Growing grass in warmer climates can be difficult. You need a variety of grass that is drought tolerant but will also be comfortable enough to walk over. Centipede grass is an excellent option for those living in the southern United States. Read on to learn when to plant centipede grass and how to maintain your lawn.
When to plant centipede grass: Centipede grass should be grown in warm, humid areas. Early spring is a good time to plant your centipede grass, as is late fall. The hot summer months should be avoided as the sun will dry out the seed whereas spring and fall typically have some precipitation that you can supplement with hand watering.
Planting Centipede Grass in Different Climates
Perhaps the best climate for centipede grass is a tropical climate. This grass is native to China, which can get quite humid, and can be found all over the southern United States.
The warm temperatures of a topical climate will promote the growth of centipede grass and if there is moisture in the air, it will mean less worrying about having to water the grass.
Centipede grass can grow in a dry climate as it is fairly drought resistant. However, in long stretches of no rain, you will need to water your grass.
Not watering your grass as often will leave your lawn heat-stressed and it can quickly turn brown. If you are trying to conserve water and are fine with a brown lawn, then you will be happy to know that your centipede grass will start to grow again once you water it.
While centipede grass can grow in a temperate climate, there are better varieties to choose from. Centipede grass can be a bit rough and there are different, softer grass varieties that will welcome the cooler temperatures of a temperate climate.
Even though a continental climate has very hot summers, which would lend themselves well to centipede grass, the very cold winters will shock it. Centipede grass prefers an even, all-year temperature and won’t survive freezing winters.
A polar climate is far too cold for centipede grass. It will not survive.
Benefits of Choosing Centipede Grass
Although centipede grass can take a few years to really establish itself, once it forms a thick layer, there is very little maintenance you need to perform. In fact, centipede grass is nicknamed “the lazy man’s grass” and is perfect for those who would rather spend their weekends on other tasks than lawn work.
There are two main categories of grass, warm-season, and cool-season. Centipede grass is actually one of the more popular varieties under the category of warm-season grasses.
This is because it holds up really well to drought conditions. While it will still need water during very hot temperatures, it is a good choice if you are trying to preserve water.
Thick when mature
Centipede grass is named after the way the roots and blades grow. These short stems grow up from the roots, also known as stolons, and give the appearance of long green caterpillars.
Once the grass is fully mature after two years, you will have a nice, thick lawn.
How to Plant Centipede Grass Seeds
There are two ideal times for planting centipede grass. You can do so in the early spring or the fall.
Centipede grass is meant for areas with hot climates so above all else, you don’t want to plant seeds in the summer. They will simply dry out and not germinate.
If you live in an area where you have a very mild winter, planting in the fall would be best. This will give your grass seed time to establish itself as you won’t be outside as much during the winter.
Seed vs Sod
Whenever it comes to planting grass, you need to first make a decision about whether to start with seed or sod. Grass seed is the more economical choice but grass sod is the easier choice.
With centipede grass, the seed is definitely an option but sod is slightly more convenient. It can take up to two years for a nice, thick hatch of grass to form and if you are worried about bare patches and the excursion of weeding, then starting with sod is a better option.
Those who opt for seed should start with a nice layer of soil. Use a spreader and lay the seed out first horizontally and then vertically for a nice, even distribution.
You can choose to leave the seeds on top of the soil or gently rake them in to partially cover them.
Centipede grass loves full sun. You don’t have to worry about it burning under a hot sun and in fact, it will grow a lot slower under shade.
In places such as Florida and Texas, you can regularly find centipede grass. It loves hot climates and if there is some humidity, all the better.
The one consideration with location is that centipede grass is not the best choice if you have a lot of activity on your lawn. Not only does it grow slowly for the first two years, so you should try to avoid walking on it, but it can easily be damaged by a lot of foot traffic.
If you have small children that want to regularly play in their backyard or you love to entertain, a more durable grass variety is recommended.
The best soil for centipede grass is dirt that is slightly acidic and has a sandy texture to it. If you are worried about your soil, it is best to test it before planting.
You also want a nice layer of fertile topsoil before planting centipede grass. Try to aim for 6 inches of quality topsoil as this will allow the roots of the grass to settle in and then grow in a thick manner.
How to Water Centipede Grass
After first planting your centipede grass, you will need to water it very well. Freshly laid grass seed will dry out if it is not kept moist, so water every day for the first week or so, at least until you start to see the grass sprouting.
Centipede grass is drought tolerant. Once it is established, you don’t have to water it too often, unless it is the height of summer.
Always try to water for a long time during a watering session. This will saturate the soil and force the grassroots further into the ground, making them stronger.
How to Grow Centipede Grass
In its first two years, centipede grass needs more care than when it is established. The most pressing issue is weeds.
Because it takes a while to grow in, there can be many bare patches if you decide to lay down centipede grass seed. Anywhere there are bare patches of grass, weeds will pop up.
The topic of weeding is a bit controversial at the moment. While herbicides are still available, they have the unattended side effect of interfering with important pollinators.
You will have to decide if you want to use a chemical herbicide or if you are prepared to get dirty and pull weeds by hand. Either way, weeding is essential in the first two years of growing centipede grass.
Unlike cool-weather grass that should not be mowed too short, the thick nature of centipede grass means tackling it in a different way. From late winter to late spring, you should mow to a height of 2 inches.
Then, you can get down to 1 or 1 ½ inches of mowing height by early summer. However, at the height of the hottest months of summer, allow your centipede grass to grow to 2 or 3 inches. This will provide more shade for your grass’s soil.
A nice aspect of the maintenance of centipede grass is that it needs less fertilizer than other varieties. In fact, if you over-fertilize your centipede grass, it will become frail and unhealthy.
The natural color of centipede grass is a light green to medium green color. A clear sign of over-fertilization is when this turns to dark green.
You only need to fertilize your centipede grass twice a year. The first fertilizing period should be in the spring and the second in early summer. If you are really worried about nutrients, you can add one more round of fertilizer in late summer.
How long does Centipede Grass take to grow?
Centipede grass grows very slowly. In fact, it can take up to two years for a solid layer of turf to form.
While you can start centipede grass out from seed in your lawn, if you are worried about bare spots, it is best to purchase rolls of sod and then lay them out.
In order to have a lawn that grows well, you need to match it with your climate. Centipede grass prefers hot, humid areas and will die off if exposed to freezing winter temperatures. Plant your centipede grass in either the spring or the fall and avoid planting in the hot summer months.