Typically, five species of turf grasses comprise the lawns across the state of Florida, from Pensacola and Jacksonville to Miami. The hot, rainy summers and mild winters favor using warm-season grasses. Choose a grass with a blade texture and color you like and match each grass' need for sunlight and moisture based on the soil type, which varies across the Sunshine State.
A low-maintenance choice for Florida lawns, bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) tolerates drought well as well as increased foot traffic. Bahia grass carpets many athletic fields, parks and lawns with active children in the household. This grass grows well whether sown as seed or rolled out as sod. Two varieties of note include Argentine and Pensacola. Grow them both on acidic soils.
The fine texture and dense growth of Bermuda grass (Cynodon spp.) makes it popular for golf courses, athletic fields and durable but elegant-looking yards. It also carries an excellent tolerance for both drought and seaside salt spray. Many varieties exist, each with varying tolerances to common landscape issues such as soil type, pH, moisture and winter cold. Some varietal names are Cheyenne, Sahara, Jackpot, FloraTeX, Tifgreen and Tifway.
Sometimes dubbed "poor-man's turf," centipede grass (Eremochlon ophiuroides) tends to carpet infertile and dry soils with relative ease. Truly low maintenance, with moist soils and heat, the green running stolons root quickly and "knit in" across bare spots of soil. More advantages to this grass species include good drought tolerance, an even green color and the ability to grow better than other types in light shade. Overly vigorous centipede grass annoys gardeners who enjoy flower beds without intruding grass.
St. Augustine Grass
Ask most Floridians, and the chances are that St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) grows in their frontyard. Unsurpassed for a deep blue-green to emerald green color, it is perhaps the closest thing in visual texture to the lush green lawns of the northern United States. The stiff, wide blades of St. Augustine feel prickly on bare feet, and many cut this lawn type very short to make it more comfortable to walk on. This leads to increased mowing maintenance and more irrigation, unfortunately. Dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties tolerate light shade and common lawn pests better than older cultivars like Bitter Blue. Some newer varieties include Delmar, Seville, Floratam and Palmetto.
An extremely drought and cold tolerant grass, zoysia grass (Zoysia spp.) also copes well with foot traffic and oceanside salt spray. In northern reaches of Florida, this grass tends to turn tan in the cooler winter months. The soft, fine-textured blades of zoysia grass also tolerate neutral to slightly alkaline soils better than the four previously discussed grasses. Sow plugs or rolls of sod, selecting a variety such as Cashmere, Amazoy, Meyer or Emerald.