St. Augustine Grass grows well in warm, humid regions of the country. Characteristically grown near the coast, this grass has regional names varying from Charleston grass (east coast), buffalo turf (Australia), buffalo grass (South Africa) and carpetgrass (California). Although St Augustine can be found throughout the southern United States, it is native to the Gulf of Mexico area.
Advantages of St. Augustine Grass
- Shade tolerant
- Tolerates wide range of pH levels
- Tolerates moderate foot traffic
- Chokes out weeds
- Quick post-winter green-up
- Stays green during drought
St. Augustine Grass is very shade tolerant and makes a great choice for lawns that do not get ample enough sun for other species. This coarse-textured, wide-flat bladed grass grows best in well drained, fertile soils and has an ability to grow in a wide range of soil pH levels (5.0-8.5). This grass is also tolerant of salt, which make it an ideal choice for areas with occasional saltwater spray.
St. Augustine can handle moderate foot traffic and will recover fairly quickly from injury. Additionally, it grows fast when established on nutrient-rich soil. The grass forms a dense layer of turf, especially at the soil level. These factors make it very effective at choking out weed competition.
Known for its deep, rich green color, St. Augustine greens up quickly coming out of the winter and hold this color well into the Fall after the first frost. If protected by a layer of leaves, St. Augustine will hold its color further into the winter months. St. Augustine will also hold its color better than other grasses during times of drought.
Disadvantages of St. Augustine Grass
- Sensitive to cold temperatures
- Susceptible to pests & diseases
- Can't tolerate heavy foot traffic
One of the biggest downsides to St. Augustine Grass is its sensitivity to cold temperatures, which limits its range to southern and coastal regions of the United States. This grass also needs irrigation and fertilization to develop an attractive lawn.
St. Augustine is susceptible to a wide variety of pests and diseases. Chinch bugs and St. Augustine Grass decline virus (SADV) being two of the most common.
Chinch bugs are the bane of many of St Augustine lawns! Chinch bugs use their mouthparts (lol… mouthparts) to suck moisture from the blades of grass, while also injecting with their saliva which inhibits water movement through the grass. As a result, damage will often resemble drought damage.
Treat damage with a pesticide such as Talstar P Professional Insecticide or if considering planting St. Augustine, use a chinch bug resistance variety like Floratam or Floralaw.
From time to time, St. Augustine might be impacted by other “grass pests” like webworms, armyworms, and mole crickets, which all can be controlled by pesticides. The one we recommend the most for St. Augustine is Talstar.
Lastly, in high traffic areas, St. Augustine isn’t the best choice due to the potential for damage and slow recovery.
Establishment & Maintenance
The best method to establish St. Augustine grass is from sod, plugs or stolons. St. Augustine seed is typically very difficult to find due to the grass not being a heavy seeder. For this reason, use sod to establish and plugs to fill in small areas.
Mowing & Irrigation
Mowing height of St. Augustine lawns can vary depending on season and maintenance intensity. In heavy maintained yards, mow grass weekly during the spring and summer at a height of 2”. In this plan, it is important that the grass gets adequate water (1” per week). For less maintenance, as well as fall\winter care, mow the grass between 2-4”. Not following proper maintenance, much like over fertilizing, will cause a detrimental thatch layer to form. Grass clippings do not have to be bagged, or removed, unless they clump together on the surface. In this case, a simple leaf blower can be used to break up the clots.
A fertilizing program is needed to maintain a beautiful yard of lush St. Augustine grass. However, if over fertilized, thatch will accumulate and impede further growth. Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are the common nutrients in fertilizers, potassium needed to build up winter resiliency and nitrogen being used to control growth and color. The more nitrogen used (up to 1lb per 1000 square feet), will cause the grass to turn darker green, however increase growth and need more frequent mowing.
Similar to mowing and watering, the level of maintenance will determine the fertilizer rate. For best conditions, add nitrogen in summer months (May-August) and add potassium in September (1lb per 1000 sqft). For less maintenance, reduce the applications rates by half.
Fertilizer should be applied onto dry grass and watered in to reduce the chance of burning the blades of grass.
Recommended Fertilizer for St. Augustine: Ferti-lome St. Augustine Weed and Feed 15-0-4
St. Augustine is fairly sensitive to the common weed herbicide, 2-4,D. Therefore, common weeds, easily controlled in other types of grass, may be more difficult in St. Augustine. If post-emergent weed control is needed, consider using a product with the chemical, atrazine.