brazil.

For a list of Florida growers currently producing EMPIRE, please visit the Sod Solutions Web site at www.sodsolutions.com. A brochure in pdf format with more information about EMPIRE also is available at the site for downloading.

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