Centipede Lawn Grass Seed
Centipede grass is well adapted to the climate and soils of the southeastern United States and is the most common home lawn grass used in the panhandle of Florida. Centipede grass is a slow growing, low maintenance grass with low fertility requirements. Centipede grass grows close to the ground, is medium textured and is naturally pale green in color. Over fertilizing to obtain an unnatural dark green color reduces its cold tolerance, increases long-term maintenance problems, and is believed to contribute to "centipede grass decline."
Centipede grass is a great lawn grass choice for Northern Florida, East Texas, Alabama, Louisana, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Advantages of Centipede Grass
Centipede grass does very well in acidic and infertile soils. It has fair to good shade tolerance and good drought tolerance. It can be established from seed, sod, or plugs and spreads by stolons. Maintenance and fertility requirements are low compared to other turf grasses.
Disadvantages of Centipede Grass
Centipede grass is highly susceptible to damage from nematodes, particularly ring nematodes. This damage limits the use of centipede grass in south Florida's sandy soils. It is also subject to attack from insects called ground pearls. It has a naturally pale green color and is prone to iron chlorosis. It has poor salt, wear, and freezing tolerance. Stolons from centipede grass have a high lignin content and contribute to a heavy thatch layer, particularly under high fertility rates. The grass is often subject to "centipede grass decline," for which a causal agent has not yet been identified. The decline is influenced by management practices and is enhanced under high fertility, high irrigation, and low mowing height regimes. Intensive management over a period of 4 to 5 years results in root dieback in the spring. This root dieback then reduces shoot growth and results in the death of large patches of the lawn. This condition is aggravated by thatch accumulation, which results in new stolons growing several inches above the soil surface. Proper management, with an emphasis on maintenance of a viable root system, is the best solution to this condition. This includes irrigation during drought stress, maintaining a mowing height of 1 1/2 - 2 inches, prevention of thatch accumulation, and adherence to low fertility rates.
Varieties of Centiepede Grass
Common Centipede Grass
Common Centipede is a low-maintenance cultivar that can be established by seed or vegetative means. Common Centipede grows slowly and in a prostrate manner.
Tifblair Centipede Grass
This cultivar was released by the University of Georgia in 1997. Tifblair Centipede has good cold and freezing tolerance, and can be propagated by seed or vegetative means. It has a slightly faster rate of growth than other centipede grass cultivars.
Oklawn Centipede Grass
This improved cultivar has better cold tolerance than Common Centipede. It must be established vegetatively.
Centennial Centipede Grass
This cultivar was also selected for cold tolerance. Like Oklawn, it requires vegetative establishment, but is more tolerant of alkaline soils than Oklawn or Common Centiepede.
TennTurf Centipede Grass
Released by Tennessee in 1999, this cultivar has the best cold tolerance of any centipede grass. It is currently available only as sod, sprigs, or plugs. It prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade.
Establishment of a Centipede Lawn
Centipede grass can be established by seed, plugs, sprigs, or sod. Planting centipede grass as sod will produce an instant lawn that will establish more rapidly and be less susceptible to various stresses. Lay the sod in a well-prepared seedbed, fitting the pieces tightly together to avoid cracks in the turf. Wet the soil surface thoroughly prior to laying the sod. After the sod is in place water thoroughly and roll with a lightweight roller to ensure firm contact between the sod and soil. The entire area should be watered daily with 1/2 inch of water per application. Once the sod has rooted into the soil, irrigation frequency can be reduced to an as-needed basis. Although sodding is more expensive than seeding or plugging, good quality, weed-free sod will produce the best quality lawn.
Seeding a Centipede Lawn
Seed of centipede grass is expensive, but the seeding rate is low and this method of establishment is probably cheaper than vegetative planting if time and labor are considered. The suggested seeding rate is 4 ounces per 1000 square feet. The best time to seed is during the period from April to July, since this permits a full growing season before winter weather. Fall seeding is undesirable because the young seedlings may not become sufficiently established to withstand cold injury during the winter. Centipede grass seed is naturally slow to germinate, and may take up to 2 to 3 weeks. Soil washing due to heavy rain or excessive irrigations should be minimized by lightly mulching the planted area. Seed quality should be considered when purchasing seed for planting. Insist on seed with a purity of 90% or better and a minimum of 85% germination.
Plugging or Sprigging Centipede
Plugging or sprigging centipede grass will leave open areas of soil, which are subject to invasion by fast growing, opportunistic weed species. Due to the slow growth habit of centipede grass, diligent weed control measures will have to be used if this method of planting is used. The best time to establish centipede grass is during the spring or early summer months. This will enable the grass to grow in before cooler weather begins, when growth will be reduced. Seed may safely be sown until later in the year, but growth will again be greatly reduced in the fall. When establishing any grass, it is important to provide irrigation more frequently than is normally recommended. Until a viable root system is established, turf demands for irrigation are greater. It is also important not to now until the roots have had a chance to work down into the soil and establish themselves there. Proper site preparation before planting is critical to ensure successful establishment. Refer to the chapter on "Preparing to Plant a Florida Lawn" for complete information. Centipede grass is best adapted to a soil pH of 5.0 to 5.5. Severe iron chlorosis may occur if pH is above 6.5 to 7.0. Preplant application of wettable sulfur at the rate of 430 pounds per acre (10 pounds per 1000 square feet) can be used to lower the pH of some Florida soils 1 pH unit. Do not apply more than 10 pounds per 1000 square feet of wettable sulfur per application. Where more is required, allow 60 days between applications. Irrigate with 1 inch after each application to activate the sulfur. Lime is seldom required for centipede grass.
Fertilizing a Centipede Lawn
Proper fertilization of any lawngrass is an important component of the best management practices of your home lawn. Fertilization and other cultural practices can influence the overall health of your lawn, and can reduce its vulnerability to numerous stresses, including weeds, insects, and disease. It is advisable for homeowners to have soil tests done annually. Your local Cooperative Extension Service office has recommendations and bags for taking soil samples and submitting to the Extension Soil Testing Lab for analysis. In particular, phosphorous levels are best determined by soil testing. Since many Florida soils are high in phosphorous, little or no phosphorous may be needed for satisfactory lawn growth. Established centipede grass lawns have very low fertility requirements. Centipede grass is a low-maintenance turfgrass and does not respond will to excessive use of fertilizer, especially nitrogen. Do not overfertilize centipede grass with nitrogen to equal the color of St. Augustinegrass. Over fertilization of centipede grass can result in centipede grass decline, insect pressure, and thatch accumulation. As with any lawn grass, do not apply more than 1/2 lb. of water soluble nitrogen per 1000 square feet at any one time. Up to 1 lb. of nitrogen per 1000 square feet may be applied at one time, but at least 50% of that nitrogen should be in a slow-release form.