Centipede Grass

If you live in the Southeast, Centipede grass is a great choice for your lawn. It is a low maintenance, heat tolerant grass that prefers acidic soils. One of the great things about Centipede grass is how simple and inexpensive it is to manage in comparison to other varieties of warm season grasses. However, with that ease and convenience come some weaknesses and special requirements.

Why Centipede Grass Is Popular

  • It prefers more acidic soil, which tends to be difficult for most other varieties.
  • It has fair shade tolerance, so it’s not likely to wither near the edges of shrubs or under trees.
  • It’s drought-resistant, fading to a brown state of dormancy when water is scarce, but perks back up with the next watering.
  • It grows fairly slowly, meaning less mowing.
  • It can be established via seed, sod, or plugs.
  • It has modest fertilizing requirements (over-fertilizing is one of the most common reasons for centipede grass problems).

Where Centipede Grass Falls Short 

  • It is prone to excessive yellowing (iron chlorosis).
  • It does not handle high traffic well.
  • It has a low tolerance to cold temperatures.
  • It is susceptible to common lawn pests, such as nematodes and ground pearls (a scale insect), as well as spittlebugs and mole crickets. 

Caring For Centipede Grass

  •  Don’t fertilize too early
    It’s best to hold off on applying fertilizer until around the mid/late April. This way, you won’t be pushing your grass to “green up” too early, while the nights are still cool.
  • Don’t fertilize too late in the Fall
    It is also best to avoid applying fertilizer too late in the year when it can interfere in the lawn’s natural dormancy schedule. Doing so is often the root cause of centipede grass decline in the spring. Centipede grass goes dormant earlier than other varieties because of its low tolerance to cold. 
  • Choose a fertilizer with equal parts Nitrogen and Potassium
    Centipede needs just as much Potassium as it does Nitrogen. With equal parts of both nutrients, Simple Plant Food’s Simple Balance is a perfect choice for maintaining and promoting the overall health and vitality of your Centipede grass.
  • Don’t mow too low
    Centipede grass grows more slowly than many other turfgrass varieties, and it can succumb to shock easily if it is mowed too low or too often. The optimal blade height for centipede grass is 1.5 to 2 inches. 
  • Protect the lawn in the summer
    While a well-established, healthy centipede grass lawn does an excellent job of fighting off weeds on its own, it doesn’t hurt to give it a hand with a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring.
  • Water deeply
    Although centipede grass is drought resistant, it can turn pale or brown when lacking water. To keep your lawn looking great long term, make sure it gets a thorough soaking twice a week, especially throughout the hottest part of the growing season. 
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Laina Posey

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