St. Augustine and Centipede grass are perhaps the most popular choices for having a lawn in warmer climates.
Both are tough, and the aesthetic appeal is top-notch. The two share many positive traits, while they also differ in some aspects.
In this article, you will learn about the key differences between Centipede grass and St. Augustine so you can choose the one that is right for your situation.
Quick Look Of The Differences
Centipede and St. Augustine grass mainly differ in the environment requirements, durability, care, and color. The two have different shades of green. When it comes to care and maintenance, both are very manageable even for your average homeowner. Below is a quick look at how the two grass types differ.
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Centipede Grass – What You Need To Know
Scientifically known as Eremochloa buse, Centipede grass is low growing and medium textured. What most people love about Centipede Grass is it produces a weed-free and dense turf. It’s aggressive growing nature, and little maintenance also makes it an attractive choice.
When it comes to cold tolerance, Centipede grass scores a point versus St. Augustine grass. However, Centipede grass is less forgiving when it comes to shade tolerance as it requires at least six hours of sunlight a day.
Despite being an aggressive grower, Centipede grass is still easy to contain as it only produces “surface runners.” Even using bed liners is enough to contain growth and spread.
Since it’s very popular, Centipede grass is easily accessible. Most sod farms will carry it. Another key difference is it requires lesser maintenance and care versus the St. Augustine.
However, Centipede grass also has a couple of downsides. Mainly, most of its issues are more problematic and long-lasting when compared to St. Augustine grass.
Below are the most common serious problems with Centipede grass.
- Grub bugs larvae
- Nutrient changes
- Centipede grass decline
Centipede Grass Decline
Centipede grass suffers a phenomenon known as centipede grass decline. It’s among the least understood phenomena with Centipede grass as it’s not a disease. Centipede grass decline is also easily mistaken with other issues.
Centipede grass decline manifests on lawns that are at least three years old. The tell-tale sign is the patches of yellowing.
Eventually, the yellowing patch will die off if left uncared.
Centipede grass decline may be caused by negligence or naturally-occurring causes. To avoid this from happening, it’s best that you:
- Provide the right amounts of moisture
- Avoid mowing with a height of fewer than two inches
- Do not allow thatch to build up.
- Adopt a good yard maintenance routine
- Do a soil test from time to time
Nutrient And Soil Changes
Centipede grass is particularly sensitive to the state of the ground it’s laid upon. Changes in the nutrients can be very detrimental, as well as soil PH. Thankfully, you can easily monitor these factors.
Keep in mind that Centipede grass prefers more acidic soil that’s around 5.5 PH level. Anything too high or too low may cause yellow patches or grass deterioration.
Aside from the PH level, there are also other essential factors to watch out when caring for Centipede grass such as:
- Too little or too much of phosphorus
- Too little or too much of nitrogen
- Low iron levels
- Low potassium levels
Iron Chlorosis, which is an iron deficiency, will also cause yellow patching.
Centipede Grass Pest Problems
Centipede grass is very susceptible to nematodes. They are mostly found in sandy soil. The bad news is that there are no known treatments. On the upside, the adverse effects of nematodes can be mitigated by keeping your Centipede grass healthy.
Grub bugs are another problem for Centipede Grass.
Thankfully, it’s less deadly than the nematodes. These larvae feed on the grassroots, causing a plethora of problems. The good news is that grub bugs larvae can be treated if it becomes too problematic.
Lastly, you want to soak your Centipede grass when watering. A sprinkler system is a good idea.
This allows the water to reach the lower parts of the soil. As a result, the Centipede grass will grow deeper roots to “chase” the water. This is important as Centipede grass tends to develop shallow roots.
St. Augustine Grass
Scientifically known as Stenotaphrum secundatum, St. Augustine Grass is well-known for its fine-textured grass, which is similar to Bermuda grass. It also features broad blade grass and a unique blue-green color. The stems are wide and flat.
When all of these combined, you’ll have turf that is dense, deep, and a unique color hue.
St. Augustine does not require so much sunshine, which makes it an excellent choice if you are working with a shady area.
St Augustine is a grass that works really well for warm climates.
Keep in mind that St. Augustine is typically not planted through seeds, and it’s because this grass seldom produces seeds that are viable for planting. Thus, a sod or plug are your main options.
Also, St. Augustine grass is very susceptible to chinch bugs. In fact, it can quickly die from it. Fortunately, chinch bugs are easily controlled through the use of insecticides.
Keep in mind that if you have just sodded the St. Augustine grass, you must do the watering multiple times a day.
Once the roots are established, you can then reduce watering to one-fourth up to one-half an inch per day. As the St. Augustine grass becomes more established, you can further tone down the watering.
When it comes to St. Augustine grass, there are actually three sub-types that are popular. These are the Bitter-blue, Palmetto, and Floratam.
Most would consider the Bitter-blue as one of the best types of St. Augustine grass. It produces a turf that is denser and finer when compared to the original. Also, it features a darker shade of the blue-green color.
Bitter-blue also comes with a better shade and cold tolerance. Having said that, it still falls in the “medium” category in the shade tolerance department. When it comes to hot weather and salt tolerance, this type has good tolerance to both.
Bitter-blue is still susceptible to chinch bugs, and has an even lower tolerance to a weed killer chemical known as atrazine. As a result, you may have a hard time controlling the weeds if you rely on commercial weed killers.
This low tolerance to atrazine also causes it to be unpopular with sod production farms. Hence, availability may be a bit difficult.
The Palmetto offers a different kind of turf appeal with its finer texture and better color hue. It’s mostly considered as a “semi-dwarf” grass, which produces a plush turf without having to worry about the area becoming thatchy.
When it comes to the grass blade, the Palmetto features similar traits with the Bitter-blue. However, it’s finer compared to the Floratam. The grass is soft to touch thanks to the rounded ends of the grass blades.
Palmetto is widely known to be an evergreen grass.
Thus, it’s perfectly at home with colder climates as long as there’s no hard frost. After repeated exposures to hard frost, the Palmetto has a tendency to become dormant.
The Palmetto is perhaps the most drought-tolerant from the St. Augustine grass varieties. While it will still wilt without access to enough water, it has the ability to recover quickly once exposed to water.
Also, Palmetto is the most shade-tolerant when compared to the other two St. Augustine grass types.
The Floratam variety was originally developed for the purpose of having a turf that is resistant to chinch bugs and the SAD virus.
While it’s possible that the original Floratam may have succeeded in this goal, but the present ones are “weaker.” In fact, it’s still a variety that is very susceptible to chinch bugs.
The Floratam features grass blades that are longer and wider compared to the other St. Augustine grass types.
Perhaps the most appealing trait of the Floratam is the unique purplish-red color of the stolons. The stolons are also larger, which makes the unique color more visible.
The recommended mowing height is about one inch.
The Floratam is a very fast-growing variety, and may even extend their stolons up to three-fourths of an inch per day.
Wrapping It All Up
Both the St. Augustine and Centipede grass are favorable to most people as they are forgiving to lawn care mistakes. Centipede grass may have a slight edge for people who are not fond of maintenance as it requires less mowing than the St. Augustine grass.
The Centipede is also a bit favorable if you have a large area. This is because you can simply use seeds, and it’s an inexpensive process.
With the St. Augustine, you will have to sod, and that will usually mean higher costs. Despite that, the Centipede is not always a better choice.
In the end, it’s hard to make a massive blunder if you choose between the two grass types. It all boils down to your personal preference and the small differences between the pros and cons.