AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
A Comparison of Lawn Grasses for Florida
By FRANK WILSON
What is the best way to select a lawn grass? First, decide
the relative amount of time and/or money that can be spent for
establishing and maintaining the lawn. Secondly, lawn grasses
vary widely in their adaptability to Florida's diverse growing
conditions. The best grass is one adapted to the conditions of
the location where the lawn is to be planted.
Four types of grasses most commonly used for lawns in Florida. Left to
right: St. Augustine, centipede, zoysia and Tiflawn bermuda.
Six grasses are commonly used for turf purposes in Florida.
These are: St. Augustine, centipede, zoysia, bermuda, bahia
and carpet grasses. The characteristics of and many of the
problems associated with these grasses are shown in the table.
The lawn grass best adapted to your location and that does not
make excessive demands on time or budget is the best grass
For many years St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secun-
datum) has been the standard for Florida lawns because of its
versatility. Its worst disadvantage is its susceptibility to chinch
bug damage. Chinch bugs can destroy a St. Augustine lawn
rapidly unless adequate controls are applied. Even with the
chinch bug problem, St. Augustine is still one of the best grasses
for the average home owner because of its ability to adapt to
a wide variety of growing conditions.
St. Augustinegrasses available to home owners consist of 4
types, differentiated primarily by the distance between nodes
(joints on the grass runners where leaves and roots arise). The
node count method is a rough guide for determining St. Augus-
tine types. Internodes (the stem of the grass runner between
nodes) may be lengthened or shortened by cultural practices.
The distance between nodes is usually longer on newly planted
grass than in mature turf. Close mowing shortens the inter-
nodes. The node counts given are for mature turf. A brief
description of the 4 types with the average node counts are:
Roselawn (1-5 nodes per foot) is used as a pasture grass on
muck soils of south Florida. Although sold as a lawn grass, it
makes a very poor turf. It has long, broad leaves and very long
internodes which make a coarse-textured lawn regardless of
Common St. Augustine (5-10 nodes per foot) is used exten-
sively in Florida lawns. Its leaves tend to grow vertically and
the nodes are closer together than in the Roselawn type. Gen-
erally it is a lighter green color than Bitter Blue.
Bitter Blue (10-15 nodes per foot) is an improved selection
of St. Augustine. It makes an excellent lawn and has a darker
green color than either Roselawn or common St. Augustine. The
leaves are shorter and tend to grow more nearly horizontal than
those of common. This tendency and the shorter internodes
result in a denser turf. Bitter Blue has been the most popular
St. Augustine for many years but, contrary to popular belief,
it is not resistant to chinch bugs.
Floratine is a selection of St. Augustine released to certified
turf growers in Florida by the Florida Agricultural Experiment
Station. It is similar to Bitter Blue but thrives better under
close mowing and remains green longer during the winter. Flora-
tine will not be generally available to the retail market before
the summer of 1961.
Centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) is widely grown
as a lawn grass in north and central Florida. This grass does
best under a low level of maintenance. It will not tolerate an
alkaline or sweet soil such as marl or areas with much lime.
Centipede does well under light, shifting shade such as is found
under tall pine trees. It will not stand much wear nor poorly-
There are no recognized varieties of centipede. However,
3 strains differentiated primarily by the color of the stem (red,
yellow and green) have been observed. The green-stemmed
strain is generally accepted as being the most desirable of the
various centipedegrasses for turf purposes.
Zoysiagrasses (Zoysia spp.) are relatively slow growing, but
once established make a very dense turf. These grasses tend
to have shallow root systems and do best on heavier soils or
where amendments such as clay, organic matter or vermiculite
have been added to increase the water and fertilizer holding
capacity of the soil.
The zoysias have been publicized as disease and pest free.
Unfortunately, this is not true, since they are attacked by both
insects and diseases.
Emerald zoysia produces a fine-textured, dense sod with a
deep green color when properly managed. It is characterized
by vigorous horizontal growth as compared to other zoysias.
Under optimum growing conditions it will make a lawn in 1
season if the sprigs are placed end to end in rows 4 inches apart.
Zoysia matrella or manilagrass-the most commonly planted
zoysia-is a slow-growing grass that forms a dense turf. This
variety may require 2 seasons to cover when sprigged. Ruglawn
and Flawn are selected strains of Zoysia matrella.
Zoysia japonica (Japanese lawn grass) is the only species of
zoysia that can be planted as seed. The seed of this grass is
the 1 listed in lawngrass seed mixtures. Seed of this grass are
scarce and expensive.
Meyer zoysia (Z-52) was the first improved zoysiagrass avail-
able to the turf industry. In texture it is coarser than Zoysia
matrella but finer than centipedegrass. Meyer has shown a
marked resistance to Rhizoctonia, the brown patch fungus. This
grass turns brown and becomes dormant with the first frost.
Zoysia tenuifolia (mascarene, Korean velvet, flagstone or
patio grass) is a very fine-textured and shallow-rooted zoysia
A TABULAR COMPARE
Maintenance Requirements Tolerance to: Res
Grass Tex- Type
ture Fertilization Soil
Mowing 2 Times Shade3 Salt Drought
per Year (beach)
St. Augus- Med. Weekly 3 to 4 Wide Good Good Fair
tinegrass to range
Coarse Moderate maintenance
Centipede- Med. Bimonthly 1 Acid Fair Poor Good
Zoysia- Fine Weekly to 3 to 4 Wide Good Good Poor
grass to Bimonthly range
Med. Moderate maintenance
Improved Fine 1-3/week 4 to 12 Wide Very Fair Poor
bermuda- range poor
grass High to moderate
Seeded Med. 1-2/week 4 to 12 Wide Very Fair Fair
bermuda- fine range poor
grass High to moderate
Bahia- Med. Weekly 1 to 2 Acid Fair Poor Very
grass to soils to Good
Coarse Low maintenance Good
Med. Weekly 1 Wet, Fair Poor Very
Carpet- poorly Poor
grass Low maintenance drained,
1Adapted from "A Comparison of Lawn Grasses for Florida" by Ralph W. White, Jr.. and Gene C. Nutter.
2 Average amount of mowing reQuired during the growing season.
8 These ratings refer to medium shade such as under high open oak trees.
* Reel mowers generally do a better job of mowing. Rotary mowers have to be used on grasses that producE
r In areas such as south Florida where chinch bugs are active most of the year, St. Augustinegrass becomes
6 Necessary only during the summer when seed spikes are being produced.
that is not recommended for lawn use. It produces humps or
tufts which are unsightly. It has a high degree of wear resist-
ance which makes it ideal for planting between flagstones and
walks or patios.
Seeded bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) are not as satis-
factory for lawns as the improved hybrids. The seeded varieties
do not produce as dense a turf and weed encroachment is more
of a problem. They are coarser textured than the hybrid bur-
mudas and are more subject to disease and cold damage. They
IN OF FLORIDA LAWN GRASSES.1
Vear Frost Method Rate
blood Fair Vegeta- Medium
to tive to
'oor Poor Seed or
blood Good Vegeta-
3ood Poor Seed or
3ood Fair Seed or
Poor Poor Seed or
Type Mowing Insect Disease
Mower' Height Problems Problems
11/2-21/2" Chinch bugs"
Medium Reel or 11/-2" Ground pearls
Slow Reel -11a" Armyworms
Very Reel /-1" Armyworms
fast Scale insects
Very Reel or
11 4-2" Armyworms
tall seed spikes such as bahia or carpet.
a high maintenance grass.
do not tolerate shade. Seeded bermudas make ideal grass covers
for areas such as vacant lots. They are frequently mixed with
other seeded grasses such as the bahiagrasses. Two types of
bermuda, common and Arizona, are available as seed. The hulled
seed are recommended. The unhulled type is covered by an
almost waterproof husk which markedly retards germination.
The improved bermudagrasses are the finest Florida turf-
grasses in texture and quality. They can be managed at either
high or moderate levels of maintenance. Under high mainten-
ance and proper conditions, these grasses make an outstanding
lawn. With moderate maintenance they compare quite favor-
ably with a good zoyiagrass lawn. These grasses withstand
foot traffic or wear better than most turf grasses, but will not
grow in shaded locations. They can be established from sprigs
more quickly than any other permanent turf grass (6 to 10
weeks under optimum conditions). Frequent irrigation is neces-
sary to have a good improved bermuda lawn. Vegetative propa-
gation is the only method of establishing improved bermudas,
since they do not produce viable seed.
The best improved bermudas adapted for lawn use are:
Ormond is the most widely planted improved bermuda for
lawn purposes. It covers quickly from sprigs and has an excel-
lent blue-green color under adequate nitrogen fertilization. Un-
der low nitrogen fertilization this variety is very susceptible to
dollar spot fungus (Sclerotinia homoeocarpa).
Tiflawn (Tifton 57) is a hybrid bermuda that was selected
for lawn and fairway use. It is rather upright in growth and
has a deep green color. It is an extremely vigorous grass that
tends to build up a thatch when overfertilized. Tiflawn has shown
more resistance to leaf spot diseases than Ormond.
Everglades No. 1 is a medium fine leaf variety with good
color that tends to grow close to the ground. It reportedly
thrives better under low levels of maintenance than most of the
Tifway (Tifton 419) is the newest bermuda released by the
Coastal Plain Experiment Station at Tifton, Georgia. It has a
fine texture and an excellent green color.
The bahiagrasses (Paspalum notatum) are used primarily
as pasture grasses in Florida. However, during the past few
years tl:ey have been used more extensively for lawn purposes.
In locat, ins where low maintenance grass is desired and quality
is unimportant, one of the finer-textured bahiagrasses would
be an excellent choice.
The bahias develop deep root systems on sandy soils that
enable them to thrive well under dry conditions. Bahias also
grow quite well on poorly drained soils. They form a coarse
open turf that looks good from a distance. Their worst dis-
advantage is the tall, heavy, seed spikes that are produced pro-
lifically during the summer.
There are many kinds of bahias, some of which are much
better for lawn purposes than others.
Common bahia is undesirable as a lawn grass.
Argentine bahia is a very coarse grass that does well in the
southern part of Florida.
Pensacola bahia has the finest texture of the bahias and
grows well throughout the state.
Paraguayan bahia is intermediate between Pensacola and
Argentine in texture and grows well in central and south Florida.
Paraguayan and Pensacola are more satisfactory for lawn
purposes than the others listed. Pensacola maintains the best
green color during winter, whereas Paraguayan generally forms
the most dense turf. Bahias are usually established from seed.
Carpetgrass (Axonopus affinis) is a native plant that is well
adaptedd to poorly-drained soils and will not withstand dry con-
ditions. Carpetgrass does best on acid soils under low fertil-
ization. This grass produces unsightly seed spikes during the
Italian ryegrass can be used as a temporary winter grass.
This grass forms a dense root system which offers severe com-
petition to permanent grasses during the spring recovery period.
Ryegrass should be sown at the rate of 3 to not more than 5
pounds per 1,000 square feet when used as a winter grass in
a permanent lawn.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
Florida State University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins. Director
For Your Future
COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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equipped and staffed to give you the best possible train-
Food Technology and
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For more information write
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College of Agriculture
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