While vacationing along the Gulf of Mexico, I stayed somewhere outside Pensacola. I remember standing near the coast and digging my feet into the sand. I was following the beachline, staring at my feet, and really began to marvel over the fact that thick, green grass could grow so close to the ocean.
Not any turf can thrive throughout hot, coastal lawns, but St. Augustine isn’t just any ol’ turf. Some may even describe it as a luxury turf for the numerous Hawaiian and Mexican beach resorts dotting the gulf. Although it is a summer-loving grass, the coast isn’t the only place this grass can grow. Check out all of St. Augustine grass’ pros and cons to see if it’s the right turf for you!
An Overview of St. Augustine Grass Pros and Cons
There are several pronounced benefits that St. Augustine grass has over other warm-season turfs. It is not picky about soil type and can thrive in mixed soil, so long as it is well drained. It is able to survive extreme heat and keep its beautiful dark-green color through any scorcher. St. Augustine is one of the few summer grasses that can handle shade and is incredibly salt tolerant.
Some of the cons of St. Augustine grass are its inability to keep its color in cool weather and its limited resistance to foot traffic. This turf’s growth can be stunted by extended wet and cool spells. In order to keep St. Augustine green and rich, you will need to give it your full attention. It is a very high-maintenance grass.
|Thrives in mixed, well-drained soil||Only handles moderate traffic|
|Survives extreme heat||Loses color in cool weather|
|Salt tolerant||Stunted by cold and wet conditions|
|Grows well in shade||High maintenance|
Advantages of St. Augustine Grass
There are many advantages to St. Augustine that make it the ideal turf for specific conditions. Its heat and salt tolerance makes it extremely useful in tropical and sunny coastal lawns. The fact that it can handle some traffic, moderate shade, and that it thrives in mixed soils allows for versatility in planting.
Thrives in Mixed, Well-Drained Soil
St. Augustine isn’t picky about which type of soil it grows in. It can handle rich soils or sparser ones as long as it is supplemented with the correct nutrients. The soil must be well-drained but it can handle some larger water events if needed. The ability to survive and thrive in different soil types allows for flexibility when choosing this turf.
Survives Extreme Heat
Rated for US hardiness zones 9-10, this grass can handle some heat. It is a lovely dark green color and when given ample water will maintain that rich color through even the hottest summers. St. Augustine grows tight, dense mats that keep moisture locked in the ground. The growth pattern also provides the roots with protection from pests and the hot afternoon sun.
St. Augustine grass is a coastal warm-season turf that can handle salt spray. This salt tolerance doesn’t just come in handy to deal with ocean mist, it can also benefit warm climate inland growers as well. A high tolerance to salt means that higher levels of fertilizer can be applied without the risk of burning your turf. A higher level of nitrogen can lead to greener, thicker lawns.
Grows Well in Shade
This is one of the few warm-season varieties that can handle growing in shade. While full shade all day will leave this grass sparse and spindly, 4 or more hrs of sunlight are all that is needed for St. Augustine to flourish. This ability to handle shade makes it a great addition to beach resorts or properties with filtered tree cover.
Disadvantages of St. Augustine Grass
Some of the major disadvantages of St. Augustine grass could prove disastrous on your particular lawn. One obvious drawback is that any cold or extended wet conditions will brown, stunt, and possibly kill this grass. If you don’t like to pay a fortune to fertilize and need a lawn that can handle constant traffic, then you may need to pass on St. Augustine grass.
Only Handles Moderate Traffic
St. Augustine can be walked on and used sparingly without much concern of damage. However, get-togethers, pets, and children will often strain this turf beyond its ability to repair itself. Over time, you will be left with dead patches and brown areas that need to be reseeded.
Loses Color in Cool Weather
Even in hot coastal areas, temperatures can drop. If they drop for an extended time or excess water remains on the lawn, then St. Augustine grass will lose its color. The colorless blades will need to be mowed repeatedly until the new recolored growth emerges when climate conditions normalize.
Stunted by Cold and Wet Conditions
Any cold or wet conditions that last more than several days can begin to have an impact on St. Augustine grass. The growth can be stunted, resulting in weak and damaged turf. This weakened turf is often susceptible to numerous pests. One such pest, the southern chinch bug, can decimate your entire lawn if untreated.
Frequent water requirements and large feeding needs make St. Augustine one of the most expensive turfs to maintain. It needs heavy feeding every month through the summer to keep its thick, dark green growth. The increased feeding leads to more mowing and that further adds to the time needed to take care of this turf.
Weighing Up Whether St. Augustine is Right for Your Yard
St. Augustine grass’ pros and cons can really help to shed a light on whether or not this is the turf for you. The main thing to consider is climate. If it gets cold, it’s probably not your best bet. If it’s really hot and most other grass dies, then you might be looking at a winner.
The benefits of St. Augustine grass are that it can handle extreme heat, salt, and shade. It can be grown on many different soil types while being durable enough to handle light traffic.
Some noteworthy drawbacks of St. Augustine grass are its uselessness in cold and wet climates, and its high maintenance costs can be a headache. The fact that it can only be walked on occasionally, and that it could lose its color from just a little cold front, makes it undesirable for some lawn owners.
If some of the pros of St. Augustine are attractive but the cons make it a no-go, check out some of the turf alternatives below:
Buffalo Grass: A warm-season grass that is drought and heat resistant. It requires only moderate maintenance and can handle cold much better than St. Augustine.
Perennial Rye: This grass is durable and can handle a range of weather conditions. It easily reseeds and can handle regular traffic.
Zoysia Grass: This grass can handle cold well and is shade and drought tolerant. Zoysia grass can handle heavy traffic and costs much less to maintain.