low maintenance centipede sod, shade tolerant grass

Centipede Grass: The Essential Guide

When choosing the right type of sod, you must first consider where you live and the climate you will be growing your grass. It is important to learn about different grass varieties so you can choose the right sod for your yard’s needs. NG Turf’s Sod School has published an assortment of articles on grass varieties such as Choosing the Best Sod Variety, and extensive guides on Bermuda,  Zoysia, and Tall Fescue grasses. In this article, we will focus solely on centipede grass. 

close up of centipede sod, NG Turf Atlanta Georgia

Centipede Grass Characteristics

Centipede Grass

Centipede is a slow growing grass variety that is desired for its low maintenance requirements and ability to thrive in high temperatues. It generally needs little fertilization and infrequent mowings. Centipede requires less attention than other grasses in its growing region. 

Centipede performs best in sandy, acidic soils in warm, humid clients. Due to its specific climate and soil needs, the use of centipede is primarily restricted in the United States to the Southeast. From North Carolina, across the Southern Costal Plains to the Gulf Coast of Texas, the sandy, acidic soils and warm winters are well suited to the needs of centipede grass. Further north winters are too cold for centipede to survive. 

Warm Season Grass

Centipede is a warm-season grass, meaning its main growth period is during the warm late spring and summer months. Centipede grows best in the warm season zone and is more prone to injury the farther north is it grown. 

grass zone map
close up of centipede sod, NG Turf Atlanta Georgia

Growth Habits

Centipede has the slowest growth rate of common warm-season grasses, and  spreads above-ground by creeping stems called stolons. While centipede grows slowly, it also grows aggressively which results in a tight carpet-like pattern that produces a full, lush lawn. 

Centipede has wider leaf blades than most Bermuda and zoysiagrasses. It grows well in full sun and is more shade tolerant that Bermuda, but generally less shade tolerant than zoysia. 

Centipede’s root system compared to other warm-season grasses is shallow, meaning it will need extra watering during times of limited rainfall. 

Soil Preference

Centipede grass prefers sandy, acidic, well drained soil. Proper soil drainage is important to stop fungal growth. 

Drought Tolerance


Centipede grass is very heat tolerant, but not very drough tolerant

Pro and Cons of Centipede Lawns

Benefits

  • Low maintenance 
  • Thrives in full sun
  • Performs well in sandy, acidic soil
  • Low fertilization requirements
  • Early spring green-up

Things to Consider

  • Requires at least 6 hours of full sun
  • Low traffic tolerance
  • Requires frequent watering
  • Does not tolerate standing water
  • Brown color with cooler temperatures
  • Winter freeze will damage grass
 

Centipede: Potential Problems to Avoid

Problems with centipede lawns may develop 3-5 years after initial establishment. Problems are generally related to mowing heights higher than 2 inches, annual nitrogen applications of more than 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet, and/or early spring or late fall fertilizations. 

With high nitrogen rates, centipede grass will become dark green. High nitrogen combined with high mowing heights encourage the development of thatch.  When thatch is present, stolons (above ground runners) grow over the thatch instead of on the soil’s surface. When this occurs the plant becomes more susceptible to low temperatures and drought stress. Yellowing leaves are the first signs of a developing problem. 

Centipede Grass Maintenance

Before you begin following the lawn maintenance schedule, be sure to obtain a soil test. Soil testing will provide important information including soil pH, potassium, phosphorous, and nitrogen levels, as well as the necessary amendments that need to be made for your desired grass type to thrive.

soil testing bags from local extension office

Soil testing can done through your local county Cooperative Extension Service office.  To learn more about how to perform a soil tests visit Soil Testing Your Lawn.

Centipede Grass Maintenance Includes:

Watering

1 – 1.25 inches of water per week. Without sufficient water, centipede’s green color will fade. 

Water when you see wilting, rolling leaves, or the grass turns a grayish-green color. 

Mowing

Centipede’s optimum mowing height is between 1.5″ – 2″.  Mow centipede lawn as needed to maintain the recommended grass height.

Follow general mowing recommendations, keeping mower blades sharp and removing no more than  1/3 of the total height with one mowing. 

Fertilizing

A fertilization schedule should be based on soil testing results. Centipede generally has low fertility requirements, but still requires some fertilization throughout the year. 

Note:

  • Centipede grass does not respond well to high doses of fertilizer. 
  • Do not apply fertilizer until after forecasts of frost have passed. 
  • General-purpose weed and feed products can be deadly to centipede grass. Be sure to purchase a product specifically designed and labeled for centipede. 

Insect/Disease Control

Centipede is typically disease resistant.  The most common diseases to affect centipede are brown patch disease and dollar spot. Apply a broad-spectrum fungicide if any diseases are noticed. 

Weed Control

  • Spring Pre-emergent: 
    Apply pre-emergent herbicides to control crabgrass, goosegrass, and other summer weed  from sprouting. 

  •  Broadleaf Post-emergent:
    Spot spray to kill broadleaf plants such as chickweed, wild violet, dandelion, and wild onion.
  • Post-Emergent Grasses/Sedges: 
    A grassy weed post-emergent kills grassy weeds such as crabgrass and dallisgrass. Do not apply to drought-stressed centipede.
  • Winter Pre-emergent: 
    Winter pre-emergent prevents chickweed and other winter weed seeds from sprouting.

Aeration

Aeration is not usually necessary. Use a core aerator during the active growth season on compacted areas to improve rooting, water infiltration, and soil aeration as needed.  Time aeration during peak growth periods helps centipede to recover faster. 

Centipede Maintenance Schedule:

It is important to monitor temperatures and apply management practices based on a specific years climate. It is especially important to monitor weather during late winter and early spring when turf is coming out of dormancy and in early fall when the first frost is expected. 

If you are uncertain about your area’s typical weather conditions check with your local country extension agent for lawn care advice. 

Centipede Lawn Maintenace Calendar

TifBlair Centipede

Does centipede sound like the grass type for you? NG Turf grows and harvests certified TifBlair centipede sod year round. 

TifBlair was developed by the University of Georgia  nd specifically designed to better handle the common stresses of southern environments. 

TifBlair Centipede offers more cold and drought tolerance than common Centipede. Tests conducted over three winters in Blairsville, GA and Stillwater, OK demonstrated that TifBlair can survive even severe winter temperatures.
A deeper root system allows TifBlair to grow in low pH soils as well. This low growing, warm season grass offers lower maintenance requirements, ideal for commercial and residential installations.

Interested in learning more about
other sod varieties NG Turf has to offer?

 Visit our varieties page to view a side-by-side comparison of all the sod varieties NG Turf has to offer. 

Questions?

If you have specific questions concerning sod varieties or sod maintenance, don’t hesitate to contact one of NG Turf’s Certified Turfgrass Professionals at 770.832.8608 or info@NGTurf.com.

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