St. Augustine grass is a staple for home lawns in the South. It has coarse, tropical-looking blades, it thrives in warm or humid areas and in some cases, it can be really resilient to stress.
But what makes this type of grass so appealing to homeowners? If you’re looking to install a new lawn and you’re considering St. Augustine as a potential option, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we talk about some of the main characteristics of St. Augustine, its history, some of the most common St. Augustine cultivars and how to install and care for it.
Check out other grass types here.
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In this article, you will find…
About St. Augustine Grass and Its History
St. Augustine grass can be found along the eastern coast of the United States—from the Carolinas to Florida and toward the West along the Gulf Coast to Texas and in Southern and Central California.
Growing areas can depend on the cultivar of St. Augustine. Certain cultivars grow in areas others can’t.
This perennial turfgrass produces only stolons—not rhizomes—that are above the ground. It can sometimes be referred to as “Carpet Grass” in California and other southeastern regions of the United States. Learn more about the difference between stolons and rhizomes here.
Although St. Augustine can be found throughout southern and coastal regions of the United States, it is native to the Gulf of Mexico area, the West Indies and Western Africa.
Before the year of 1800, St. Augustine grass was documented in the West Indies, Brazil, Bermuda, Uruguay, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and South Carolina. It’s been planted in lawns throughout the state of Florida since the 1890’s. Since then, it’s become the most commonly used lawn grass in the state.
St. Augustine Grass Characteristics
There are many different cultivars of St. Augustine grass—all of which offer different characteristics. Some are better with diseases than others while some are better at resisting certain insects. Certain cultivars may have a blue-green color and others may appear dark or emerald-green.
In general, however, St. Augustine has distinct, coarse grass blades. It’s a warm season turfgrass that thrives in tropical and subtropical areas. St. Augustine grass is vegetatively propagated, meaning it can only be established as sod or grass plugs. There is no such thing as St. Augustine grass seed available to the homeowner or in commercial markets. Although it produces some seed, St. Augustine doesn’t produce enough seed to make it viable or commercially available.
If St. Augustine sod isn’t an option for you, consider looking into St. Augustine grass plugs. St. Augustine plugs are little pieces of turf you can “plug” into your lawn that will then expand over time to fill in bare or damaged spots. They’re also useful for starting a completely new lawn.
St. Augustine adapts well to most soils in the southeast. It’s most commonly found along the coast lines, so it has a really good salt tolerance.
St. Augustine vs. Bermuda Grass
In comparison to bermuda grass, St. Augustine doesn’t have as good wear tolerance or recovery. Bermuda grass is a very aggressive-growing grass that’s often used in sports fields and golf courses for this reason.
Bermuda grass has a much finer blade than St. Augustine, so its blades grow closer together and create a very dense canopy. St. Augustine has thicker blades, so it doesn’t grow as densely. Many homeowners truly love the look of wider-bladed grasses, though. It gives off a tropical aesthetic, which might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Learn more in Turf Wars: St. Augustine vs. Bermuda Grass.
St. Augustine vs. Zoysia Grass
Any living grass is going to require irrigation to some extent. Although the differences in water required vary between grasses and cultivars, generally, speaking, most turfgrasses need about 1-inch of water per week…this includes rainfall.
How the grass reacts to too much or too little water is different in certain cases. Certain zoysia grasses, like EMPIRE®, are better with drought resistance than St. Augustine. EMPIRE has a built-in defense mechanism that makes the grass go into a state of “dormancy” when it isn’t receiving enough water. When regular irrigation resumes, the EMPIRE will come out of dormancy and return back to its lush, green color.
Both EMPIRE and St. Augustine grasses will turn brown from lack of water, but if St. Augustine is turning brown from lack of water, it’s dying.
If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, however, this might not be an issue for you.
Chinch bugs, which we talk about a farther down in this article, are a notorious pest that have the capability to completely destroy home lawns. A severe infestation can be stressful and expensive. Unfortunately, their favorite meal is St. Augustine grass.
EMPIRE Zoysia features resistance to the Southern chinch bug, making it another popular option for southern regions. Zoysia grass is generally more appetizing to billbugs, however.
Zoysia grasses come in fine-bladed and coarse-bladed cultivars, but even the thickest of zoysia grass blades doesn’t compare to St. Augustine.
Pictured above from left to right: Floratam St. Augustine, EMPIRE Zoysia and Innovation Zoysia.
Learn more in Turf Wars: Zoysia vs. St. Augustine.
Ultimately, the list of differences between St. Augustine and other grass types goes on and on. The above comparisons are just a few select differences out of many.
If you want even more detailed information about St. Augustine, we suggest learning the basics about some of its different cultivars.
Common Types of St. Augustine Grass
“Types” is a loosely defined term for the purposes of this blog. There are different varieties of turfgrasses like zoysia, St. Augustine, bermuda grass, centipede grass, etc., but if we take a closer look at St. Augustine, there are different cultivars of it…and they each have their own set of characteristics.
Some of the most common ones on the market are Palmetto® St. Augustine, CitraBlue® St. Augustine, Raleigh St. Augustine, Floratam St. Augustine, ProVista® St. Augustine and Seville St. Augustine.
There’s a great publication on identifying different St. Augustine cultivars published by the Turfgrass Producers of Florida called “A Guide to Identifying St. Augustine Cultivars” by Jamie Buhlman. It includes a lot of technical information if you’re really feeling like embracing your inner turfgrass nerd.
For the purposes of this blog, we will spend a little bit of time making general St. Augustine comparisons for home lawns. For more information, click here.
Palmetto St. Augustine
- Semi-dwarf St. Augustine
- Good wear tolerance
- Very good injury recovery
- Very good shade tolerance
- Good drought tolerance
- Emerald-green color
CitraBlue St. Augustine
- Grows laterally
- Very good wear tolerance
- Very good shade tolerance
- Very good drought tolerance
- Blue-green color
Raleigh St. Augustine
- Good wear tolerance
- Very good shade tolerance
- Good drought tolerance
- Medium-green color
Floratam St. Augustine
- Moderate wear tolerance
- Good shade tolerance
- Good drought tolerance
ProVista St. Augustine
- Glyphosate tolerance for weed control
- Dense, horizontal growth habit
- Reduced mowing due to growth habit
- Improved performance in moderate shade
Seville St. Augustine
- Good Wear Tolerance
- Good Injury Recovery
- Good Shade Tolerance
- Good Drought Tolerance
Advantages of a St. Augustine Lawn
- Performs better in shade than other warm season turfgrasses.
- Tolerates coastal, saline soil,
- Compared to other warm season grasses, it holds its color well in drought conditions.
- Possesses a dense growth that outcompetes weeds,
- Tolerates moderate foot traffic and has a very good injury recovery.
- Possesses a very good spring green up when coming out of dormancy.
- Performs well in hot, tropical climates.
Disadvantages of a St. Augustine Lawn
- Does not perform well in colder weather,
- Less likely to survive prolonged drought,
- Does not handle high traffic as well as other warm season grasses.
- Vulnerable to pests and diseases,
- Creates thatch due to over-fertilization.
How to Lay St. Augustine Sod
Installing St. Augustine sod is not really all that different from installing some other type of sod. The steps for laying St. Augustine sod are as follows:
- Test Your Soil
- Learn About St. Augustine Maintenance (to make sure this is really the type of grass you want)
- Measure Your Planting Area
- Kill and Remove Old Grass
- Prep Soil and Level
- Lay and Roll Out New Sod
- Water and Fertilize
We recommend using Lawnifi’s® New Lawn Starter Box, which comes with three bottles of liquid fertilizer. To learn more about installing St. Augustine sod and the New Lawn Starter Box, click here or refer to our St. Augustine sod installation guide.
New Lawn Starter BoxProduct on sale
How to Care for St. Augustine Grass
Maintenance practices specific to that of St. Augustine grass help guarantee the best possible care for it. Grass varieties grow differently from others and tend to have slight differences in what they require for maintenance.
Take a look below to see a summary of St. Augustine best practices and be sure to check out our St. Augustine Grass Care Guide for more information. Please note that different cultivars of St. Augustine, like Palmetto or CitraBlue, have their own set of maintenance requirements as well.
- Mowing: 2–4 inches; mowing heights may vary by cultivar
- Irrigation: 1-inch of water per week including
- Fertilizer: Lawnifi Annual Program
- Weed Control: Use an Atrazine-based herbicide and follow label instructions
- Insect Control: Use a broad-spectrum insecticide for general insect control. If you have an issue with chinch bugs, click here.
- Disease Control: Apply a systemic fungicide at the beginning of the spring and fall seasons to prevent disease outbreaks.
Fertilizer for St. Augustine Grass
Selecting a fertilizer for your St. Augustine grass can initially seem like a daunting decision—but it doesn’t have to be! The best thing you can do is collect and submit a soil analysis to your local extension office or land-grant university.
A soil test will tell you exactly which nutrients are currently in your soil and which nutrients your grass needs. This will give you an overall better understanding of which fertilizer you need to select. Understanding N-P-K ratios and how to read a fertilizer label will also help you during the selection process.
Generally speaking, St. Augustine nutrient requirements may slightly alter depending on location, climate and soil conditions. However, we like to suggest the Lawnifi Fertilizer Program.
Lawnifi has a family of both liquid and granular products to choose from. The Spring, Summer and Fall Fertilizer Boxes come with three bottles of liquid fertilizer each that are designed to give your lawn the nutrients it needs each season.
The New Lawn Starter Box contains three bottles of liquid fertilizer filled with nutrients to help your new St. Augustine sod root down and establish your lawn successfully.
Lawnifi Foundation is a slow-release granular fertilizer option that comes in a 25-pound bag and lasts for three months. With a 29-0-5 NPK formulation, Lawnifi Foundation is the perfect granular fertilizer for lawns and gardens. The two percent iron included in Lawnifi Foundation’s mixture helps plants carry oxygen throughout the leaves, roots and other parts of the plants to promote a green, healthy St. Augustine lawn.
Learn more in our article on The Best Fertilizer for St. Augustine Grass.
Pests That Love St. Augustine
Any living turfgrass is going to have problems with pests. It’s a part of nature. This doesn’t mean insects and other unwanted critters get free access to munching on your lawn!
Insects like grub worms, sod webworms, fall armyworms, spittlebugs and mole crickets are just some of the many creatures that may take up residence in your lawn.
Sod webworms and fall armyworms can be a major nuisance for St. Augustine lawn. Tropical sod webworms are a type of lawn caterpillar which are most common in the late summer and fall. They damage the lawn by feeding on the blades of grass. Like fall armyworms, they tend to “skeletonize” the leaf blade, leaving it looking transparent.
Pictured above from left to right: A sod webworm and a fall armyworm.
However, St. Augustine’s arch nemesis is the Southern chinch bug. Chinch bugs are hard to see due to their size. Sometimes, the best place to look for them is along the edges of your lawn as it meets the driveway, road, patio or sidewalk so that you can gain a side view of the turfgrass canopy. A soap flush test may also bring chinch bugs or other insects to the surface.
Chinch bug damage looks like symptoms of drought as they suck the green color from the leaf blades—yellow or brown patches of grass. Learn more about chinch bugs here.
All of the above bugs and insects have the potential to demolish a St. Augustine lawn given the right window of time. Refer to our insect ID article to identify symptoms and insects if you suspect a potential insect infestation.
Common St. Augustine Grass Diseases
As a warm season grass, St. Augustine can experience disease outbreaks from a fungus anytime of the year, but the most common times are the spring and fall seasons as temperatures transition from cold to hot at the beginning of the year or hot to cold as we move towards winter.
Some of the more common diseases spotted in St. Augustine are:
- Gray leaf spot
- Cercospora leaf spot
- Large patch
- Bipolaris leaf spot
- Leaf rust
- And lethal viral necrosis in Floratam St. Augustine specifically (note: lethal viral necrosis is a virus)
Pictured above: Gray leaf spot on a blade of St. Augustine grass.
If you suspect disease damage in your lawn, apply a systemic fungicide and follow label instructions. For more information, refer to our disease identification blog or our article on Lawn Disease Control.
Common St. Augustine Grass Weeds
Like other types of grass, St. Augustine grass can experience numerous types of weeds. Some broadleaf weeds, or weeds with thicker, wider leaves, are:
- Dollar weed
Common grassy weeds, or those that resemble grass blades, are:
- Poa annua
- Bermuda grass
Pictured above from left to right: Chickweed, henbit, clover, dollarweed, poa annua, crabgrass, dallisgrass and bermuda grass invading St. Augustine.
The key to weed control is using a product that’s labeled to control the type of weed you’re seeing. If you know you have weeds in your lawn but you aren’t sure what they are, our weed identification article is for you.
Hi-Yield Atrazine Weed Killer$16.95 – $19.95