Centipede and St. Augustine are two of the most popular types of grasses planted on lawns in areas with a mild winter climate. They both come with their own benefits and will thrive if taken care of properly. However, they both have some similarities like they both spread on the ground using stolons and have leaves that turn at a right angle to the creeping stem. However, the centipede leaves are a bit smaller and more pointed than for St. Augustine.
The main differences between centipede and St. Augustine is in their color, durability, management levels, and their preferred environments. Each has a different shade of color and requires very different levels of care with centipede needing less care than St. Augustine. They also prefer different environments with St. Augustine having more grass varieties.
Centipede grass is a popular turf grass that can grow in poor soils and the fact that it’s low maintenance makes it very popular with homeowners living in warmer areas. It’s a slow-growing lawn grass with coarse leaves and an apple-green color.
It requires very little fertilizer, infrequent mowing, and can tolerate moderate shade if it gets at least 4 hours of full sun daily.
It’s a slow-growing grass but aggressive enough to produce a good, dense, and relatively weed-free lawn at low maintenance. Although it grows aggressively, it can be easily controlled and only required edging once a year
This creeping perennial does well in sandy acidic soils with low fertility and spreads by stolons. It has a coarse texture and has short upright stems that only grow 2-5 inches long.
It requires less mowing and can survive in mildly cold temperatures as long as it’s not extreme.
Centipede grass doesn’t go into a true dormancy state and if it experiences light freezes, it will turn brown, but it recovers and regrows once it’s warmer.
When centipede is healthy, it can grow dense enough to keep away weeds and other grasses.
Although it doesn’t have deep roots like Bermuda and Bahia, it grows close to the ground which helps to better conserve water and fight drought.
Care and maintenance
Centipede is drought tolerant, and it prefers infrequent deep watering, but don’t overwater to prevent water from standing for a while.
Water the grass only when it shows signs of water stress during drought-like a faded color or wilting. Water once a week deeply during drought instead of several times a week shallowly.
Fertilize your grass twice a year, during spring and fall.
Apply lightly a nitrogen-rich fertilizer once in the spring and again in the fall and only use a fertilizer for centipede grass and contains iron. Don’t apply fertilizer on wet grass to avoid burning.
Centipede grass is a low-maintenance grass that only grows 4 inches tall. It needs periodic mowing of about 1-2 inches high and removes the clippings, but never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf at one cutting.
Make sure to use a sharp blade of your reel or rotary mower.
Centipede has an open growth that tends to invite weeds and the best way to control these weeds is to use a centipede lawn pre-emergent herbicide which is recommended to be used in spring or fall.
St. Augustine grass
St. Augustine grass is also a popular lawn grass that can tolerate heat and humidity. It’s a great perennial grass that is used for lawns and pasture and creates a dense carpet or course, textured grass blades even in shaded areas.
It has blue-green blades that quickly and easily form a dense lawn and it requires frequent fertilization to stay green and also frequent mowing at a height of 2-4 inches to keep weed away.
This grass isn’t picky about soil and it can thrive in all well-drained soil types.
It can tolerate the extreme summer heat and still keep its color. St. Augustine grass will do well in moderate shade than most warm-season grasses and it will grow tightly enough to withstand average foot traffic and also compete well with weeds.
Even though this turfgrass can tolerate the shade, it won’t grow into a beautiful thick lawn in the shade.
St. Augustine spreads aggressively using stolons and being a high maintenance grass, it requires monthly fertilization during its growth season on sandy soil. T
his grass is vulnerable to pests and diseases. 3 different types of St. Augustine grass include;
- Bitter blue
It has a dense and finer texture than the original grass with a dark blue-green color with moderate shade and cold tolerance and also a good tolerance to salt and hot weather. Regular insect application will help prevent webworm and chinch bug damage.
This grass needs 5-6 hours of full sun every day to thrive.
It has a coarse texture and wider, longer leaf blades than most varieties. It has large, purplish-red stolons with internodes 3 inches long. It’s not very tolerant of cold and can suffer freeze damage when temperatures are below zero for a long time.
It grows and spreads very fast and its stolons can grow ¾ inch every day, but it has a mowing height of 1 inch.
A native St. Augustine grass that prefers full sun, but can also thrive in partly shaded areas. It’s a semi-dwarf grass that has a plush appearance without being thatch.
Its grass blades have the same width as Bitter blue, but finer than for Floratum.
Its leaf blades are soft to touch and are tapered at the tip with a rounded end. If planted in the right environment, it’s an ever-green grass that can thrive in colder areas and is drought tolerant.
Caring for St. Augustine grass
St. Augustine usually needs an inch of water per week, but don’t over-water. If you’re using a sprinkler, water in the morning to prevent the grass from burning in full sun or damp at night.
St. Augustine needs nutrients to thrive and it needs fertilizer with high nitrogen content during its growing season and a more balanced fertilizer for the rest of the year.
Apply the fertilizer in the morning and water your lawn thoroughly.
Use a weed killer that is compatible with this grass and follow instructions to use it.
Use a pre-emergent after the last frost in spring and again in the fall before the weather cools. Use a post-emergent on weeds that appear after.
St. Augustine needs frequent mowing to keep the grass 3-4 inches long after every 5 days to 2 weeks, depending on the weather and time of year. Mow frequently during the summer and less in spring and fall.
When the grass goes dormant in a cooler climate, wait till spring when it greens up to mow.
Differences between Centipede and St. Augustine
These two grasses are nearly identical, but there are subtle differences that tell them apart.
While both have v-shaped blades, centipede blade tips are thinner and more pointed, and while its leaves have an alternating pattern, the grass blades for St. Augustine are arranged opposite to one another. Centipede also has thinner seed spikes than St. Augustine.
While centipede grass requires infrequent deep watering and only when it shows signs of water stress, especially when it’s dry, St. Augustine requires deep watering every week to encourage strong deep roots.
A centipede lawn requires water of about 1.5-2 inches, but a St. Augustine lawn requires water of about 6-8 inches deep.
Centipede grass requires less nitrogen than St. Augustine.
You can use 1 pound of slow-release nitrogen fertilizer on a 1,000 sq. feet lawn once during the summer and again during mid-summer, but for St. Augustine you’ll need 4 pounds of the same fertilizer per year spread in equal parts from spring to late summer when the grass is in its growth stage.
- How the grass grows
You may plant centipede grass using seed, sod, or planting plugs, but you can only use seed and sod to plant St. Augustine grass.
While both grasses use stolons to spread above ground, centipede grass prefers soils with a pH level of between 5.0-6 but St. Augustine prefers soils with an acidic level of between 6-6.5.
Centipede grass is a slow-growing lawn grass with coarse leaves but not as course as St. Augustine and a light green color. St. Augustine has blue-green blades and will deliver a dense growth with a medium to dark green color.
It’s also less tolerant to cold than other warm-season grasses while centipede can tolerate moderately low temperatures.
Types of low maintenance grasses
Drought-resistant, grows in different types of soil
Requires frequent mowing
Does well in full sun or shade, can withstand heavy traffic
Less mowing, edging, and fertilization
Highly drought-resistant, adapts well to different weather conditions
Less mowing and watering
Loves lots of sun, drought-resistant, doesn’t fare well with traffic
Requires less watering and is low maintenance
Both centipede and St. Augustine lawn grasses can deliver a beautiful lawn that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance to grow.