St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass (also known as Charleston grass
in South Carolina) is often the most popular choice for lawns throughout
southern United States. Especially in coastal regions where cold temperature
extremes are moderated by oceanic climatic conditions. St. Augustine grass
is native to the Caribbean, Africa and Mediterranean regions, and best
adapted to subtropical climates.
Good for coastal regions, thrives in heat, does poorly
in cool climates. Excellent to fair under drought conditions. Moderately
good to heavy traffic. Somewhat shade tolerant. Can be used in moist,
semi-fertile soils. At the moment, most common installation method is
sodding or plugs; seeds
are very difficult to obtain if not impossible.
HIGHLIGHTS: St. Augustine grass is a big thatch
producer, more so than other types of turf grass. It also requires plenty
of moisture and is best suited to humid regions. Has good shade tolerance,
except for Floratam. Susceptible to fungal
diseases. St. Augustine Grass
Decline is a virus common to Texas and Louisiana and there is no
Cold Tolerance: Poor (damage possible below 20)
Shade Tolerance: tolerates moderate levels of shade,
but will become thin under dense
Traffic Tolerance: Poor
Rate of Establishment: Medium/Fast
Planting: sod or plugs
Watering: needs weekly watering for optimal appearance,
but will survive drought conditions
Mowing Height: 2" — 4"
Common Pests: grubs,
chinch bugs, mole
crickets, sod webworms,
armyworms, and cutworms
Thatch: heavy producer of thatch made from stolons
WARNING: an ingredient in many weed/feed products
(2,4-D) designed for cool-season grasses, Bermuda
and Bahiagrass, can kill St. Augustine grass.
Q. Why won't my grass grow under the tree? I have the
best St. Augustine type.
A. The reason for the general poor performance is a lack of,
or alteration of, sunlight. The light quality is diminished because
trees absorb the same light needed by grass, and since the trees get
to it first, they get the most. In addition, trees affect the intensity
and duration of light on the turf.
Trees with a dense overhead canopy also have a denser root structure
that absorbs more moisture from the soil, leaving less for the grass.
Trees alter conditions by moderating temperatures, leveling out the
highs and lows, decreasing wind, increasing humidity and intensifying
competition for water and nutrients. As a result, turf experiences reduced
shoot density, more upright growth, increased plant height, decreased
root depth and thinner leaves and cell walls, causing fewer carbohydrates
to develop in the cell walls, reducing photosynthesis and transpiration
rates and making them more susceptible to disease. In other words, grass
doesn't do too good under trees.
Many of the semi-dwarf types have excellent shade tolerance
relative to the coarse-type St. Augustine grasses and other warm-season
We also know that the semi-dwarf varieties do not possess chinch bug
resistance, and those planting this grass will need to use insecticides
to control infestations when they occur.
Q: Reports on this new St. Augustine Grass called Palmetto
are appearing in the Charleston SC area. I understand Texas has many
sod producers and are also growing this grass and is doing well in Houston.
Tell me about this grass. I have Raleigh currently with severe brown
spots and areas that have never greened up since last winter.
A: St. Augustine grasses are mainly propagated vegetatively.
Therefore, breeding of new varieties takes time, which is one of a variety
of reasons for their slow appearance in the marketplace. A key factor
is the long and vigorous testing required before release. For example,
Floratam resulted in a combined 10-plus year efforts of both the University
of Florida and Texas A&M (that's why it is named Flora-T&M)
has become a highly successful example of breeding efforts.
Palmetto grass is the new kid on the block. It is available
as plugs or sod. Results are encouraging. There has been anecdotal claims
for deep rooting capabilities and its ability to establish itself quickly
even under adverse conditions.
Palmetto grass was discovered and developed on a sod farm near
Daytona Beach, Florida. The cultivar has been tested under "real
life" conditions on the sod farm and in practical homeowner situations.
Palmetto is not a miracle grass, but the combination of characteristics
demonstrated is unequaled.
The most notable attribute when examining a field or plot
of Palmetto grass is it's deep, vivid color and soft texture. Its visual appeal
alone makes it a superior choice compared to other strains available.
Palmetto has proved to be exceptional both sun and shade. Often in designing
a landscape, a grass is required that will thrive in both full sun and
shade. This problem becomes more exaggerated as landscapes mature, and
shady areas increase when trees grow larger. Palmetto grass
is the most versatile St. Augustine grass available to address these changing
Cold snaps can severely damage or kill Raleigh St. Augustine Grass.
Palmetto grass has withstood temperatures near 5 degrees F. in South Carolina,
Georgia, and Texas with no significant damage. In Jacksonville, Florida
and Charleston, South Carolina Palmetto grass has remained green in areas
where other St. Augustine lawns have gone dormant. Palmetto grass remained
green in the Tampa Bay, Florida area after two nights of heavy frosts.
Floratam and Raleigh St. Augustine both sustained significant browning
out damage in the same area.
Another important characteristic of Palmetto grass is its deep,
massive root system. Once established, this could help reduce watering.
In addition, this root system causes Palmetto to transplant well, and
establish quickly. It is often desirable to plant a landscape that gives
the appearance of a mature lawn shortly after installing.
In selecting grass varieties, it's important to recognize
relative strengths and weaknesses to aid in the selection of the most
suitable variety for your site. St. Augustine grasses can perform well
in a wide range of sites formerly thought of as sites for Centipedegrass,
Zoysiagrass, or Bermudagrass.
Give them every consideration.
Disadvantages of St. Augustine grass
St. Augustine grass , like most turf grasses, has certain
cultural and pest problems. It does not remain green during drought
conditions without supplemental irrigation. It produces excessive thatch
under moderate to high fertility and frequent irrigation. It has poor
wear tolerance and some varieties are susceptible to cold damage. The
coarse leaf texture is objectionable to some people.
The major insect pest of St. Augustine grass is the chinch bug
, although resistance to chinch bugs
varies somewhat among cultivars. For example, Floratam and Floralawn
have traditionally been considered chinch bug resistant, but over time
the insect has overcome this and are now considered a pest to these
cultivars as well. St. Augustine Decline Virus
(SADV) is a major disease problem in some parts of the United States
but has not been identified as a problem in Florida. Some cultivars
are also susceptible to gray
leaf spot disease.
see also: FLORATAM PALMETTO