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St. Augustine Grass

Stenotaphrum secundatum

Landscaping Networx

St. Augustine grass forms a very dense lawn that feels great under bare feet. A warm-season turfgrass, native to the coastal plains of the Gulf of Mexico - it is best adapted to sub-tropical coastal regions with mild winters and plenty of rainfall. Consequently, it is widely used in lawns along the coast of the southeastern states, the Gulf of Mexico and throughout Florida.

When planted in the right spot St. Augustine grass will survive with little maintenance. With a little extra care it makes a thick, lush lawn. It is more shade tolerant than other warm-season grasses but will grow best in full sun. It likes fertile, moist, well drained soils and it will not grow in waterlogged or compacted soils. A vigorous grower when temperatures are between 80 ° and 90 ° F it is not cold tolerant and will not survive harsh winters. In coastal areas rainfall is usually adequate, it requires frequent irrigation when grown on sandy soils and during dry spells. Avoid planting in areas that receive heavy foot traffic - St. Augustine is not a good choice for sports fields.

Characteristics:

  • Warm-season, perennial turfgrass
  • Native of the Gulf of Mexico coastal plains
  • Adapted to sub-tropical climates
  • Blue-green, course-textured (thick) leaves
  • Fast and thick-growing, spreads by stolons
  • Likes moist, fertile, well drained soils
  • Good salt tolerance
  • Not drought tolerant
  • Tolerates shade better than other warm-season grasses
St. Augustine Grass zone of adaptation mapGrowing Range in the United States
St. Augustinegrass Public Domain WikipediaPublic Domain Image - Wikipedia

St. Augustine Grass Establishment and Care

Planting: St. Augustine lawns are usually planted by sodding or plugging. New lawns should be started from May through August - allowing the grass to develop a strong root system before winter.

Cultivars:

  • Bitter Blue - has a finer, denser leaf texture and darker blue-green color than Common St. Augustine.
  • Raleigh - developed by N.C. State and is the most cold tolerant.
  • Flortam - chinch bug resistant.
  • Seville, Jade and Delmar - semi-dwarf varieties with fine leaf texture and dark green color. These varieties should be mowed short (1 ½ to 2 ½ inches)
  • Floralawn - improved insect and disease resistance.
  • Floratine - Finer leaf texture and denser growth habit. It tolerates closer mowing.
St. Augustine Grass Illustration - USDA-NRCSUSDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Hitchcock, A.S. (rev. A. Chase). 1950. Manual of the grasses of the United States. USDA Miscellaneous Publication No. 200. Washington, DC.

Mowing: Mow between 2 to 3 ½ inches - depending on cultivar. As with all warm season grasses, it will need to be mowed every 7 to 10 days in the spring and as frequent as every 5 days while it is growing fast in the summer. Stick to the 1/3 Rule - mowing frequently enough so you don't remove more than ⅓ of the leaf blade. Mow at shorter heights in the summer and raise the height of cut going in the fall to encourage the grass to build up energy reserves in preparation for winter. Keep your lawn mower blades sharp for a clean manicured cut.

Watering: The coastal areas usually receive enough rain to support St. Augustine without supplemental irrigation. However, it does not tolerate drought and will need to be watered during dry periods.

Fertilizing: Start fertilizing about 3 weeks after the grass has started to green up in the spring. Three applications of slow release nitrogen - April, June and August - at a rate of 1lb per 1000 ft2 will keep your lawn healthy and green. Apply no more than 3 lbs of nitrogen per year and use a slow release fertilizer. High rates of fertilizer will cause thatch buildup and increase the chances of insect and disease problems.

Have your soil tested at least once every 3 years. The results will tell you if you need to add lime or other soil amendments.

Iron deficiency can be a problem with St. Augustine. It readily develops chlorotic symptoms in alkaline or iron deficient soils and may require a fertilizer containing iron.

St. Augustine Pests and Problems

Most pest and disease problems can be prevented by using good management practices.

Thatch: A heavy thatch producer. It needs to be dethatched if the thatch layer is over ½ inch. The best time to dethatch is in May - when the grass is actively growing.

Insects: Chinch bugs are the major insect pest. Floratam and Florilawn are two varieties that are resistant to chinch bugs.

Diseases: Brown patch/Large patch, grey leaf spot, root rot and St. Augustine Decline Virus (SADV) are the most common disease problems.

Weeds: St. Augustine is very sensitive to post-emergence broadleaf herbicides. If you need to use chemical weed control, be sure to use a product that is labeled for St. Augustine grass and always read and follow the label to avoid damaging your lawn. 

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