If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, warm-season grass that is perfect for southern lawns, centipede grass might be the right choice for you.
Centipede grass, with its fine texture and vibrant green color, has captured the hearts of gardeners seeking a beautiful, yet low-maintenance, lawn. Originating from Southeast Asia, this versatile grass has found its way into numerous gardens across the globe, offering a host of benefits and unmatched resilience.
This grass variety is characterized by its low growth habit, which makes it ideal for areas where you don’t want to mow frequently. It is also quite adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of soil and moisture conditions. Centipede grass is more shade-tolerant than Bermuda grass, but less tolerant of salt.
This type of grass requires very little fertilizer, infrequent mowing, and is even tolerant of moderate shade! But in order for your grass to grow well, it needs ample amounts of full sun.
Also keep in mind that centipede grass doesn’t tolerate heavy traffic, compacting, high soil pH, high phosphorus soils, low-potassium soils, excessive thatch, drought, or heavy shade.
In this article, we will discuss how to plant, grow, and care for centipede grass, so you can enjoy a beautiful, lush lawn.
Botanical Name: Eremochloa ophiuroides
Common Name: Centipede Grass
Plant Type: Grass
Hardiness Zones: 7-10 (USDA)
Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type: Well-drained, loamy soil
Soil pH: 5.5-6.5
Native Area: Southeast Asia
Centipede Grass Care
Centipede grass is a popular choice for homeowners who want a low-maintenance grass lawn that looks great year-round.
This warm-season grass is known for its ability to thrive in hot, humid climates, making it an ideal choice for those who live in the southern United States. However, like all grasses, centipede grass requires proper care and maintenance to stay healthy and lush.
Since centipede grass grows slowly, it’s important to keep weeds under control. Make sure you read the herbicide label carefully before you use one since centipede grass is sensitive to certain herbicides.
Centipede grass loves sunlight, but it can also tolerate partial shade. In fact, in areas where summers get very hot, some shade during the day can actually be beneficial.
That being said, the grass needs at least 6 hours of full sunlight each day to thrive. If you have trees or other structures that prevent sunlight from reaching your lawn, you might need to consider a different type of grass.
It’s also important to note that the amount of sunlight your lawn receives can impact its growth rate. If your lawn is in a shaded area, it may grow more slowly than a lawn that receives full sun.
This can be a good thing if you’re looking for a low-maintenance lawn, but if you want your grass to grow quickly, you’ll need to ensure that it’s getting enough sunlight.
One of the great things about centipede grass is that it can grow in a variety of soil types. However, it prefers moderately-acidic soils with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. Always fertilize and add lime or sulfur based on a soil test.
If your soil is too alkaline, you might need to amend it with sulfur or other acidifying agents. Additionally, centipede grass doesn’t do well in soils with high nutrient content, so avoid applying too much fertilizer or manure.
Also, keep in mind that a yellow appearance during the growing season indicates an iron deficiency due to excessive phosphorus and/or a high soil pH.
When it comes to soil preparation, it’s important to ensure that your lawn has good drainage. Centipede grass can’t tolerate standing water, so if your soil is heavy or poorly-draining, you might need to add sand or other materials to improve drainage.
You can also consider using raised beds or other landscaping features to improve drainage and prevent water from pooling on your lawn.
Centipede grass requires regular watering, especially during its establishment period. However, once the grass is well-established, it can survive long periods of drought. To ensure proper hydration, aim to water your lawn at least once a week, giving it about an inch of water each time. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to fungal growth and other issues.
One way to tell if your lawn needs water is to look for signs of stress, such as wilting or yellowing leaves. If you notice these symptoms, it’s time to give your lawn a good soaking. You can also use a moisture meter to determine how much water your lawn needs.
These devices can be purchased at most garden centers and are a great way to ensure that your lawn is getting the right amount of water.
Temperature and Humidity
Centipede grass is a warm-season grass that thrives in temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It is adapted to humid conditions and can tolerate high levels of moisture in the air. However, if you live in an area with very dry summers, you might need to supplement your lawn with periodic watering.
In addition to temperature and humidity, it’s important to consider the amount of foot traffic your lawn receives. Centipede grass is not as resilient as some other grass types, so if your lawn gets a lot of use, you might need to take extra steps to keep it healthy.
This can include limiting foot traffic, using lawn furniture or other features to protect high-traffic areas, and regularly aerating your lawn to improve soil health.
As we mentioned earlier, centipede grass doesn’t need a lot of nutrients to thrive. In fact, applying too much fertilizer can actually harm the grass and promote weed growth. I recommend applying a slow-release fertilizer in the spring, followed by a light application in the fall. This will provide your lawn with the nutrients it needs without overwhelming it.
It’s also important to note that fertilizing your lawn too early in the spring can lead to excessive growth, which can make it more difficult to mow and maintain. To avoid this, wait until your lawn has started to green up before applying fertilizer.
You can also consider using organic fertilizers, which are less likely to cause excessive growth and are better for the environment.
Types of Centipede Grass
There are several different varieties of centipede grass, each with its own unique characteristics.
TifBlair is a Centipede variety with superior cold tolerance. It is known for its drought resistance and low-maintenance properties.
This is a slow-growing grass that requires less mowing than other varieties, making it a popular choice for homeowners who want a low-maintenance lawn. It also has a deep root system, which helps it to withstand drought conditions.
Common centipede grass is the most widely planted variety of centipede grass. It is known for its low maintenance requirements and ability to grow in a variety of soil types.
Common centipede grass has a medium-green color and a fine texture, making it a popular choice for homeowners who want a lawn that looks good without requiring a lot of maintenance.
How to Grow Centipede Grass from Seed
If you’re starting a new lawn from scratch, growing centipede grass from seed is a cost-effective option. Not only is it affordable, but it’s also relatively easy to grow and maintain.
And while centipede grass seed may be expensive, but thanks to the low seeding rate it’s probably cheaper than vegetable planting when you account for time and labor. The recommended seeding rate is 4 ounces per 1000 square feet (sq ft).
Step 1: Prepare Your Soil
The first step to growing a healthy centipede grass lawn is to prepare your soil. Start by tilling the soil to a depth of 6 inches.
This will loosen the soil and make it easier for the roots to grow deep. Remove any rocks, weeds, or debris from the soil, as they can hinder the growth of your grass. Once you’ve cleared the area, level the soil with a rake to create an even surface.
Step 2: Choose the Right Seeds
When it comes to choosing the right seeds for your centipede grass lawn, it’s important to select a variety that is well-suited to your climate and soil type.
Look for seeds that are certified by your state’s department of agriculture, as they will be more likely to produce healthy, disease-resistant grass.
Step 3: Plant the Seeds
Once you’ve prepared your soil and chosen your seeds, it’s time to plant them. Spread the seeds evenly over the soil, using a seed spreader or your hands.
Be sure to cover the entire area, but avoid over-seeding, as this can lead to competition between the grass plants. Once you’ve spread the seeds, cover them with a thin layer of topsoil, no more than 1/4 inch deep.
Step 4: Water and Maintain
After planting your seeds, water the area well. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, as this can lead to fungal diseases. Water the area regularly, about once a week, until the grass is established.
Once the grass is established, you can reduce the frequency of watering to once every two weeks. Keep an eye out for weeds and remove them as soon as you spot them. Fertilize your lawn once a year, in the early spring, with a slow-release fertilizer.
Tips for Maintaining a Centipede Grass Lawn
While this type of grass is relatively easy to care for, there are a few things you can do to keep it healthy and vibrant.
Tip #1: Mow Your Lawn at the Right Height
One of the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy centipede grass lawn is to mow it at the right height. This grass should be kept at a mowing height of about 1.5 to 2 inches.
If you mow your lawn too short, you can stress the grass and make it more susceptible to disease. On the other hand, if you let it grow too tall, you may end up with a thatch problem.
Tip #2: Use a Sharp Mower Blade
Another important tip for maintaining a centipede grass lawn is to use a sharp, clean mower blade. Dull blades can tear or shred the grass blades, which can make your lawn look uneven and unhealthy. Make sure to sharpen your mower blade at least once a year to keep it in good condition.
Tip #3: Water Your Lawn Wisely
Centipede grass doesn’t require a lot of water, so it’s important to avoid overwatering your lawn. Too much water can lead to fungal growth and other problems.
Instead, water your lawn deeply once a week, and make sure the soil has a chance to dry out between waterings.
Tip #4: Aerate Your Lawn Once a Year
To keep your centipede grass lawn healthy, you should also aerate it once a year. This process involves poking small holes in the soil to improve soil compaction and promote root growth. Aeration can also help to reduce thatch buildup, which can be a problem in some lawns.
Tip #5: Keep Weeds at Bay
If you notice weeds or other invasive plants in your centipede grass lawn, it’s important to take action right away. Applying an herbicide can help to kill off weeds and prevent them from coming back. Just make sure to choose a product that is safe for use on centipede grass.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases for Centipede Grass
Centipede grass is a popular choice for homeowners due to its low maintenance and ability to thrive in warm climates. However, even with its resilience, this type of grass is still susceptible to certain pests and diseases.
Mole crickets are one of the most common pests that can infest centipede grass. These insects dig tunnels through the soil, causing damage to the grass roots and creating unsightly mounds on the lawn’s surface.
Spittlebugs are another pest that can cause damage to centipede grass. These insects create a frothy substance on the grass blades, which can cause discoloration and stunted growth.
White grubs are also a common pest that can infest centipede grass. These small, white larvae feed on the roots of the grass, causing significant damage and potentially killing the grass if left untreated.
To prevent these pests from infesting your centipede grass, it’s important to keep your lawn healthy and well-maintained. This can include regular mowing, avoiding over-fertilization, and providing adequate water and sunlight. Additionally, you can use insecticides specifically designed for these pests if an infestation occurs.
The most common problem for centipede grass is large patch which is also called brown patch. It’s a fungal disease that starts slowly but can kill areas of grass up to 20 feet. It is caused by a wide variety of factors, including too much nitrogen fertilizer or too much water, cool weather, a thatch layer of more than ½ inch, and poor drainage.
There are special fungicides available in the market to treat large patch, but it’s important to apply them in the fall when temperatures are below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dollar spot is another fungal disease that can affect centipede grass. This disease appears as small, silver dollar-sized patches of dead grass and can be caused by a lack of nitrogen or moisture.
To prevent these diseases from affecting your centipede grass, it’s important to maintain proper lawn care practices. This includes avoiding over-watering, promoting good air circulation, and using fungicides if necessary.
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Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa’s work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.