One of the most frequently asked questions we receive at Sod Solutions is, “Which grass is the best to grow in the state of Florida?”. Although many varieties of warm season turfgrass can technically grow in the southeastern parts of the United States including zoysia grass, St. Augustine, bermuda grass, centipede grass and bahia grass, Sod Solutions has a few cultivars available that will really flourish and thrive in Florida’s climate.
Florida’s Climate Challenges
When it comes to choosing grasses for a Florida home lawn, options can seem a bit limited. Florida’s climate brings about a great amount of rain, humidity, heat and even hurricanes. Living in the state of Florida also means you’re located near the coast and therefore have soils high in salty content, or saline soils. A good turfgrass selection should not only need to survive all these different climate challenges—it also needs to be able to thrive in them. Fortunately, these factors can be taken into consideration and matched with several high-quality turfgrass options.
CitraBlue St. Augustine
St. Augustine is the most common type of grass found in Florida home lawns—and for good reason! St. Augustine grass is widely adapted to the warm, humid and subtropical regions of the world. The University of Florida’s Turfgrass Breeding Program has been working on an improved variety of St. Augustine that is designed to thrive in Florida’s climate and have superior characteristics when compared to other St. Augustine grasses: CitraBlue® St. Augustine. CitraBlue was developed in Citra, FL, and designed for the state’s tropical climate as represented in the first half of the grass’s name, “Citra” Blue. CitraBlue’s most prominent feature is its striking blue-green color depicted in the second half of its name, Citra “Blue”.
Other superior characteristics of CitraBlue that are backed by the University of Florida include its reduced amount of nitrogen inputs, meaning less fertilizer is required for higher-level performance, exceptional shade tolerance that is comparable to that of Palmetto® St. Augustine, reduced mowing requirements due to less vertical growth, drought tolerance and unmatched disease resistance. CitraBlue’s thick lateral growing habits keep it from needing to be mowed nearly as much in comparison to Floratam since it grows in a horizontal direction instead of increasing in height.
Shade tolerance and disease resistance go hand-in-hand. CitraBlue’s exceptional shade tolerance and disease resistance allow it to grow in shady, low-light landscapes without high risk of disease. Studies show that CitraBlue is as resistant to large patch as Floratam St. Augustine and more resistant to gray leaf spot and take all root rot than Floratam. CitraBlue is also great for wear tolerance if you have dogs or kids and does pretty well with fending off chinch bugs. As of 2020, CitraBlue is now commercially available throughout the state of Florida. Be sure to take a look at some of the research documents below for more information about the studies conducted on CitraBlue St. Augustine’s characteristics.
Pictured above from left to right: CitraBlue St. Augustine in a home lawn and a CitraBlue St. Augustine closeup.
One of the biggest issues Florida homeowners encounter in their lawns are chinch bugs—and chinch bugs love Florida. The good news is, EMPIRE® Zoysia is chinch bug resistant! This revolutionary medium-bladed, dark green zoysia grass provides excellent wear tolerance and requires less mowing or chemical applications. It also allows the water supply to be shut off in severe periods of drought without permanently harming the turfgrass. Besides being more tolerant and more durable than any competitive sod, it is softer, greener, denser and for more inviting to play on. EMPIRE’s mowing height slightly differs from that of St. Augustine as it should be maintained at a shorter height of one to two inches tall for best results.
EMPIRE was bred and developed in Brazil where the temperatures are intense and the climate is tropical, so growing EMPIRE in Florida, along with the rest of the southern United States, will not be a challenge. EMPIRE is a great choice for Florida home lawns that thrives in areas where others are not well adapted. Learn more in EMPIRE: The Zoysia Grass Designed for Florida.
Pictured above from left to right: EMPIRE Zoysia in a Florida home lawn and an EMPIRE Zoysia closeup.
Palmetto St. Augustine
Another high-quality St. Augustine variety Sod Solutions offers is Palmetto® St. Augustine. With more than two billion sq. ft. sold, Palmetto St. Augustine is the most sold patented turfgrass in the world. Although Palmetto is commonly found throughout Florida, its versatility allows it to grow under a wider range of climate and soil conditions. Homeowners who choose Palmetto are often drawn to its better color and finer texture. Palmetto also demonstrates superior shade, cold, frost, heat and drought tolerance due to its deep root system. Palmetto is still a leader in shade tolerance, comparable to that of CitraBlue St. Augustine.
Pictured above from left to right: Palmetto St. Augustine in residential applications.
Floratam St. Augustine
Lastly, Floratam St. Augustine is the most common type of turfgrass found throughout home lawns in Florida as it performs well in this area. If you see a St. Augustine lawn, it’s more than likely Floratam St. Augustine. This St. Augustine variety is easy to maintain and has a wide blade, but it is not as disease resistant or shade tolerant as CitraBlue or Palmetto St. Augustine. Insects love Floratam. It also has a lighter green color whereas Palmetto has an emerald green color and CitraBlue has a deep blue-green color. This St. Augustine variety is typically maintained at over four inches in height, making it not as ideal for play or living on. Compared to CitraBlue and Palmetto St. Augustine, Floratam is more susceptible to weed pressure from invasive, hard-to-control weeds such as crabgrass and bermuda grass because of its more open canopy. Floratam St. Augustine was released by the Florida and Texas Agricultural Experiment Stations in 1972 as a St. Augustine Decline (SAD) virus and chinch bug resistant selection, but it lost its resistance in the 1980s as the bugs adapted.
It is important to know all of your options so that you can make the best, informed choice when installing a new turfgrass variety at home. Oftentimes, the best turfgrass variety all depends on what you are looking for and what the lawn’s environment presents. The above turfgrass selection demonstrates some of the top-performing cultivars for the state of Florida and its tropical climate, but if you are looking for a low maintenance variety, be sure to read The Best Grass for Low Maintenance in Florida. If your home lawn experiences a lot of shade, on the other hand, be sure to check out The Best Grass for Shade in Florida. After installing the variety that best fits your lawn, be sure to fertilize it with the Lawnifi® New Lawn Starter Box and follow proper installation, establishment and maintenance guidelines.