How to Plant St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine grass is a popular choice for homeowners and landscapers, particularly in warm climates like Florida and the Gulf States. With its vibrant green color, natural density, and ability to tolerate heat and humidity, St. Augustine grass creates stunning lawns that are perfect for coastal yards. As an SEO specialist and experienced gardener, I’ve grown St. Augustine grass for many years. In this article, I’ll share everything you need to know about this grass variety, including its characteristics, care guide, and tips for proper planting.

Understanding St. Augustine Grass

Before we dive into planting and caring for your St. Augustine grass, it’s essential to understand its unique characteristics. Native to tropical and subtropical regions, St. Augustine grass thrives in warm temperatures, high humidity, and even shade. It has a coarse texture, featuring blades that can grow up to 10 inches long. This grass spreads through above-ground stolons and below-ground rhizomes, forming deep root systems that make it drought-tolerant. What sets St. Augustine grass apart is its ability to grow in shade, making it an excellent choice for lawns with lots of trees or buildings that block out the sun. Additionally, St. Augustine grass is known for its quick recovery from damage caused by foot traffic, pet waste, or lawn equipment.

Ideal Climate and Soil Conditions

St. Augustine grass prefers well-draining, moderately fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH between 6.0 and 6.5. While it can tolerate a range of pH levels from acidic to alkaline, it thrives in soil rich in organic matter. For optimal growth, regular watering is necessary, especially in hot and dry weather conditions. This grass variety does best in warm, humid climates found in the southern United States, but it can also be grown in cooler regions if given the right care and planted in a sheltered location.

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St. Augustine Grass Care

To ensure your St. Augustine grass remains healthy and vibrant, proper care is essential. Here are some key aspects to consider:

Light

St. Augustine grass thrives in full sun, but it can tolerate partial shade. However, if your lawn is in an area with limited sunlight, the grass may not grow as thick and lush as it would in full sun. Aim for your St. Augustine grass to receive 6-8 hours of sunlight per day for optimal growth.

Soil

St. Augustine grass prefers well-draining soil rich in organic matter. Test your soil’s pH level to ensure it falls within the ideal range. Adjust the pH with lime or sulfur if necessary. It’s also crucial to prevent soil compaction, which can hinder drainage and cause root rot. Consider aerating your lawn to maintain soil health.

Water

Regular watering is necessary for St. Augustine grass, especially in hot and dry conditions. Water the grass deeply but infrequently to encourage deep root growth. The best times to water your lawn are early morning or late evening when the temperature is cooler. Avoid watering during the middle of the day to minimize water evaporation and potential overwatering.

Temperature and Humidity

St. Augustine grass prefers warm and humid conditions but is sensitive to extreme cold and hot temperatures. Plant this grass variety when the temperature is above 70°F (21°C) to ensure successful establishment. Additionally, manage humidity levels to prevent the development of fungal diseases. Consider using a dehumidifier if you live in an area with high humidity.

Fertilizer

Regular fertilization is crucial for the growth and health of your St. Augustine grass. Look for a balanced fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content, as nitrogen is essential for St. Augustine grass. Apply the fertilizer two to four times a year, following recommended rates for your lawn size and grass type.

Mowing and Thatching

Maintaining the proper height during mowing is important for St. Augustine grass. Set your mower blades to a height of 3-4 inches to avoid scalping and damaging the grass. Never remove more than one-third of the grass height in one mowing. To prevent thatch buildup, dethatch your lawn annually using a rake or specialized dethatching machine.

St. Augustine Grass Popular Varieties and Cultivars

Several popular St. Augustine grass varieties and cultivars offer unique qualities for different preferences. Here are a few options:

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Floratam

Known for its dark green color and adaptability to various soil pH levels, Floratam is a popular St. Augustine grass variety. It grows best in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 12 and has a recommended mowing height of 3 to 4 inches.

Seville

Seville St. Augustine grass stands out for its fine texture and low-growing nature. It tolerates shade and drought well, making it suitable for yards with tree cover. Seville has a dark green color and a slightly lower height than Floratam, providing a more compact appearance.

Floratine

Floratine St. Augustine grass is resistant to pests and diseases, making it an excellent choice for those seeking low-maintenance turf. It requires less water and fertility compared to other varieties. Floratine offers a dark green color and a medium texture, striking a balance between coarser and finer St. Augustine grass varieties.

Charleston

Charleston St. Augustine grass is cold-resistant, making it suitable for cooler regions. It shares the same dark green hue as other St. Augustine grass varieties and requires similar soil pH, fertility levels, and mowing height. Its ability to adapt to fluctuating temperatures has made it popular in those areas.

How to Plant St. Augustine Grass

Now that you’re familiar with St. Augustine grass and its preferred growing conditions, it’s time to plant your lawn. Follow these steps for successful planting:

Choosing the Right Time to Plant

St. Augustine grass thrives when planted during the warm, rainy season from spring through summer in most areas. Avoid planting during winter months when frost is present. The soil temperature should be above 55 degrees Fahrenheit before planting to ensure optimal growth.

Preparing the Soil

Prepare the soil before planting your St. Augustine grass. Remove weeds and debris, and till or aerate the soil as necessary. Adding organic matter, such as compost or peat moss, can improve soil fertility and drainage, creating a better environment for your grass to grow.

Laying Sod or Planting Plugs

You have two main options for planting St. Augustine grass: laying sod or planting plugs. Lay sod by snugly placing the pieces together and water immediately after planting. Alternatively, space the plugs about 12-18 inches apart if you choose the plug method. Regularly water the plugs until they fill in.

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Stolons

Another method for propagating St. Augustine grass is planting stolons directly into the ground. Before planting stolons, prepare the soil as you would for sod or plugs. Evenly space the stolons across the area and cover them with a thin layer of soil. Regularly water the area to ensure the stolons establish and spread, creating a new lawn.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases for St. Augustine Grass

Chinch bugs, billbugs, and grubs are common pests that can damage St. Augustine grass. These insects feed on the grass roots and stems, causing brown patches and thinning grass. To treat these infestations, use insecticides specifically designed for the pests you are dealing with. Apply the insecticide directly to the affected areas, following the instructions carefully.

Fungal diseases, such as brown patch and gray leaf spot, can also affect St. Augustine grass, particularly in warm and humid conditions. Proper lawn care practices, including regular watering, mowing, and airflow, are essential to prevent fungal diseases. If you suspect a fungal infection, use a fungicide designed for the specific fungus you’re dealing with and take action promptly to prevent further damage.

Comparisons and Alternatives to St. Augustine Grass

While St. Augustine grass is a popular choice, you may consider alternatives to suit your specific needs. Bermuda grass, known for its fast growth and ability to withstand traffic, is a warm-season grass that offers more drought tolerance than St. Augustine grass. Buffalo grass, another warm-season alternative, requires less maintenance and is more drought-tolerant. Zoysia grass and Centipede grass are additional warm-season options worth considering.

Each alternative has its advantages, including better cold tolerance, lower maintenance requirements, and specific appearances. Consider factors such as water needs, shade tolerance, and traffic to decide which grass variety suits your lawn best.

St. Augustine Grass is a fantastic choice for homeowners looking to create lush, vibrant lawns in warm climates. With proper care and planting techniques, you can enjoy a beautiful St. Augustine grass lawn that thrives throughout the year. Remember, maintaining optimal growing conditions and promptly addressing any pests or diseases will result in a healthy and stunning landscape.

For more information on St. Augustine grass and other grass varieties, check out the Ames Farm Center website here.