Centipede grass is a common warm-season grass for house lawns from South Carolina through Florida, and all the way up the Gulf Coast to Texas. The grass derives its name from the way the stolons develop into short, erect stems that resemble centipedes.
The grass grows slowly—it takes it about two years to form a solid turf—but it is low-maintenance, hence its nickname, “the lazy man’s grass”. The color is lighter than other warm-season turfgrasses. Centipede grass is not the best choice for backyards with lots of activity because it does not withstand high foot traffic well.
|Common Name||Centipede grass|
|Botanical Name||Eremochloa ophiuroides|
|Mature Size||2-5 in. tall|
|Soil Type||Sandy, silt, loamy|
|Hardiness Zones||7-10 (USDA)|
Centipede Grass Care
Centipede grass grows slowly, therefore it is important to keep the weeds under control. If you intend to apply a herbicide, carefully read the label to make sure that it can be used on centipede grass, as it is sensitive to certain herbicides.
It is advisable to start mowing established centipede grass at two inches in the spring and progressively lower the mowing height in tiny increments each time you mow to a final mowing height of 1.5 to 1 inch. Examine the grass after lowering the mowing height. Reset it to the former height if it seems naked or scalped.
Increase the mowing height by 1/4 to 1/2 inch during the hot summer months and when the weather cools down in the autumn to help preserve the grass.
Dethatch your centipede lawn when the thatch is thicker than ¼ inch.
Centipede grass need full sunshine to grow into a healthy lawn. It does not thrive in the shade.
The soil should be sandy and somewhat acidic. The grass does not grow well in high pH soils, therefore test the pH of your soil and acidify it if necessary before planting centipede grass.
While centipede grass requires little soil fertility, it does need at least six inches of topsoil to maintain turf development.
Saline soils are not suitable for centipede grass.
The reason it is not cultivated in the southwestern United States is because the dry soils in that region are more alkaline and lack iron, both of which are unsuitable conditions for centipede grass.
Centipede grass thrives in locations with less than 40 inches of annual rainfall, but it may exhibit indications of moisture stress, such as withering and discolouration, under drought circumstances. It should be watered to a depth of four to six inches when irrigated. Watering seldom and superficially will only result in unwanted shallow root development. You may need to water more regularly if your soil is sandy.
Temperature and Humidity
Centipede grass requires a warm, humid environment. It cannot withstand frigid temperatures.
When the temperatures drop in the autumn, it is typical for the grass to become brown. It returns to green as the temperatures rise in the spring or if there is a prolonged warm spell during the winter. However, hard freezes, particularly if they occur often, may cause harm, which emerges as patches of dead grass in the spring.
Centipede grass needs less fertilizer than most other turfgrasses.2 Giving it more fertilizer than it needs can have an adverse effect—the turf becomes more prone to cold injury. One telltale sign of over-fertilization is when the grass is dark green and not its naturally medium to light green color.
Generally, one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square foot annually is sufficient.2 Ideally, this amount is distributed equally over two to three fertilizations: the first one in the spring, and the second and third in the summer.
Types of Centipede Grass
- Centennial This grass is perfect for high-traffic locations like golf courses. It is resistant to a wide range of illnesses.
- Hammock This cultivar has a deep, rich hue and is drought tolerant.
- Oaklawn This slow-growing grass is blue-green in hue.
Growing Centipede Grass from Seed
Centipede grass may be produced from seed or purchased in the form of sod, plugs, or sprigs.
The best time to seed centipede grass is in May or June—the later you seed it, the more watering it will need during the summer, and the more susceptible it will be to cold injury. This is because the grass is not yet well established when the temperatures drop in the fall.
Per 1,000 square feet, seed one-quarter to one-third of a pound. Roll the dirt with a lawn roller if feasible. Water it sparingly, keep it wet, and follow the lawn-starting directions. Germination will take place between 14 and 28 days following sowing.
While winter maintenance is simple, there are a few things you should do to keep your centipede grass in good condition. Water your lawn if it hasn’t rained in a couple of weeks to keep it from becoming parched. Before the first frost, treat weeds and fertilize, and cut grass to a height of 2 inches. Throughout the winter, keep the 2-inch height.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
The most common issue is large patch, also called brown patch.3 It is 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 in the fall, winter or spring with soil temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees F, a thatch layer of more than ½ inch, and poor drainage. There are special fungicides available to treat large patch, but it is crucial to apply them in the fall when temperatures are below 70 degrees F.4
Established older turf can be affected by centipede grass decline. Its symptom is patches of grass that won’t turn green in the spring and eventually die. The disease is caused by a soil pH above 6.0, too much nitrogen fertilizer, lack of dethatching, and drought stress.5
Proper lawn care is essential for both disease prevention and control.
Common Problems With Centipede Grass
Centipede grass is typically low-maintenance and simple to grow, but there are a few common problems to be aware of.
You may see dead areas in your lawn after a cold winter. They may look to be lifeless or yellow. To address this, use a fertilizer with low nitrogen levels.
Weeds are not rare in centipede grass. If the weed roots grow deeper than the grass, pluck them out and treat the affected areas with weed killer.
- No, centipede grass does not go dormant and must be watered on a regular basis throughout the winter.
- Centipede grass is slow-growing.
- Yes, centipede grass is a resilient plant that needs little fertilizer and rarely mowing.