St. Augustine and Bermuda lawns are widespread grasses in warm climates. People choose them in tropical and subtropical zones like the southern states. Bermuda grass fares well, even further north than that.
You might also want to mix them for better results depending on the soil and the area’s microclimate. Or maybe you have some pre-existing Bermuda grass in your garden, and you are looking to switch to St. Augustine or vice versa.
Regardless of what the case may be for you, this article is here to help you make up your mind. We have gathered all the relevant information needed to answer the question in play: Will St. Augustine take over Bermuda?
Bullet point summary:
Whether one or the other variety of grass will prevail depends on the circumstances. Many things are in play and can affect the outcome, and you will not be in a position to control all of them. You can, however, control the four most important factors, or at least adjust your decision accordingly:
- Temperature. Both varieties thrive in warm climates; however, St. Augustine cannot tolerate cold seasons, while Bermuda can handle lower temperatures. If you live in an area with colder winters, no matter how warm it is the rest of the year. St. Augustine will be at a disadvantage.
- Sunshine. Both Bermuda and St. Augustine need sunshine to grow. Their difference is that while St. Augustine will do great with 5-6 hours of sunshine daily, Bermuda needs sunshine the whole day. Its growth will be stunted, and it will eventually die out otherwise.
- Water needs. St. Augustine requires a lot more water than Bermuda. It will demand up to four times more water during the warm season. If you want to inhibit the growth of St. Augustine, simply cut back on the water.
- Fertilizer. St. Augustine is a fertilizer-intensive grass, while Bermuda needs fertilizer only three times per year. So you can adjust your fertilizing schedule based on which of the two you want to benefit from.
Before we delve deeper into the above points and explain how to set up your garden environment to account for them, let’s look at the main differences between the two lawn varieties.
St. Augustine Grass vs. Bermuda Grass
- Appearance, how to tell them apart
Bermuda grass tends to have shorter and flatter leaves than its counterpart. St. Augustine has distinctively broad leaves, which some people describe as ”coarse”. It also has longer stems.
People usually refer to St Augustine grass as dark and green with flat leaves, whereas Bermuda lawn is on the greyer scale. It has short blades, and the leaves are sort of gray-green. Bermuda is trimmed a lot lower than St. Augustine, and it is the kind of lawn you will find in golf courses and soccer fields.
- Origins and suited climates
Both plants are brought into the United States from abroad. St. Augustine’s birthplace and habitats are the Gulf of Mexico, the West Indies, and West Africa. Later on, it moved to Brazil, and the first report of it in the USA was in South Carolina sometime in the 1800s. By 1840, it was also sighted in Australia and New Zealand.
Bermuda grass, on the other hand, probably originated somewhere in tropical Africa. It then made its way to Australia and the Bengal region of India and Bangladesh. The story goes that it was brought into the US by accident. Contaminated hay, which was used as bedding, was the medium of transport. Millions of seeds were distributed across the eastern United States and then spread to the south.
Nowadays, both varieties are found and can thrive in the American continent’s southern tropical and subtropical zones, while Bermuda grass can also grow in the northern transition zones. Bermuda grass, being more drought and cold-tolerant, is the most widespread variety in the US.
Bermuda vs. St. Augustine, which one will take over?
The answer to that is somewhat complicated. It depends. It can be Bermuda, it can be St. Augustine, or in some cases, they might just coexist in balance. Let’s divide this into two sections to simplify things. Things which you can control and things you need to adjust to.
- Things you need to adjust to
First, let’s address the elephant in the room. Climate is of the utmost importance for plants. So, if you live in a non-tropical area, St. Augustine is already at a disadvantage. The tropical zone in the US includes, for example, southern Florida and Hawaii.
In general, the warmer the climate, the better it is for St. Augustine. It will fare well in tropical and subtropical zones alike. Problems for it begin in northern areas, where Bermuda will start having a clear edge. So, lesson number one, choose your lawn by the weather.
A second major factor related to the first one is sunshine. As we said, Bermuda loves sunshine. In fact, anything other than at least eight hours of direct sunlight will not allow it to show its true potential. St. Augustine, on the other hand, can do well with even five or six hours of sunshine.
Therefore, areas with plenty of sunshine are great for Bermuda grass, while it will have problems growing in areas with fewer daily average hours of sunshine. It is easy to find out how the place you intend to plant the grass fares regarding sunshine by searching on Google.
So, to sum up, you can tell whether your St. Augustine has the potential to fare well and take over the Bermuda grass in your garden (and vice versa) by examining the climate conditions. The more suitable the climate for a variety, the easier it will be to compete and take over.
- Things you can (and should) control
There are common strategies in play here. Since, as we mentioned, the two varieties differ in water, sunlight, and fertilizer needs, you can tweak those two variables to suit your goals. Of course, water does not only come from your supply, since rain also enters the equation, but we will ignore that for now.
Since you will be planting St. Augustine in hot, dry areas, it will not be much of an influence. Or at least, we assume that is what you will be doing since it does not make sense to plant St. Augustine grass anywhere else but in those climate zones!
Let’s go through the game plan. Assuming you have both varieties in your garden now, we will try to make the Bermuda grass take over. If you remember from our discussion above, St. Augustine is demanding with respect to fertilizer requirements, while Bermuda needs fertilizing only three times a year. Imagine then what would happen if we only fertilized the soil that often? The St. Augustine lawn would soon perish, and Bermuda would inevitably take over.
The strategy works the reverse way too. Let’s see if there is anything we can do to help St. Augustine win the battle. Well, Bermuda grass does not handle the lack of sunlight so well. So, we can try to manipulate that to our advantage. We can try to bring some shade over the garden for a few hours a day until we see that Bermuda grass is starting to suffer.
Another very common hack is to cut the lawn at the highest setting of the lawnmower. Bermuda grass is so desperate for sunlight that even its own long stems can shade it out and stunt its growth. St. Augustine does not face this issue. So by trimming the grass at the highest setting, you can aid the growth of St. Augustine and prevent or even reverse the advance of Bermuda grass.
These were just examples, and hopefully, you get the idea so far. Whichever side of the scale you want the balance to tip towards, Bermuda or St. Augustine, you can adjust sunlight, fertilizer, and water quantity accordingly.
Is there a winner? Which one should I choose?
No, there are definitely no winners and losers here. You can choose to grow whichever variety you want, as long as it fits the climate of your area. They are both equally aesthetically pleasing lawns when taken care of.
One point you might want to take into consideration is that Bermuda grass is more injury-tolerant while St. Augustine is more maintenance-heavy. So perhaps if you have pets or children roaming in the garden, you will want to give planting St Augustine a second thought.
A dog in the family will make everyone spend more time in the garden, and that is great for our kids in today’s world.
It will not be great for your grass, however, since in this case, it will be a lot more difficult for St. Augustine to compete with Bermuda and take over if the dog or the children are continuously stepping over it. And we all know how stubborn both pets and children can be in acting as they wish in the garden!
Hopefully, our guide provided you with enough information to answer whether one variety will take over the other on your own. It is a highly circumstantial thing, and you can influence what happens according to your wants. It might seem a daunting task at first, but as soon as you get the basics down, you will be set for success!