The Complete Guide to Growing and Maintaining St. Augustine Grass

The Complete Guide to Growing and Maintaining St. Augustine Grass - My Store
St. Augustine Grass is the secret to achieving a lush, verdant lawn that homeowners dream of. Its rich green appearance and adaptability make it a top choice for many. In this guide, we'll dive deep into the world of St. Augustine Grass, exploring its characteristics, pros and cons, and providing expert advice on planting and maintenance. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or new to lawn care, this article is your key to cultivating a stunning St. Augustine Grass lawn.

What is St. Augustine Grass?

St. Augustine Grass, scientifically identified as Stenotaphrum secundatum, is a highly versatile turfgrass variety sought after for its exceptional characteristics, making it an excellent choice for creating lush and vibrant lawns. This grass is renowned for its lush, dark green color, which creates an inviting and picturesque lawn. While it has a medium-coarse texture, what sets it apart is the softness to the touch, making it perfect for family activities and barefoot walks. According to Richard L. Duble, Turfgrass Specialist, at Texas Cooperative Extension, "Because of its lack of winter hardiness, St. Augustine grass is restricted to areas with mild winter temperatures. Like bermudagrass, St. Augustine thrives in high temperatures, but the growth of St. Augustine is better than that of bermudagrass in cool, coastal climates. " Botanical Name: Stenotaphrum secundatum Common Names: St. Augustine grass, buffalo grass, carpet grass, couchgrass, quickgrass, wiregrass, mission grass, pimento grass, Charleston grass Family: Poaceae Plant Type: Herbaceous, perennial Mature Size: 6 to 12 inches tall Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade Soil Type: Well-drained Soil pH: Acidic, neutral, alkaline Hardiness Zones: 7-12 (USDA) Native Area: North America, South America, Caribbean, Africa, Asia

Characteristics of St. Augustine Grass

A sprinkler spraying water on a green lawn Growing Conditions St. Augustine Grass adapts well to specific growing conditions: Soil Type: This grass is versatile and can thrive in various soil types, provided they have moderate fertility and good drainage. Soil pH: It prefers slightly acidic (pH < 7) to neutral (pH > 7) soil, with an ideal pH around 6.5. Always follow soil test recommendations for the best results. Light: While it performs best in full sun, it can tolerate moderate shade. Growth Rate: This grass spreads rapidly and vigorously through stolons, resulting in a dense and luxurious lawn. Shade Tolerance St. Augustine Grass's exceptional feature is its impressive shade tolerance. It thrives in shaded areas, making it a top choice for yards with trees or structures casting shadows. This unique trait allows homeowners to enjoy a beautiful lawn even in areas with limited sunlight. Drought Resistance While maintaining its lush appearance, St. Augustine Grass showcases notable drought resistance. This quality becomes especially valuable during dry spells, as it helps homeowners conserve water while still enjoying a verdant lawn.

Common Types of St. Augustine Grass

Floratine St. Augustine Grass stands out from other varieties due to its striking lush green color, fine texture, and exceptional drought resistance. Thriving in hot and humid climates, Floratine is the top choice for regions with scorching summers. Its ability to maintain its vibrant green appearance even during dry spells sets it apart, providing homeowners with a resilient and visually appealing lawn that can withstand the challenges of hot weather. Floratam St. Augustine Grass is another beloved variety, known for its distinct qualities. With its coarse texture and vibrant green color, Floratam adds an attractive visual dimension to your lawn. What truly sets it apart is its exceptional resistance to pests, particularly chinch bugs. Flourishing in full sun, this grass thrives in warm and sunny locations, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a robust grass type capable of enduring both the elements and potential pest challenges. Bitterblue St. Augustine Grass stands out with its unique characteristics. With its deep green color and dense growth, it creates a lush and luxurious lawn. What truly sets it apart is its impressive cold tolerance, making it an ideal choice for regions with chilly winters. If you're a homeowner in an area where winters can be harsh, Bitterblue is the go-to option to ensure your lawn remains vibrant even during the colder months, adding beauty to your landscape year-round. Seville St. Augustine Grass is celebrated for its distinctive features. With a finer texture and dense growth, it establishes a plush and visually appealing lawn. Notably, Seville shines with its remarkable shade tolerance, making it the perfect pick for yards with partial shade. To keep Seville at its best, regular mowing and proper watering are essential maintenance tasks, ensuring your lawn remains beautiful and healthy. Sapphire St. Augustine Grass is a choice made for distinct reasons. With its exceptional color and texture, it brings elegance to any lawn. Sapphire stands out for its excellent performance in both full sun and partially shaded areas, making it a versatile choice for homeowners. To maintain the vibrancy of Sapphire St. Augustine Grass, it's crucial to ensure it receives adequate sunlight and regular maintenance, allowing you to enjoy a lush and attractive lawn. Delta Shade St. Augustine Grass earns high praise for its exceptional shade tolerance. This variety excels in shaded areas, making it a top choice for homeowners with lawns under trees or structures that limit sunlight. The benefits of Delta Shade are clear—it ensures your lawn remains green and attractive even in conditions where other grass types might falter, allowing you to enjoy a lush outdoor space without compromising on aesthetics. Delmar (Dwarf) St. Augustine Grass is celebrated for its shorter height, making it the perfect choice for landscapes where a lower-maintenance, compact grass is desired. Its versatility shines as it thrives in both sunny and partially shaded areas, catering to various landscaping needs. Whether you seek a neat and manageable lawn or have a mix of sunlight conditions, Delmar (Dwarf) St. Augustine Grass offers an excellent solution for your landscaping preferences. Captiva (Dwarf) St. Augustine Grass shares the same lush green appearance as its counterparts but with a more compact growth habit, ideal for those seeking a well-maintained, smaller lawn. It thrives in various conditions, performing well in both full sun and partial shade, ensuring suitability for a wide range of landscapes. Whether you desire a tidy and manageable lawn or have diverse sunlight patterns, Captiva (Dwarf) St. Augustine Grass offers an excellent choice to meet your landscaping needs.

Pros and Cons of St. Augustine Grass

Pros of St. Augustine Grass Lush Green Appearance St. Augustine Grass provides a visually appealing and lush green carpet-like appearance to your lawn. Its vibrant color enhances curb appeal, creating an inviting outdoor space that's perfect for relaxation and outdoor activities. Heat Tolerance This grass variety exhibits impressive heat tolerance, making it well-suited for regions with scorching summers. It can thrive in high-temperature environments, maintaining its green and healthy appearance even during the hottest months. Pest Resistance St. Augustine Grass is relatively resistant to common lawn pests, such as chinch bugs. This natural resistance reduces the need for frequent pesticide applications, contributing to a safer and eco-friendly lawn. Fast Growth Lawn mower cutting grass on a lawn One of the standout advantages of St. Augustine Grass is its rapid establishment. It quickly fills in bare spots in your lawn, ensuring a consistently dense and beautiful turf. Cons of St. Augustine Grass Water Requirements St. Augustine Grass has relatively high water needs, which can lead to increased water consumption. To mitigate this, homeowners can:
  1. Implement Smart Irrigation Systems: Invest in smart irrigation systems that feature automated scheduling, rain sensors, and soil moisture sensors. These systems help ensure your lawn receives the right amount of water, avoiding overwatering or underwatering while promoting water conservation.
  2. Water Deeply and Infrequently: Encourage deep root growth and reduce evaporation by adopting a practice of deep and infrequent watering. This helps the grass develop strong, drought-resistant roots.
  3. Use Mulch in Garden Beds: Applying mulch in garden beds surrounding your lawn can help retain soil moisture and minimize water runoff, contributing to a more water-efficient lawn care approach.
Susceptibility to Disease Common lawn diseases, such as brown patch and gray leaf spot, can affect St. Augustine Grass. To prevent or address these issues:
  1. Ensure proper lawn care practices, including regular mowing and aeration.
  2. Choose disease-resistant St. Augustine Grass varieties.
  3. Apply fungicides as a last resort and consult with a lawn care professional for guidance.
Maintenance Demands St. Augustine Grass does demand some maintenance to keep it in top shape. Homeowners can efficiently manage these demands by:
  1. Mowing at the recommended height of 1 1/2 to 3 inches.
  2. Performing routine thatch removal and aerification.
  3. Following a seasonal maintenance schedule that includes fertilization, weed control, and insect control.

St. Augustine vs. Other Types of Grass

St. Augustine Grass vs. Bermuda Grass

men playing golf on a course next to the ocean
  • Growth Patterns and Climate Suitability:
    • St. Augustine Grass: Lush, vibrant green appearance, medium-coarse texture, suited for hot to warm climates (USDA zones 8-11).
    • Bermuda Grass: Fine texture, creates a manicured look, thrives in hot and sunny regions (USDA zones 7-10).
  • Maintenance Requirements and Appearance:
    • St. Augustine Grass: Requires regular mowing, fertilization, and irrigation. Offers a green lawn with versatile aesthetics.
    • Bermuda Grass: Demands frequent mowing, generally consumes less water, and provides a manicured, fine-textured appearance.

St. Augustine Grass vs. Centipede Grass

  • Growth Patterns and Climate Suitability:
    • St. Augustine Grass: Medium-coarse texture, rich green color, ideal for hot climates (USDA zones 8-11).
    • Centipede Grass: Coarse texture, light green color, thrives in regions with mild winters and hot summers (USDA zones 7-10).
  • Maintenance Requirements and Appearance:
    • St. Augustine Grass: Requires regular maintenance, offers a rich green appearance suitable for diverse landscaping.
    • Centipede Grass: Demands minimal maintenance, provides a unique, more naturalistic look.

St. Augustine Grass vs. Zoysia Grass

  • Growth Patterns and Climate Suitability:
    • St. Augustine Grass: Medium-coarse texture, lush green color, excels in hot climates (USDA zones 8-11).
    • Zoysia Grass: Fine texture, dense growth, adaptable to various climates, including cold winters (USDA zones 5-11).
  • Maintenance Requirements and Appearance:
    • St. Augustine Grass: Requires regular maintenance, enhances curb appeal with a vibrant green lawn.
    • Zoysia Grass: Demands less frequent mowing and maintenance, delivers beautiful aesthetics and a distinct charm.

St. Augustine Grass vs. Buffalo Grass

Green grass with trees in the background
  • Growth Patterns and Climate Suitability:
    • St. Augustine Grass: Medium-coarse texture, vibrant green color, suitable for hot climates (USDA zones 8-11).
    • Buffalo Grass: Fine texture, light green color, ideal for regions with hot summers and cold winters (USDA zones 5-9).
  • Maintenance Requirements and Appearance:
    • St. Augustine Grass: Requires regular maintenance, enhances curb appeal with a vibrant lawn.
    • Buffalo Grass: Requires minimal maintenance, provides a naturalistic and relaxed lawn ambiance.

How to Plant St. Augustine Grass

Planting St. Augustine Grass from Plugs/Sods

Soil Preparation Assess Your Soil: Conduct a soil test to determine the pH level and nutrient content. St. Augustine Grass prefers soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH (around 6.5). Clear the Area: Remove any existing grass, weeds, rocks, or debris from the planting area. This ensures a clean slate for your new grass. Amend the Soil: Based on your soil test results, amend the soil with the appropriate nutrients and organic matter. Incorporate compost or well-rotted organic material to improve soil fertility and drainage. Spacing and Installation Measure Spacing: Determine the spacing between plugs or sod pieces. Typically, spacing should be about 12 to 18 inches apart for plugs and staggered like brickwork for sod. Install Plugs/Sods: Plant St. Augustine Grass plugs or sod pieces in rows, ensuring they are snugly fitted into the prepared soil. Water thoroughly after installation to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Watering: Keep the newly planted plugs or sod consistently moist for the first few weeks to encourage root establishment. Gradually reduce watering frequency as the grass becomes established.

Growing St. Augustine Grass From Seed

Soil Preparation Follow the same steps as laid out above for soil preparation. Seeding Process Select Quality Seed: Choose high-quality St. Augustine Grass seed that suits your local climate and soil conditions. Seed Application: Broadcast the seed evenly over the prepared soil. Ensure even coverage by dividing the seed into two equal portions and sowing in perpendicular directions. Rake and Roll: Lightly rake the soil surface to incorporate the seed into the topsoil. Afterward, gently roll the area with a lawn roller to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Watering: Water the seeded area thoroughly but gently, using a fine mist or gentle spray. Maintain consistent soil moisture throughout the germination period. Germination Period: St. Augustine Grass seed typically germinates within 10 to 14 days. During this period, avoid heavy foot traffic on the newly seeded area. Establishment: As the grass seedlings grow, gradually reduce watering frequency but ensure they receive enough moisture to encourage root development.

How to Care for St. Augustine Grass

January through April Mowing: Set your lawnmower to a height of 1 1/2 to 3 inches for St. Augustine Grass during early spring. Mow as needed, avoiding removing more than one-third of the grass blade at a time. Thatch Removal: Check for thatch buildup; if it exceeds half an inch, consider dethatching. Thatch removal enhances water and nutrient penetration. Aerification: Improve soil compaction and root development with spring aerification. Use a lawn aerator for this task to allow air and water to reach the roots effectively. Weed Control: Combat weed growth by applying pre-emergent herbicides early in the season. For existing weeds, consider post-emergent herbicides or manual removal. Insect Control: Keep an eye out for common pests like chinch bugs and white grubs. Employ insecticides or nematodes if infestations are detected. Fertilization: Start fertilizing in late February or early March with a balanced fertilizer. Opt for a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratio. Follow recommended application rates. Irrigation: Adjust watering based on weather conditions. St. Augustine Grass prefers deep, infrequent watering, aiming for 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, including rainfall. Water in the morning to reduce fungal issues. May through August Mowing: Maintain the recommended mowing height of 1 1/2 to 3 inches. Frequent mowing may be required during the peak growing season. Fertilization: Apply slow-release nitrogen fertilizer in late spring or early summer for sustained growth. Ensure even coverage and avoid fertilizing during drought. Irrigation: Increase watering frequency in response to rising temperatures. Deep watering promotes robust root development. Water early or late in the day. Insect Control: Watch for signs of insect infestations, particularly yellowing or browning patches. Implement pest control measures promptly if necessary. Disease Control: St. Augustine Grass can be susceptible to fungal diseases in hot and humid conditions. Use fungicides preventively or as directed if disease symptoms appear. Weed Control: Continue monitoring and managing weeds, as they compete for water and nutrients. September through December Mowing: Gradually lower the mowing height to 2 to 2 1/2 inches in the fall to prepare for winter. Fertilization: Apply a potassium-rich fertilizer in late summer or early fall to boost root health and cold tolerance. Avoid late fall fertilization. Irrigation: Reduce watering frequency as temperatures cool. Continue deep watering, ensuring the grass dries before evening to prevent fungal problems. Insect Control: Keep an eye on insect activity, especially in early fall, and treat as needed to safeguard your lawn. Disease Control: Remain vigilant for fungal disease signs. Implement proper lawn care practices, such as avoiding overwatering and enhancing air circulation, to prevent issues. Weed Control: Address any remaining weeds before winter arrives, as well-maintained lawns are more resistant to weed encroachment.

FAQs about St. Augustine Grass

A girl and her dog are relaxing on a green lawn What is the downside of St. Augustine grass? St. Augustine grass has relatively high water needs, and it can be susceptible to certain pests and diseases. Which is better, St. Augustine or Bermuda grass? The choice between St. Augustine and Bermuda grass depends on your climate, maintenance preferences, and lawn usage. Bermuda grass is more drought-tolerant, while St. Augustine offers better shade tolerance. Is St. Augustine grass hard to take care of? It requires regular maintenance, including mowing, fertilization, and irrigation, making it moderately demanding compared to some other grass types. Where does St. Augustine grass grow best? St. Augustine grass thrives in hot to warm climates, typically in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 12. How fast does St. Augustine grass grow? St. Augustine grass has a moderate to fast growth rate, depending on environmental conditions and care practices. Should I water St. Augustine grass every day? No, St. Augustine grass prefers deep, infrequent watering. Watering every day can lead to overwatering and related issues.