If you’re looking for low-maintenance lawn grasses, you can decide between Zoysia and centipede grasses.
These are two warm-season grasses that can handle heat and humidity relatively well and need very little mowing since they grow very short and close to the ground.
These two lawn grasses have very many similarities and they both can a lawn that you can easily take care of, but there are a few differences you’ll find between the two. Some of the main differences between the two lawn grasses are mostly in their cold tolerance and regional and climatic adaptation.
Comparison of warm-season grasses
Low to moderate
Moderate to high
Moderate to high
Low to moderate
Zoysia grass-like centipede grass is a warm-season lawn grass that is loved by homeowners because it’s able to withstand heavy foot traffic, drought, heat, and many more challenges.
This tough grass can create a very beautiful, dense lawn with very little effort from you.
However, this will depend on where you live, how you’re going to use your lawn, and how you’re going to take care of it.
Zoysia actively starts to grow when it’s warm in late spring and continues even during the hot summer.
It’s a perennial which means it grows back year after year in the right climate.
Zoysia grass gets established more slowly than other lawn grasses but once it’s established, it forms a dense carpet that weeds can’t penetrate.
Zoysia grass spreads quickly on the soil surface using stolons as well as underground stems called rhizomes.
During its actively growing season, Zoysia has a light to medium green color, but when it becomes dormant it turns brown. In spring, it greens up again.
Zoysia develops a deep root system that will help to conserve moisture it will need to stay green during the drought season. Zoysia thrives in full sun but it can tolerate light shade.
How to care for Zoysia grass
rooZoysia grass can tolerate a wide variety of soils, even acidic soils, but if the soil pH is below 6.0, you may need to add lime.
Soil with good drainage will help to create a deep root system that will help Zoysia to be more drought tolerant.
Zoysia is drought tolerant but it still needs an inch of water every week to thrive and encourage a deep root system that can withstand drought.
You can water early in the morning to allow the grass to dry to avoid fungal diseases.
Zoysia grass requires very little fertilizer than other grasses just 1-3 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 sq. feet of lawn, sandy soil needs more while clay soil needs less.
Avoid over-fertilizing because it can cause the roots and stems to decompose forming a buildup of thatch under live grass.
Centipede grass is also a low-maintenance lawn grass that is heat tolerant and grows in sandy and acidic soils in warm areas.
It needs very little care, but it’s sensitive to alkaline soil and can tolerate moderate shade.
It actively grows from late spring through the hot summer months but is more sensitive to cold than other warm-season grasses.
However, this lawn grass has specific climate and soil requirements that restrict it from being grown everywhere.
It only thrives in sandy and acidic soils and has a relatively shallow root system.
When centipede is iron deficient, its leaf blades turn light yellow and since it doesn’t have a true dormancy period like Zoysia, in mild conditions it can stay green all winter.
However, its lack of dormancy makes it vulnerable to the winter cold which can cause serious damage and even lead to the entire lawn dying.
Centipede grows slowly by creeping above ground using stolons to eventually form a dense lawn.
However, it doesn’t do well with heavy traffic and takes a long to recover.
How to take care of centipede grass
Centipede has a shallow root system that tends to turn brown faster during prolonged drought and extreme heat.
You should water this grass when you see the grass turning grayish-green or wilting or rolling leaves. Water an inch of water that is enough to soak about 6-8 inches deep.
Centipede grass needs a very little amount of nitrogen because too much can harm it.
You should apply the best fertilizer for centipede grass once in mid-spring and again in mid-summer, which will release the nutrients slowly for 6-8 weeks.
You can find the list of the best fertilizer for centipede grass here.
- Weed control
Crabgrass is a very common weed in centipede grass during the summer.
You can apply a pre-emergent in early spring to prevent crabgrass for up to 4 months.
If you’re using a weed and feed product on your centipede grass, make sure your lawn has come out of its winter dormancy state and is actively growing before applying it. it’s recommended that you wait till the third mowing before applying.
You should maintain 1 ½ – 2 inches of your centipede grass because any higher and it will start to develop excess thatch.
Make sure the bale in your lawnmower is sharp to give you a clean cut and remove only 1/3 of the top grass blades at one time.
- Bare spot repair
Prolonged drought or too much wear and tear can cause your centipede grass to develop bare spots that will create an opportunity for weeds to invade your lawn.
You can reseed the bare spots with a patch and repair centipede grass and with proper care, your lawn will develop into tough grass.
- Foot traffic
Centipede grass is very sensitive to heavy foot traffic. It’s not as durable as other lawn grasses and this can cause a lot of wear and tear within a short time.
This lawn grass also has a very slow recovery, so it’s best to avoid excessive foot traffic on your lawn to keep your lawn looking lush and green throughout.
Differences between Zoysia and Centipede Grasses
Both Zoysia and centipede kinds of grass are medium-textured warm-season turfgrasses.
Zoysia grass will give you a green lawn in the spring and is mostly used on golf courses to keep it looking manicured and attractive, thanks to its heavy sod and deep roots that hold even under heavy foot traffic.
Centipede on the other hand is nice and short with a more yellowish-green color.
It has wider blades than Zoysia which gives it a more coarse texture than Zoysia grass.
Centipede has relatively shallow roots but still provides a thick turf which makes it very popular in parks.
Centipede grows slowly and reaches about 5 inches in height.
- Climate and growth conditions
Zoysia and centipede grasses do very well in full sun, can tolerate partial shade, are drought resistant, and aren’t very demanding in their watering needs.
However, Zoysia grass can last longer, can withstand heavy traffic and salty water, but centipede grass is more sensitive and can’t stand salty water or wear out gracefully.
Centipede has a finicky nature which means you can’t mix it with Zoysia for your lawn.
- Mowing and maintenance
Zoysia grass can be a very difficult grass to mow evenly and for you to achieve the best cut, you can either use a reel or rotary mower with well-sharpened blades.
It’s prone to thatch buildup, but it can really thrive if fertilized during the fall.
Although centipede grass is more fragile when it comes to wear and disease tolerance, it’s not very demanding when it comes to maintenance and fertilization.
If you over-fertilize centipede grass, it will give you more problems.
Although both kinds of grass are drought-resistant, Zoysia grass requires more water even though it has a deep root that can survive extreme dry weather conditions.
If you don’t water it during the drought season, it will survive but it will stop growing and discolor.
With centipede grass, you only need to water it when it’s necessary or when the grass starts to turn brown. Once you water it, it quickly turns to its normal vibrant color.
- Pest and diseases
Zoysia grass is not vulnerable to specific types of pests or diseases, but centipede is vulnerable to some pests and diseases like ground pearls and ring nematodes that can cause serious damage and even kill centipede grass.
Ground pearl can also attack Zoysia grass but its better able to withstand the pest.
Centipede is also susceptible to a variety of fungal infections like a large patch or centipedegrass decline that can be caused or made worse by over-fertilization or over-watering.
Centipede grass will turn yellow if it doesn’t get enough iron when growing in extremely acidic soils.
Whatever your goal is for using and maintaining your lawn, you should choose a lawn grass that balances out your desires and the needs of the grass.
With proper care and maintenance, your lawn grass will stay green and your kids and pets will enjoy playing on it.