Is centipede grass the same as St. Augustine? Centipede grass and St. Augustine are often mistaken for one another. Both have similar blade shapes and are low-growing. Both of them have shallow roots and similar leaf shapes. But what sets centipede grass apart from St. Augustine?
Comparing Centipede Grass vs St. Augustine
The key difference between centipede grass and St. Augustine, when it comes to cultivating a lawn of either variety, is resource consumption. One of these grasses requires half as much time, effort, and nutrients as the other. The second biggest difference is appearance. While they are both low-growing and coarse, they have very different color profiles.
Centipede grass is a bright green lawn grass for warm regions. It puts out long, above-ground stolons that set out many upright blades of grass on each. This looks a bit like the legs coming from a centipede’s body, hence the name “centipede grass”. The blades themselves are short, flat, and a bit rough but not as rough as St. Augustine.
The light color of Centipede grass is its healthy color. One of the most frequent mistakes people make with centipede grass is overfeeding it to “improve” this color and get it to a deeper shade of green. It may indeed reach the desired shade of green after gorging itself on fertilizer, but while it looks attractive to us, this is a sign that the centipede grass is overfed and may experience significant dieback in the coming season.
St. Augustine grass, on the other hand, is low-growing and coarse with a deep green color. It also produces stolons. When underwatered, the blades of St. Augustine may become “sharp” around the edges and are unpleasant to touch.
Best Uses for Centipede Grass and St. Augustine
Both centipede grass and St. Augustine grass should be used in lawns that are sunny, hot, have dry soil, and that get little water. However, centipede grass is non-invasive and, even after it has been established, can easily live next to other landscaping options like trees, bushes, and flowerbeds. Centipede grass takes and uses only the small amount of resources it needs to survive. St. Augustine, on the other hand, is considered an invasive species in many parts of the country and will take and “waste” more resources than it needs.
Soil Types and pH Needs of Centipede Grass and St. Augustine
Centipede grass and St. Augustine both prefer acidic soils. Centipede grass prefers soil with a pH of 5 to 6 and tolerates more acidic soil better than more alkaline soil. St. Augustine grass prefers soil with a pH of 6 to 7 and also tolerates acid soils better than alkaline soils. Both of these grasses will experience slowed growth and lessened durability when growing in soil with a pH of more than 7.
Both of these grass types thrive in soil types that thicker grasses tend to avoid. Poor, sandy, and dry soil is ideal for centipede grass and St. Augustine grass lawns.
Water Needs for Centipede Grass and St. Augustine Grass
Centipede grass requires 1” of water per week or even less while retaining a relatively pleasant texture. As long as it is in a sandy and well-drained soil type, it is difficult to overwater Centipede grass.
St. Augustine grass also requires only 1” of water per week and, like Centipede grass, is difficult to overwater in its ideal soil type of dry, poor, and sandy. However, where St. Augustine and Centipede grass differ is how they deal with any excess water they encounter. Centipede grass will not absorb more than it needs. St. Augustine grass will take in and disperse as much as 4x its true water need.
Sun, Shade, and Temperature Requirements for Centipede Grass and St. Augustine
Both centipede grass and St. Augustine need to be placed in full sun situations to thrive. St. Augustine can survive in partial sun or shade in the hottest climates, but this shade should not exceed more than 6 hours a day.
St. Augustine can also survive mild cold exposure, going dormant when temperatures begin to average 55F. This is a warm-season grass that can survive a mild winter but may come out of it slowly and with just a small amount of damage.
Centipede grass, on the other hand, is meant for only the hottest regions. It has no true cold dormancy state and is easily damaged by temperatures under 50F.
Durability of Centipede Grass vs St. Augustine Lawns
Centipede grass is not a durable grass type and it does not do well with damage. A damaged stolon will compartmentalize by dying, taking a small section of grass with it. This should be replaced by another stolon in time, but this is not a quick process. Centipede grass lawns also take several years to become “established”.
St. Augustine lawns are also low-scoring in the durability category, though they hold up moderately better than a centipede grass lawn and recover from damage much faster. The one advantage St. Augustine provides over other grass types is that digging and root disruptions cause little damage to the grass.
Common Pests and Diseases for Centipede Grass Lawns and St. Augustine Lawns
St. Augustine and centipede grass have very similar pest and disease profiles. They are susceptible to most lawn-destroying insects such as thrips and grubs. Both are also susceptible to fungal infections if they are left in standing water or deep mud.
St. Augustine grass is also susceptible to chinch bug infestations, a condition few other grass types have to deal with. Digging pests, on the other hand, will cause little damage to a St. Augustine lawn but can easily disrupt a centipede grass lawn.
Mowing Needs of Centipede Grass vs St. Augustine Lawns
Centipede grass lawns should be mown very short, down to 1”, and will need to be mown infrequently. Dethatching may need to be done once or twice a year. If left to grow, centipede grass will top out at 4 to 5”.
A St. Augustine lawn should be mown to a height of 2” to 2.5”. It grows at an average rate and should be dethatched once a year or once every other year.
Types of Grass Related to Centipede Grass
Centipede grass is a small category with few cultivars. However, choosing the right variety or cultivar for your region and needs is critical as density of turf, water needs, and texture can vary widely from basic centipede grass seed to the patented genotype cultivars.
Types of Grass Related to St. Augustine
The St. Augustine family is also relatively small for a grass. However, there are a few notable cultivars that can help deal with the chinch bug problem (such as ‘Captiva’). If you’re interested in cultivating a lawn with a rare and somewhat exclusive appearance, a variegated variety (‘Variegatum’) is also available in limited supply.
The Best-Case-Scenario for a Centipede Grass or St. Augustine Lawn
Both St. Augustine and Centipede grass should be kept in dry, poor, sandy soil. They both need full sun to thrive and neither variety can stand much foot traffic or damage.
The difference, then, is appearance and resource requirements. Centipede grass is lightly colored with a medium-coarse blade type and very light resource requirements. This grass type is never greedy. St. Augustine has a coarse blade type but a deep green color. It should not discolor as long as it is kept dry and it is always mown with sharp blades. However, St. Augustine will hoard resources. If you can spare them, this isn’t a bad thing.
A Quick Summary of Centipede Grass vs St. Augustine Lawn
If you want to quickly compare the key aspects relating to the Centipede Grass vs St. Augustine debate, I’ve put together a handy little reference table for you below.
|Grass Type||Centipede Grass||St. Augustine Grass|
|Appearance||Bright, Light Green with Short, Straight Blades Growing From Long Stolons||Low Growing with Broad, Dark Green, Thin, Coarse Blades|
|Popular Uses||Warm Climate Lawns with Low Traffic and Few Resources||Low Traffic Lawns in Warm, Sunny Climates|
|Ideal Soil Type and pH||Sandy and Dry Soil is Ideal - 5 to 6 Ideal pH||Well-Drained, Poor, and Sandy Soil is Ideal – 6 to 7 Ideal pH|
|Water Requirements||.5 to 1” of Water Per Week – Low to Average Overall Water Consumption||1” of Water Per Week – Average Overall Water Consumption|
|Sun/Shade/Temperature Needs||Full Sun Preferred/No True Dormant Period||Full Sun Preferred, Can Tolerate Part Sun – Dormant at 55F|
|Durability||Low Durability and Damage Recovery||Mediocre Durability and Damage Recovery|
|Pests and Diseases||Mold, Mildew, Moss, and Algae if Too Moist – Webworms, Thrips, Grubs – Digging Animals – Weeds and Other Plants||Beetles, Mole Crickets, Grubs, Nematodes, Chinch Bugs – Fungal Disease – Brown Patch – Root Rot|
|Mowing Needs||Should Be Mown to 1” to 1.5” Height – Grows Best in Hot Weather||Mow to a 2” to 2.5” Height – Grows Fastest in Early Summer|