Centipede grass is one of the most commonly used turfgrass for home lawns in the South. This grass is ultimately used for its low maintenance and its low growing heights. Found throughout homes in the Carolinas, Louisiana and Mississippi, Centipede holds its own in acidic soils and warm, humid climates. When it comes to selecting the right kind of sod for installation, it is important to know the difference between warm season and cool season turfgrasses—warm season grass varieties tend to do well in the southeastern United States whereas cool season grasses thrive in northern parts of the country. As a part of a series, Sod University has published several articles of the different types of sod including zoysia, St. Augustine and bermuda grass sod. Be sure to check those out for more information.
Today, Sod University talks about all things centipede sod. Read the article below to see if centipede sod is the right type of grass for your home lawn.
Centipedegrass was first introduced to the United States by Frank N. Meyer in 1916 as seed collected from South China. Since then, it has become a popular turfgrass variety grown in home lawns in southeastern parts of the United States. Centipede can also be found in various parts of the world including South America, the West Indies and along the coast of Africa.
As a warm season turfgrass, centipede can grow anywhere within the southern two-thirds of the United States as it prefers sandy, acidic soils in warm or humid climates. It can tolerate soils with low fertility levels and is ideal for areas that get more than 40 inches of rainfall. Centipede is very drought tolerant, but not very shade tolerant. Centipedegrass grows best in full sunlight and greens up early in the spring but has a brown color in the late fall when it starts to go off-color with cooler temperatures. It does not maintain green color during the winter and can become damaged or injured during hard freezes. Centipede can usually bounce back to full health once favorable temperatures reside, but if winter freezes happen repetitively, it will injure the grass. EMPIRE® Zoysia, however, maintains its deep blue-green color longer and is hardier, more disease resistant and more drought tolerant.
Characteristics & Traits
Centipedegrass leaf blades are flat and rounded at the base that reach about 30mm in length and 2–4 mm in width. This perennial grass has a coarse texture that grows on its own without the need of replanting each year. Centipede can be planted as seed, sod, plugs or sprigs and it spreads by stolons that run horizontally across the soil’s surface and then take to root at certain points. This grass grows slowly, which is why it is good for homeowners who don’t want to perform a lot of maintenance and upkeep. It is actually nicknamed the “lazy man’s grass” for this reason.
Image from: www.ncsod.org
Centipedegrass is not as salt tolerant as St. Augustine or bermudagrass. It also does not tolerate heavy traffic and is ideally suited for low maintenance turf areas.
Advantages & Disadvantages
- Requires reduced inputs,
- Demonstrates tolerance of warm, humid climates,
- Performs well in acidic, sandy soils,
- Shows resistance to pets,
- Requires low fertilizer conditions,
- Damaged areas can be repaired with seed,
- Features early spring green-up.
- Not very shade tolerant,
- Winter freeze will damage the grass,
- Not very tolerant of saline soils,
- Slowest growth rate of warm season grasses,
- Doesn’t generally bounce back from wear and tear quickly.*
*Santee® Centipede’s root system allows it to recover from damage quickly by rapidly covering the ground
As previously mentioned, centipede can be established by seed, sod, plugs or sprigs. Centipede does not greatly differ from other turfgrass varieties during establishment. For a full list of instructions, visit our How to Properly Install Sod page. You can also check out more in the Sod University article on When to Use Sod, Plugs or Seed to decide which installation method is best for you. Be sure to also check out the Lawnifi New Lawn Starter Box if you are currently installing centipede. This fertilizer will give your centipede lawn the nutrients it needs during establishment.
Centipede Mowing and Watering
Centipede is often nicknamed the “lazy man’s grass” because it requires little maintenance. You will need to mow and irrigate your centipede lawn regularly. Centipede is not very drought tolerant, so thoroughly wetting the soil between four and six inches deep when the grass shows signs of drought stress is the proper amount for centipede lawns. In general, centipede requires about one inch of water per week total with rainfall included.
Centipede does pretty well in soils with low fertility, but it still requires some form of fertilization throughout the various seasons of the year. Sod University recommends the Lawnifi Annual Fertilizer Subscription for this reason. The Lawnifi program consists of three separate boxes for spring, summer and fall called the Spring Fertilizer Box, Summer Fertilizer Box and Fall Fertilizer Box. Each seasonal box contains three different bottles of Lawnifi Fertilizer that vary from season to season. Your centipedegrass will need different nutrients as temperatures and soil conditions change throughout the year. Learn more about Lawnifi in our Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer? article.
Insect and Disease Control
This grass is more resistant to several pests and diseases in comparison to other types of turfgrass, but a few problems may still persist. The most common disease that seems to affect centipede is large patch (or brown patch) during the spring and fall months when temperatures and soil conditions start to alter. Dollar spot is also a common disease found in centipede. If you notice any disease in your centipede, apply a broad-spectrum fungicide like Heritage G Granular Fungicide. Heritage G offers control of these two common lawn diseases. Centipede is also prone to spittlebugs, chinch bugs and nematodes. Centipede affected by nematodes tends to turn yellow and become thin. Apply an insecticide like Bifen XTS Insecticide to treat a spittlebug or chinch bug infestation. Monterey Nematode Control is also a good product you can apply on lawns if you suspect a nematode infestation. As with any control product, read the product labels before application. You can take a look at our full list of fungicide products here or our insecticide products here. To learn more about insect and identification, watch the video in our Sod University article on Insect Identification.
Weeds that can be found in centipede lawns vary from all shapes and sizes. However, centipede and St. Augustinegrass are both sensitive to the active ingredient 2,4-D found in herbicides. Use an atrazine-based herbicide instead such as Hi-Yield Atrazine. Read product labels before application. View Sod Solutions’ full list of herbicide products here. For more information on lawn weeds, check out the Sod University article, Identifying Common Lawn Weeds.
Sod Solutions Varieties
Santee® Centipede is a high quality centipede variety that Sod Solutions offers. Santee has a massive root system that makes it a tough grass that recovers from damage quickly by rapidly covering the ground. The roots allow for better uptake of water and nutrients from the soil, making Santee a very drought tolerant variety of centipede. It also features good fall color retention and spring green-up.
If you are interested in learning more about the different types of turfgrasses so that you can make the most educated decision on the sod, plugs or seed you want, check out our How to Choose the Right Type of Sod article. Other Sod University articles on grass types include All About St. Augustine Sod, All About Bermudagrass Sod and All About Zoysia Sod.