Whether you’re planting a new lawn or starting over, you may be surprised to find that you have options when it comes to choosing your grass. However, there are a few factors you should consider before you make your choice. For example, you’ll have to think about the conditions your lawn will need to endure, the type of irrigation you use (do you uses salt water?), and the ph of your soil. You’ll also want to consider your lifestyle. Do you live in a tight subdivision or on acres of land? Do you want a low-maintenance lawn or are you willing to do a little extra work? Here is some information about some of the choices you have here in Florida.
St. Augustine Grass (stenotaphrum secundatum)
This type of grass is a Florida favorite. It loves the heat, is resistant to drought and can tolerate high levels of salt. Water it well, and you’ll get a thick layer of turf, filled with broad flat grass blades in a lovely blue-green color. St. Augustine grass establishes quickly in just about any type of soil and produces above-ground runners that help it spread and grow.
While many Floridians appreciate its ability to grow quickly, others dread the day it needs to be cut. And with St. Augustine grass, that day comes around a little more often. St. Augustine grass is also not a fan of cold temperatures or persistent shade, and it is susceptible to SAD virus and common pests, like chinch bugs.
Planting Methods: Plugs, sprigs or sod – seeds are rare.
Ideal Soil Type: Grows in many soil types – ph should be between 5.0 and 8.5.
Recommended Mowing Height – 3.5 to 4 inches
Bermuda Grass (cynodon dactylon)
Bermuda grass is green-gray in color, and its blades are short with long rough edges. Its deep roots make it incredibly resistant to drought, weeds and high traffic, making it a popular choice for golf courses and sports fields. However, its highly invasive nature, make it a tough sell for homeowners. Some call it “the devil’s grass” as it often sets up shop in nearby gardens and flowerbeds.
Bermuda grass grows rapidly in all types of soil, producing seeds, runners and rhizomes. However, like many types of Florida grass, it is sensitive to cold temperatures, pests and shade. Regular maintenance and weekly watering help maintain appearance.
Planting Methods: Seed or sprigs
Ideal Soil Type: Grows in many soil types.
Recommended Mowing Height – 0.5 to 2 inches
Bahiagrass (paspalum notatum)
Bahiagrass has coarse leaves and thrives in hot, dry climates and sandy soils. It doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer or irrigation, making it an excellent choice for homes on large lots or acreage — or anywhere where there is little to no irrigation. During extended periods of drought, Bahiagrass will go dormant until conditions become favorable for regrowth.
Pensacola Bahiagrass is the most common type of Bahiagrass in Florida. It is more resistant to stress and cooler temperatures than other types of Bahiagrass. However, it still presents some challenges. This grass has unattractive seed heads, is sensitive to overwatering, is susceptible to weeds, and grows poorly in shaded areas. Weekly mowing is often needed.
Planting Method: Seeds
Ideal Soil Type: Grows best in sandy soils with a low ph.
Recommended Mowing Height – 3 to 4 inches
Centipede Grass (eremochloa ophiuroides)
Centipede grass is a popular choice for Florida homeowners who want a low-maintenance lawn. Because it is a low-growing grass, it doesn’t require a lot of mowing. And unlike other types of Florida grass, Centipede grass doesn’t just thrive in the sun. It also grows in cooler temperatures and shade. All it take is a little fertilizer to keep its yellow-green blades looking their best.
While this may sound like the best Florida grass ever, there are a few conditions that wreak havoc on this type of grass. It can’t handle a lot of traffic or salt, and it is susceptible to nematodes and ground pearls.
Planting Method: Seeds
Ideal Soil Type: Grows best in sandy, mildly acidic soils with a ph between 5 and 6.
Recommended Mowing Height – 1.5 to 2 inches
Buffalo Grass (bouteloua dactyloides)
Buffalo grass has a unique blue-green color and curling leaf blades. It has an excellent tolerance for high temperatures and can grow in all different types of soil.
However, Buffalo grass is not shade-tolerant or suitable for high-traffic areas. Excessive watering weakens the grass, leaving it prone to disease. Weeds are also common.
Planting Method: Seeding numerous runners to produce a tight sod.
Ideal Soil Type: Grows well in a wide range of soil ph.
Recommended Mowing Height – 1.5 to 3 inches
Zoysia Grass (zoysia)
Zoysia is a dark green turf-like grass with stiff leaf blades. It grows well in the sun and can handle lots of traffic, making it a popular choice for golf courses and coastal areas. Drought tolerance and disease tolerance levels are good, and it can also handle partial shade. This type of grass is very low maintenance, requiring very little water and fertilizer to survive. Its dense turf makes it less susceptible to weeds.
Zoysia will go dormant after a frost, but resumes growth once the soil returns to 70 degrees. It reproduces via stolons and rhizomes.
Planting Method: Seed, sod or plugs.
Ideal Soil Type: Adapts to a variety of soil types, but thrives in soils low in potassium.
Recommended Mowing Height – 1 to 2 inches
Do you have a favorite yet? As you can see, choosing the right grass for your lawn can be a tough call. But before you start planting, you might want to give your local irrigation specialist a call. Irrigation systems take the guesswork out of keeping your lawn lush and green for years to come. And the best time to install a new one, or repair an old one, is before you lay down that new seed or sod. Whatever you decide, we wish you the best of luck. May your lawn be the envy of your neighborhood.
About the Author:
Former U.S. Coast Guard and Tampa-native Joseph Swett is the owner of SunriseIrrigation, a Palm Harbor-based company that has been providing sprinkler and irrigation services in the Tampa Bay Area, Florida, for more than 20 years. A RainBird-trained landscape specialist, Mr. Swett is dedicated to helping Florida homes and businesses implement effective irrigation technologies and transition towards smart water conservation. In his spare time, Joe sponsors and plays in two men’s softball leagues, but also enjoys surfing and going fishing with his family.