Different types of grass are meant for different environments. If you live in the southern United States and have year-long warm temperatures, you need a type of grass that won’t dry out. Learn more about centipede grass and how to best care for it.
Centipede grass? Drought-tolerant, centipede grass is a good variety for southern areas of the United States. It has shallow roots, so water deeply to encourage more growth. Fertilize twice per year.
What is centipede grass?
Considered warm-season grass, centipede grass is most commonly found in the southern United States, including Texas and Florida. The grass gets its name from the way it grows.
The grass has two parts: the stolons and the grass blades. Stolons grow horizontally across the ground and the blades stick up from them, creating a look reminiscent of centipedes.
Things you need to consider when handling centipede grass
Unfortunately, centipede grass only grows well in full sunlight. If you plant it in shady areas, it will not grow and instead bare patches can form, which will attract weeds.
Similarly, centipede grass is only meant for areas that have consistently warm temperatures. While it will survive winter with cooler weather, it will not survive in northern states that have freezing temperatures for the entire winter.
Don’t be worried when your centipede grass turns brown in the fall. This is a normal process that is triggered by falling temperatures.
As long as the winter isn’t severe for an extended period of time, centipede grass will come back to life in the spring.
Just be aware that if you have an especially cold winter that includes multiple freezing and thawing occurrences, your centipede grass can be negatively affected. This shouldn’t affect the entire yard but you may notice dead patches in the spring that need to be removed and replaced.
Technically, centipede grass does not go dormant over winter, so you will still need to care for it. If there isn’t a lot of rain in the forecast, you will need to water your grass to ensure it doesn’t die out.
Mow your centipede grass to a height of 1 to 2 inches. A larger height will provide more shade to the soil, which is key if you live in a very hot environment.
Centipede grass does not grow very quickly, so you should only have to mow your lawn once per week. If it has more water, it may grow faster.
One negative aspect of centipede grass is that it is susceptible to weed growth. There are, however, many steps you can take to minimize the damage.
Start by watering for long periods of time as this will force the grass roots to grow deeper to access the water. The stronger the grass is, the fewer weeds there will be, plus weed roots won’t be able to grow underneath the grass.
You should also fill in any bare patches with grass seed or sod immediately. As soon as there are bare patches in your lawn, weeds will take root and once they are in the area, will spread out as much as possible.
If you do find there are a lot of weeds in your centipede grass, the next step is to get rid of them. Pull the weeds out by hand, ensuring the entire root comes up.
It is easier to pull weeds when the soil is moist. Dry soil will encourage weeds to grow deeper in search of water, making it a lot harder to get them all up.
Unlike other types of grass, centipede grass can go for longer without needing to be fertilized. Aim to fertilize twice a year, usually in the spring and again in late summer.
When fertilizing, be sure to spread it out evenly so it doesn’t burn patches on your grass. Furthermore, you should water the grass really well so the fertilizer penetrates into the soil.
Too much fertilizer can actually lead to weakened centipede grass. It is more susceptible to cold shock, which can damage the blades.
If you aren’t sure if you have used too much fertilization, check the color of the grass. Centipede grass should be a medium green and if it is dark green, this means there is too much nitrogen in the soil.
One of the reasons centipede grass is so popular in southern regions is that it is drought resistant. It can go longer periods between watering than other varieties.
However, prolonged periods of drought can cause stress on centipede grass. If there isn’t enough water, it can turn a yellow or brown color and take on a wilted appearance.
When watering centipede grass, aim for slow and long. You want the water to penetrate deep into the soil. This way, the grass’s roots will stretch out to find the water source, making it stronger in the process.
Try to water your centipede grass in the early morning or early evening. If you water in the afternoon when it is the hottest, the water will evaporate faster.
Overall, centipede grass will grow in most soil conditions, although it does prefer slightly acidic soil. To determine if you need to amend your soil or if centipede grass is a good fit for your lawn, you can test your soil to determine the pH balance.
You don’t have to have the most fertile soil for centipede grass. If it is lacking in nutrients, a bi-annual application of fertilizer is all that is needed for the grass to grow.
Finally, to help your soil start out right, make sure there is a good layer of topsoil. Aim for at least 6 inches of topsoil so the centipede grass can easily grow its roots.
If your soil is heavily compacted, grass can be difficult to grow. If you aren’t able to add topsoil, consider rototilling the area to loosen the soil up.
What is the difference between centipede grass and Bermuda grass?
Both centipede grass and Bermuda grass do well in warm temperatures. However, there are some fundamental differences between the two varieties.
Bermuda grass is a lot tougher than centipede grass, so it is better for high-traffic areas. Centipede grass will develop bare patches if it is walked on too much.
Appearance-wise, Bermuda grass is green in color with hints of silver and grey to it. Centipede grass, on the other hand, is a light or medium green color.
The blades of Bermuda grass are thin and mostly smooth while centipede grass is coarser in texture. The blades of each grass species are about the same size, around 5 to 6 inches.
Another factor that sets the two types of grass apart is their root systems. Centipede grass is the more sensitive of the two, with a shallow root system, while Bermuda grass grows deeper, thus making it stronger.
What is the best time to plant centipede grass?
You can plant centipede grass by seed or sod but many people prefer the latter option. Centipede grass grows very slowly and can take up to two years before it really establishes itself. During this time, there will be more bare patches which will encourage weed growth.
On the other hand, if you start with sod, the centipede grass will already have a healthy thatch that should take well to your lawn. While it is the more expensive option, starting with centipede sod can be more economical in the long run as you don’t have to worry about applying more seed or spending hours weeding.
Whether you lay sod or seed, you should plan for a time when there is optimal rain. This can be limiting in warmer climates but late spring is normally an ideal time.
If there is no rain in the forecast, be sure to set your sprinkler up for consistent water. If grass seed dries out, it won’t grow and if sod dries out, it will be a large waste of money.
What is suitable for centipede grass?
Unfortunately, centipede grass is not as versatile as other varieties. Its main feature is that it can withstand hot temperatures, which is why it is so popular.
If you have a yard with children or dogs that frequently walk on it, centipede grass is not the best option. Bare patches can quickly develop from constant walking, which may necessitate you re-sodding your entire yard.
Will centipede grass choke out?
Centipede grass does not grow very quickly, so it will not choke out other weeds or grasses. In fact, the opposite is more likely to occur.
If you have Bermuda grass planted near centipede grass, it grows much faster and will choke it out. Similarly, many weeds are fast growing and if left unchecked, can choke out your centipede grass.
Centipede grass is a good variety to plant if you live in an area with a warm climate all year long. To encourage stronger roots, water deeply and remove any weeds in the area.