St. Augustine grass is a warm-season turfgrass grown widely in subtropical and tropical regions. As the name suggests, it is native to St. Augustine, Florida. It adorns the lawns of many houses in warm states across America, including Hawaii, California, Texas, and Florida.
St. Augustine grass establishes by vegetative propagation, including sod or plugs. It grows and spreads by long, above-ground stolons, more commonly known as runners. The stolons interweave to form a thick and dense ground cover for your lawn. The high salt tolerance and alluring blue-green hue of St. Augustine make it the top-choice warm-season turfgrass for homeowners in the Southern part of the United States. However, to sustain that beautiful hue, the St. Augustine Grass needs effort from your side as well as it’s a high-maintenance turfgrass. Keep reading this article to learn the secret of maintaining a lush lawn as we walk you through each step of caring for St. Augustine grass.
Planting St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass, also known as bull grass and carpetgrass, thrives during warm months when the soil temperature is between eighty to ninety-five °F. Stenotaphrumsecundatum grows aggressively during spring, summer, and early fall but turns brown in winter. The smooth and dense turf spread by St. Augustine is tolerant of even extreme temperatures and shows commendable drought tolerance. Even when mowed seldom and exposed to cooler temperatures, it sustains its bright hue longer than most warm-season grasses.
St. Augustine was strenuous to establish before; however, new agricultural advancements have made the process easier. To enjoy a smooth and even turf, first, prepare the soil and then plant the St. Augustine seed at a rate of one-third to half a pound for every thousand square feet in early spring or late summer. It needs an ample amount of moisture for establishment. St. Augustine grass is usually planted by plugs, so keep them six to twelve inches apart in the prepared soil.
Fertilizing the Soil
To achieve maximum yield, fertilize the soil with one pound of nitrogen every month during the growing seasons if it is sandy. For clayey soil, fertilizer application after every six weeks during spring through fall will do the job. If the lawn has a high or alkaline pH, you might also need to apply iron and micronutrient supplements to the soil.
The mowing height for St. Augustinegrass differs from cultivar to cultivar. We recommend you to mow the St. Augustine grass at a height where scalping does not act as an issue. If you keep the lawnmower’s length too low, the grass will stress and thin out. While mowing above the recommended height will lead to disease issues and thatch problem. To maintain a healthy turf, sharpen the blade of your rotary mower regularly.
Augustine grass needs an ample amount of moisture for establishment. During the first week after planting, water it several times a day. Make sure the turf is completely dry before watering again. Once the root system has formed, water the grass to about half an inch, gradually reducing the amount of water until the grass fully establishes.
Choose the Right Variety of St. Augustine Grass
There are over eleven different varieties of St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrumsecundatum) available in the market. These improved cultivars are differentiated based on their abilities: some offer improved shade and insect tolerance while others can withstand higher environmental stress. Management inputs and growth habits differ from variety to variety. When planting St. Augustine, it is imperative to choose a cultivar with requirements that match your yard’s condition. The following are the most popular and widely grown St. Augustine grass cultivars:
This improved variety of St. Augustine grass is the most popular turfgrass throughout the gulf coast region and a best-seller in Florida. It is characterized by reddish stolons and a coarse texture. It flourishes in open areas with ample sunlight. Due to its little shade and cold hardiness, it does not fare well in winters. Floratam requires a minimum of five hours of sunshine every day to thrive to its fullest. The thickness and density of the turf are directly proportional to the number of hours it basks in the sunlight. If you have a shady yard, it is best to consider other varieties of St. Augustine grass as Floratam withers and thins out when kept in the shade. Through winters till early spring, Floratam stays semi-dormant, losing its bright green color and shedding leaves heavily. For a beautiful and neat turf, keep the lawnmower’s cut height within three to four inches.
Palmetto is often listed among the semi-dwarf cultivars because of its shorter growth habit. It thrives in full sun but can survive in partial shade as well. However, it is intolerant of heavy shade and will thin out when kept in the shade for a prolonged period. It possesses better drought tolerance than other most cultivars, making it the perfect choice for homeowners that face local irrigation restrictions. This cultivar might not be the best option for you if you want to avoid additional costs of pesticides as Palmetto shows little resistance to pests and insects. The ideal mowing height for Palmetto is approximately three inches.
Raleigh is on the St. Augustine cultivars that can be planted in almost every part of South Carolina due to its cold hardiness. It is blessed with the most serene medium green color, making it conspicuous from a mile away. Unlike other St. Augustine varieties, it doesn’t spread aggressively in the summertime; instead, it prefers cooler temperatures. It has demonstrated losing color and turning yellow in peak summer. Additional iron supplements must be applied to soil to overcome this yellowing tendency, especially if the soil is highly alkaline.
However, like most other cultivars, it too shows little resistance to pests and insects; it is highly susceptible to brown patch disease and chinch bugs. Raleigh is best suited to organic and clayey soils and thrives in low pH and adequate drainage.
Captiva is one of the newly released dwarf cultivars, bred by the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station recently. It exhibits slower growth than most St. Augustine grass varieties. It possesses a dark-green hue and short, narrow leaf blades. Although Captiva is not highly pest tolerant, it puts up a better fight against the Southern chinch bugs than most cultivars. Due to this ability, it is often referred to as the chinch bug resistant St. Augustine grass. Captiva, too, like other dwarf cultivars, shows higher tolerance to shade than the standard St. Augustine varieties and fares well in shady yards. Since it has a slower growth habit, it requires approximately one-third less mowing than Floratam. To maintain a neat turf, set the lawnmower’s height to two and a half inches.
Exceptional heat and drought tolerance, salt hardiness, and coarse texture make St. Augustine the ideal choice for homeowners in tropical regions looking for lush turfgrass. However, it also requires high maintenance. Therefore, make sure to choose the St. Augustine variety that is best suited to your overall needs and yard characteristics.