close-up shot of centipede grass showing seed head rising above the turf.

Written by 2:07 am Fertilizers, Lawn Tips

Centipede Grass Pros and Cons – When Its Good & When To Avoid It

Centipede grass is a popular choice for lawns due to its ability to thrive in high temperatures and low maintenance requirements. Centipede is characterized by its tight growth pattern and affinity for well-drained or sandy soil. Also, is presents a lush, light green color.  Centipede grass was first introduced to the United States from Asia in the early 1900s. The grass isn't ideal for everyone, however, as it cannot stand a lot of shade and does not tolerate a lot of foot traffic.

Sun Tolerance👍 Prefers full sun
Heat Tolerance👍 Handles high temps
Drought Tolerance👍 Good at tolerating drought
Growth Rate👍 Doesn't need mowing as often👎 Spreads slowly
Traffic Tolerance👎 Performs poorly under high traffic
Color in Winter👎 Browns in winter
Shade Tolerance👎 Requires plenty of sun
Cold Tolerance👎 Can suffer damage from very low temps

Centipede Grass - Pros

A major advantages of centipede is it's need to receive six to seven hours of full sun. Centipede tolerates limited shade but prefers large quantities of light and heat.

Centipede grass grows slowly but aggressively. This results in a tight carpet-like pattern which produces a full, lush lawn that can be cared for relatively easily.  Also, the thick growing grass leaves little room or resources for weeds to take root. Another advantage of centipede grass it that it does not require frequent cutting as the grass blades grow slower and closer to the ground. 

Centipede is great at tolerating extended periods of drought and, in general, will bounce back quickly once the rains arrive. However, we recommend 1 to 1.25 inches of water per week for best results.

The grass generally thrives without much maintenance. While fertilization is recommended for best results, it is not required.

Centipede Grass - Cons

Centipede grass is not an ideal grass for high traffic areas. This is due to the slow-growing nature of the species. Bare spots will often form along with areas of high use. Fill holes and bare spots with sand to encourage grass runners to fill in these areas. The species also needs a constant and ample water supply.

While this type of grass enjoys heat and sunlight, it requires 1.00 to 1.25 inches of water per week. It requires more in sandy or loose soils. Without sufficient water, centipede’s bright green color will fade. This will stunt future growth.

Additionally, centipede grass will not thrive in cold weather and can be permanently damaged in temperatures under 20 degrees. It is not recommended to grow centipede any further north than South Carolina.

Even if temperatures never dip to 20 degrees, extended cold temperatures can cause damage.  When temperatures stay under 28 degrees for a long period of time, it can stunt future growth.

Another thing that centipede grass doesn't like is extended periods of shade. It is not to be planted in areas that are shaded or do not receive ample sunlight.

Centipede grass will suffer from fungal growth if the soil does not properly drain properly. Proper drainage is an important element in maintaining a beautiful yard with Centipede grass.

Fertilizing Your Centipede Lawn

In general, centipede does not require much fertilization. In fact, it is not a very needy grass at all. Proper, routine fertilization, however, can take your centipede lawn to the next level.

You should almost always use a 15-0-15 fertilizer on centipede lawns. This means the fertilizer will contain 15% Nitrogen, 0% Phosphorus, and 15% Potassium.

👉 Read more about Centipede Grass Fertilizer.

Recommended Centipede Grass Fertilization Schedule

January - AprilDo not apply fertilizer
MayApply a 15-0-15 fertilizer or equivalent Weed and Feed
June - JulyDo not apply fertilizer
AugustApply a light application of a 15-0-15 fertilizer or equivalent Weed and Feed
September - DecemberDo not apply fertilizer

Centipede Maintenance

As with any turfgrass, it’s important to develop an annual maintenance program based upon the specific turf’s individual needs. The beauty of Centipede grass is that these needs are minimal, but there are specific maintenance steps that are going to remain important.

January – April

Use a pre-emergent herbicide between February or March to control unwanted weeds. A second application of the same pre-emergent product is suggested between two to three months after the initial application. This will guarantee ample application during the dormant season.

Search your lawn for insect damage, specifically white grubs. If any insect damage is located, apply an insecticide at this time to prevent any further infestations in the upcoming warmer months.

If you need to overseed your centipedegrass, you'll want to do it at the beginning of the growing season.

DoUse pre-emergent herbicide
DoApply a 2nd application of pre-emergent herbicide 2 to 3 months after the initial application
DoContinue watering your lawn
DoApply insecticide if you see evidence of pest damage
DoOverseed just before the growing season.
Don'tApply fertilize between January and April

May – August

Monitor pH levels of your yard during the summer. Centipede grass thrives in soil with a pH of five to six. If your lawn falls outside of this range, consider adding lime or sulfur to your yard to achieve the desired level.

Please note that changing the pH level of an area may require a few years of element application; it is not an overnight process.

Apply a nitrogen-based fertilizer in the early summer to prepare your lawn for the growing season.

Fertilize established centipede grass with nitrogen-based fertilizers, not phosphorus. Apply a 15-0-15 fertilizer mix later in the summer. If your lawn begins to exhibit a yellow or brownish color in spring, it may have an iron deficiency and will need to be treated with a liquid iron product, or a pelletized iron product. Always follow the manufacturer’s suggested rate of application when applying supplements to your lawn.

A selective herbicide can be applied if various broadleaf weeds begin to grow throughout the season.

Centipede grass is sensitive to 2-4D herbicide, so use caution when applying any product that contains this chemical. If you have other grasses in your yard, sethoxydim is safe to apply to control certain grasses.

May and June are the optimal times to dethatch your lawn. Though thatch usually isn't a big problem with centipede, it can cut off your root system from nutrients and rainwater if it develops.

Aeration is also an important part of Centipede grass maintenance program. This is a relatively simple process which entails puncturing holes into the earth to improve oxygen flow to the plant’s root system. This can be done with a commercial aerator or something as basic puncturing the soil using the prongs of a pitchfork, although, that is a time-consuming process.

September – December

Fertilizer does not need to be applied prior to the winter months. Add lime or sulfur if you are attempting to correct the PH balance of your soil.

Potash can be applied to centipede grass if the area is expecting to get colder than normal winter. A post-emergent herbicide can be applied to control weeds prior to the low growth season and can be accompanied by a broad-spectrum pesticide to eliminate any pests in their early development stages.

Common Weeds Found in Centipede Lawns

Some of the most common weeds found in southern centipede lawns are:

  • Spurge
  • Virginia Buttonweed
  • Old Diamond Flower
  • Common Lespedeza
  • Crabgrass
  • Nutsedge.

Check out our article on how to identify common centipede grass weeds. Also, check out our article on the best herbicide for centipede grass.

Managing Weeds

Often, winter weeds like henbitcommon chickweed, and and hairy bittercress become noticeable in late winter. Unfortunately, these late winter weeds have been growing in your lawn all winter. It's only in late winter when you begin to notice them.

You shouldn't stress too much over these annual winter weeds. They’ll die out as we get into the Spring. However, if you begin to see spring weeds (ex. cloverslespedezaFlorida betony) you are late to the game in applying your early season weed killer.

Types of Centipede

Centipede grass has gotten better since its first introduction to United States. The most popular species of the grass is TifBlair. Developed by the University of Georgia, it was specifically designed to better handle the common stresses of southern lawn. Older and less common strains are Oklawn and AU Centennial Centipede Grass.

Starting a Centipede Lawn Using Seed

You can cost-effectively establish a brand-new Centipede lawn by spreading and germinating Centipede seeds. Establishing a lawn from seed does require a bit of work, however, as you need to prepare the ground, plant the seed, and keep it moist for a number of weeks.

Centipede Grass FAQ

Want more information about centipede? Check out our Centipede Grass FAQs article for questions to the most frequently asked centipede questions.

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