St. Augustine Grass Facts, Maintenance & Comparison

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The warm-season grass Stenotaphrum secundatum is also commonly known as buffalo turf in Australia. It is commonly seen in many areas of the south-eastern US, in South America, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and Australia. However, St. Augustine grass is not found in Hawaii, South Africa, or New Zealand.

Interested in other types of turf grass? Types of Turf Grass.

St. Augustine Grass Facts

St. Augustine Grass Types

There are multiple types of St. Augustine grass that you can choose from when seeding your lawn, and each will have their own sets of pros and cons. Some of the most popular types of St. Augustine grass include “Floralawn,” “Palmetto,” and “Bitter-Blue.” These generally can withstand colder temperatures without major problems.

Another popular type of St. Augustine grass is “Floratam.” This is the only type of St. Augustine grass that is not tolerant of the shade, which makes it a great option in sunny and bright areas, specifically in Florida.

Other popular options include “Sapphire,” which has a blue-green color, “Raleigh,” which is a great choice for homeowners who have soil with a high level of clay, and “Seville,” which does a great job retaining its color and is one of the few types that will tolerate droughts.

st augustine grass facts

Characteristics

St. Augustine grass features very broad and coarse leaves with large stems that tend to be flat. While it looks similar to Centipede grass, St. Augustine grass has a very pretty blue-green color that appeals to many people. This type of grass uses stolons to spread and will end up forming a dense and deep turf.

This grass grows very thick, similar to Bermuda grass, and does a great job at crowding out any weeds that may grow. Due to this, it is popular in areas where homeowners want to have a lawn that will easily crowd out weeds.

St. Augustine grass is a great option for pastures and ranches due to how well it grows. It is often used as a lawn, especially in coastal areas in the southern United States. While not as drought tolerant as Bermuda grass is, St. Augustine grass is a good option as it can withstand salt water conditions without damage and does a great job standing up to humidity and heat.

The best way to get fast and full coverage from St. Augustine grass is to use sod or plugs. They are the fastest way to establish a lawn, and while you can grow this grass from seed, it will result in a better-looking lawn without problems.

Climate

As St. Augustine is a warm-season grass, it grows primarily in warmer locations. While it does go dormant in the winter, during its growing season it is able to withstand humidity and higher temperatures that are so common in the deep South.

While different types of St. Augustine grass will be able to better handle certain temperature fluctuations and growing conditions, they all grow well in warmer, humid, and even marine environments.

st augustine grass shade and sun

Shade and Sun Tolerance

This is one of the most shade tolerant types of grass that is commonly used in the deep south. While it does do well in full sun, St. Augustine grass can easily survive in partial shade conditions, making it a great option for homeowners.

Because St. Augustine does so well in the shade, many people think that it won’t stand up to sun very well, but this grass does. It can easily handle shady and sunny conditions without being killed or browning, which is great when homeowners have trees around their yard and need a type of grass that will work well in both conditions.

Temperature Tolerance

While St. Augustine grass can easily withstand hot and humid climates and temperatures without being damaged, it is not a very cold hardy grass and can easily be damaged and killed. In fact, it will tend to start browning at the first sign of cold weather.

To enjoy the best results when first planting St. Augustine grass, you will want to make sure that you plant it during warmer spring and summer months. It’s a good idea to wait until the temperature is between 80F and 100F for the fastest growth.

Plugs and sod need to be planted a minimum of 90 days before the first fall frost in your area so that the grass can become well established.

Drought Tolerance

To maintain the attractive green color of your St. Augustine grass, you need to make sure that your lawn receives about one inch of water every week. It’s easy to tell when your grass is getting too dry as the leaf blades will curl and there will be gray spots in your yard.

If you lay sod in your yard, then you need to make sure that you take the time to fully establish the sod, and this involves regular watering. Sod needs to be watered at least twice a day so that the soil is damp to one inch. Continue these twice daily waterings for around 1.5 weeks.

After 1.5 weeks, reduce watering to once a day, then at 2.5 weeks reduce again to once every two or three days. This should get your new grass established, at which time you can water as needed.

Wear Resistance

Unlike other types of grass, St. Augustine grass does not do a good job standing up to wear and tear. This means that you don’t want to plant it in pathways or in lawns where the grass will get a lot of use.

This also explains why St. Augustine grass is not used in parks or sports fields, as it will quickly be ruined and will take a while to grow back.

St. Augustine Grass Maintenance

Understanding how to maintain your new grass is important so that you don’t waste time and money on your lawn. When you understand the care of your St. Augustine grass, your yard will look the best possible.

Incorrect care will result in grass that is patchy, cut so short that it has trouble growing, or that is invaded by weeds. While St. Augustine grass can easily choke out weeds that try to grow in the yard during its active growing season, it’s common for weeds to invade during the dormant period.

When this occurs, homeowners need to use a pre-emergent herbicide and also be willing to remove broadleaf weeds, by hand, if necessary.

mowing the lawn in spring

Mowing and Thatching

There are no hard and fast rules for how often you need to mow your St. Augustine grass, as the height and speed at which the grass grows will really depend on the nutrients in the soil, the moisture, and the temperature. Grass that is established will likely require bi-weekly mowing in the spring and will need to be mowed every five or six days by the end of the summer.

It’s important that you only mow St. Augustine grass when it has reached three inches in height and be careful that you only remove 1/3 of the growth at any given time.

Once there is more than .5” of thatch, you need to make sure that you use equipment with vertical blades that can be adjusted to at least 3” between the blades so you don’t permanently damage your grass. Only dethatch when the grass is growing, and then give it fertilizer to help it recover.

Soil and Fertilizer Needs

Before putting down sod, you need to make sure that you test your soil to see what nutrients it has. St. Augustine grass can tolerate even clay and sandy soils and is okay in a wide pH range of 5.0 to 8.5, as long as there are ample nutrients in the soil

Nitrogen fertilizers are a great option for St. Augustine grass when you want to increase the growth rate of your lawn. As a heavy feeder, you need to apply one pound of nitrogen for each 1,000 square feet of lawn, every month, to keep your lawn nice and green.

Best Fertilizer for St. Augustine Grass

It’s important to pay attention to how much nitrogen there is in the fertilizer that you put on your St. Augustine grass. Use a soil test to determine how much phosphorus and potassium is present in your soil.

If there is plenty of phosphorus and potassium present in the soil, then you can use a 20-0-0 fertilizer or a 10-0-0 fertilizer, which only contain nitrogen. Otherwise you will want to use 10-5-5 or similar fertilizer to increase the phosphorus and potassium.

St. Augustine Grass Fertilizer Schedule

When you apply fertilizer to your lawn and it’s not actively growing, then you are just wasting the fertilizer. It’s also a good idea to avoid fertilizing your lawn during the very hot summer, as the grass is already stressed and going dormant.

Applying too much fertilizer to your lawn will cause the grass to grow extra full and lush, which can look great, but leave your lawn open to attack from pests. On the other hand, not fertilizing once a month will cause your grass to grow slowly.

Disease, Weed, and Insect Control

The main problem that homeowners run into with St. Augustine grass is that it is very sensitive to chinch bugs. You can tell if you have these bugs as your grass will wilt and brown. Applying an insecticide right away is the best way to get rid of these bugs and improve your grass.

While weeds aren’t usually a problem during the growing season, weeds can easily invade your lawn during the dormant period. At this time, you need to use a pre-emergent herbicide to tackle the weeds. Otherwise, you will need to manually remove weeds.

st augustine grass compared

St. Augustine Grass Compared

St. Augustine grass is often compared to Centipede, Zoysia, and Bahia grasses. Make sure that you know the similarities and differences in these types of grasses so that you can choose the right one for your lawn.

St. Augustine Grass vs Centipede Grass

Neither of these two types of grasses are tolerant to a lot of foot traffic, which means that they are better suited to being used in decorative areas, not in fields, walkways, or yards where families will be enjoying a lot of outdoor activity.

While St. Augustine grass is very high maintenance, Centipede grass is incredibly low maintenance. It only requires fertilizer once a year and periodic mowing for the best growth and appearance.

Both of these grasses are warm-season grasses and will become damaged and die in colder weather. Between the two, Centipede grass looks more polished and smoother than St. Augustine grass does, as it can look a little messy and unkempt. source

St. Augustine Grass vs Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass is generally much more expensive than St. Augustine grass is, and part of the cost is in preparing the soil for growth. This grass requires silica sand and peat moss to grow its best, while St. Augustine doesn’t require nearly as much preparation.

Zoysia grass loves full sun and lots of rain, while St. Augustine grass is much more tolerant of shade. Additionally, some zoysia cultivars tend to establish very quickly, making it great for homeowners in a hurry.

Both of these types of grass need regular maintenance and mowing, as well as fertilizing and watering. source

St. Augustine Grass vs Bahia Grass

Both St. Augustine and Bahia grass grow very well in warm areas that have milder temperatures during the winter and have a lot of sun. Bahia grass is not as attractive as St. Augustine grass is, and tends to look sparse if not taken care of on a regular basis.

However, Bahia grass does not require nearly as much care as St. Augustine grass does. While it does need mowing, watering, and fertilization, it is much more tolerant of drought. Over-watering or over-fertilizing can actually kill your Bahia grass. It is important to mow it regularly to prevent the Y-split grass from looking like weeds in your yard.One major consideration with these two types of grass is that Bahia is generally more durable and has fewer pest problems, while St. Augustine grass tends to have major pest problems. source

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