Centipede Grass: Growing & Maintaining Lawn Tips

A Brief Overview

Centipede grass is well-known for its high heat tolerance and low upkeep requirements.

Centipede lawns are a favorite of lawn owners looking for low-maintenance options, require significantly less attention and input than other grasses in their growing region.

On the other hand, Centipede has exact climatic and soil needs, limiting its application to the Southeast.

If you live in that area, this low-maintenance grass might be a good fit for your yard.

Establishment methodsCentipede grass seed, Centipede grass sod, sprigs, Centipede grass plugs
Maintenance levelLow maintenance
Mowing height (inches)1½ to 2
Mowing frequencyInfrequent mowing
Mower preferenceRotary
Soil conditionAcid
ColorLight
TextureMedium
Disease tendencyModerate
Drought toleranceFair
Salt tolerancePoor
Shade toleranceFair
Cold toleranceFair
Thatch tendencyMedium
Wear tolerancePoor

As one of the warm season grasses, Centipede lawns are ideal grass in hot, humid, and tropical environments.

Centipede provides a lovely lawn with medium to coarse-textured grass blades and is popular due to its low maintenance requirements.

It’s a particularly climate-specific grass that grows best in sandy soils in the Southeast when summers are hot and humid, and rainfall is plentiful.

Centipede loves sunlight and is tolerant of high temperatures.

Its drought tolerant to an extent but has shallow roots compared to other warm-season grasses.

Homeowners must stay on top of watering in dry seasons.

It requires a little fertilizer and can withstand mild shade, but it’s slow-growing and can’t sustain a lot of foot traffic.

How to Care For & Plant Centipede Grass

Centipede grass (Erenochloa Ophiuroidea) is coarse-textured, like St. Augustine grass, but it grows slowly and prefers more tropical areas of the United States.

It spreads via stolons, thrives in poor soils, and requires less mowing than St. Augustine grass or Bermudagrass under a low-maintenance plant.

Centipedegrass thrives in sandy, acidic soils (pH 5-6) with more than 40 inches of rainfall.

planting-Centipede-Grass

It can withstand low soil fertility and thrives on 2-3 pounds of nitrogen per 1.000 sq. ft. each year. Do not use nitrogen rich fertilizer.

It is sensitive to heat and cold, yet it does not go completely dormant. It stays green all year in moderate climates.

Centipede grass is only moderately drought tolerant, and it is sensitive to traffic and slow to recover from compaction damage.

Seeds, plugs, and sprigs can all be used to plant it.

Growing in Shaded Areas

Grass growing in the shadow will benefit from these practices. Fertilize less in shady regions than in full sun locations.

In the fall, apply no more than 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.

When mowing, avoid scalping the area. Raise the mower to a 3-inch height.

Water shaded regions sparingly and only when there is a drought. Overwatering can lead to illness and thinning of the grass.

When growing centipede grass in the shade, keep it as dry as possible. It will deteriorate if the weather is wet.

In shaded locations, avoid traffic and soil compaction. The grass will grow more slowly and be less resilient to disturbances.

Growing From Seed

Has your soil been tested before you start planting? You can get a soil testing kit and do it yourself.

Or, if you get it done by a laboratory, the report will usually show the levels of the four essential nutrients: phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Also, consider having the pH and organic matter content assessed as well.

It’s important to remember that centipede grass thrives on acidic soil. Adding peat moss to the mix will assist in reducing the pH.

Next, prepare the seedbed by tilling up to 6-inches deep to remove any existing plants.

If the ground hasn’t been tilled and leveled, seed can be drilled into the soil.

Tilling has the advantage of making it easy to add organic matter and fertilizer. Apply a nitrogen fertilizer to encourage root growth.

Rake to a depth of one inch after spreading the seed uniformly in both directions—Spread 0.3 to 0.5 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. of Centipede grass seed.

Growing From Turf Sods

Sodding a lawn entails removing portions of grass and dirt with intact roots from an existing lawn and replacing them with new grass and soil.

There are certain benefits to using sod rather than seed.

Unlike seed, which takes months to establish a whole stand and contend with weeds, sod may be laid rapidly to provide an instant lawn.

However, convenience comes at a cost. Sod is usually purchased in 18-inch wide rolls that are roughly three feet long.

To cover the desired grass space, lay these end-to-end and side-to-side.

Growing From Grass Plugs

It is typical to propagate a Centipede lawn by using sod plugs and planting them into the potential lawn area.

Purchased plugs are 2 to 3-inch wide soil and root cores. Start the process of converting a cool-season lawn to a warm-season lawn in late May or early June.

Next, mist the area with water until it is damp but not wet.

Cut a hole in the soil bed using a sod plug drill bit or auger designed for plugging, and insert a core so that the sides are completely in contact with the grass plug.

The distance between plugs should be between 6 and 12 inches.

This depends on your expectations for thorough coverage and the strong health of the plugs.

The plugs will take one or two seasons to develop together.

Alternatively, cut cores from an existing grass and transplant them into the new soil bed using a sturdy long-handled bulb planter.

This is the most cost-effective way to start a fresh lawn from plugs.

Fill the redundant holes with soil to stimulate re-establishment from nearby regions, or overseed—water the spot daily for two weeks, depending on ambient rainfall and temperatures.

If necessary, control weeds with a 2,4-D herbicide for broadleaf weed management.

This herbicide will not control grass. Use Roundup spot treatments or hand pulling as an alternative.

FAQs

How long does it take Centipede grass to grow?

Centipede grass is a low-maintenance grass that looks good without much fuss. It requires infrequent mowing, preferably with a cylinder mower or a rotary mower with a very sharp blade. Centipede grass grows slowly.

When should I plant centipede grass seed?

It would help if you planted your centipede grass seeds in late May or early June  – late spring, early summer.  Ideally, you want the soil temperature to be in the region of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celcius)

Is Centipede Grass a good and easy grass to grow for my lawn?

Centipede grass is a low-maintenance and simple-to-care-for lawn that is best suited for warm areas. It naturally flourishes in conditions such as high heat, high humidity, and acid soils, when other grasses struggle to survive. Centipede provides a gorgeous lawn, is tolerant of poor soil, and needs little upkeep and attention. The majority of the time, it is simple to grow if your summers are hot and your winters are not frigid.

How fast does centipede grass spread?

Centipede grass does not expand territory rapidly. If damaged, it is known to take a while to recover. Expect your turf plugs to take two seasons to cover your site fully.

Will centipede grass choke out weeds?

Centipede is a shallow-root grass and competes poorly with weeds. You can control weeds in three ways:

• Pull them out by hand before they seed
• Use a 2,4-D herbicide for broadleaf weeds management – safe for grass     
• Use Roundup spot treatments

Conclusion

Growing a centipede grass lawn is one of the easiest lawns and is a good decision if you live in the southeast of the United States.

You can start the transition by planting centipede grass plugs into your existing lawn at a spacing of 6 to 12-inches apart.

Alternatively, you can use a drill and deposit the centipede seed directly into the ground at a depth of about an inch.

This is a low fuss, warm-season grass that does well in the shade too. It is not a fan of drought conditions but loves the heat and humidity.

If your winter months are not too cold, it will keep your yard green throughout the year. So, get your centipede seeds and let the lazy fun begin.

Other types of grass to consider

If you are looking for other varieties of grass to grow in your yard, check out our other related posts:

References

  • Duble, R. Centipedegrass. Texas A&M University, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences
  • Brosnan, J. T. & Deputy, J. (2008). Centipedegrass. University of Hawaii Extension, College of Tropical Agriculture.

About/Mentions: Centipedegrass, Lawn, Gardening, Sod

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