Florida homeowners have several options when choosing a lawn grass. Some grasses are more suited than others to a home setting, whereas others are best for athletic fields. The degree of maintenance required of a particular grass is another consideration. Mowing requirements, irrigation needs, pest problems and fertilizer necessity are all important factors when choosing a grass for a Florida lawn.
Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is a perennial grass, and is low growing, thick and fine-textured. Grown in all areas of Florida, it prefers full sun, fertile (nutrient-rich) soil and is highly tolerant of salt. It is not a good choice for shady areas. This grass tolerates periods of drought if nematodes (microscopic worm-like creatures) are controlled. Bermuda grass can handle a lot of wear and recover quickly, but it is also considered to be a high maintenance grass---frequently requiring mowing and a high need for fertilizer, pest and disease control. Nematodes, mites, sod webworms, armyworms, scale, mole crickets and many diseases are a problem for Bermuda grass. Typically, Bermuda grass is used for lawns, athletic fields and golf courses.
Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) is a perennial grass that is low growing, thick and somewhat coarse. It is grown in all areas of Florida and prefers full sun to partial shade and various soil types. It tolerates shade and can tolerate periods of drought as long as nematodes are controlled. Centipede grass is effected by nematodes frequently, and also mole crickets, scale insects, sod webworms and fungal disease. Comparatively, it is a low-maintenance grass and often used for lawns.
Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) is a perennial grass, tall-growing and coarse textured. It is grown in all areas of Florida and prefers full sun to partial shade, a variety of soil types and is slightly salt tolerant. Bahia grass is tolerant of shade and also drought because of its extensive roots. This grass is able to withstand a lot of foot traffic and requires less maintenance than other Florida grasses. Tall seed heads are very visible with this grass, which may be unsightly in a lawn. Bahia grass is commonly used for lawns, roadsides and athletic fields.
St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is low growing, coarse textured and thick. It is grown in all areas of Florida and prefers full sun to moderately deep shade (better tolerance than most other Florida grasses) and grows on a variety of soil types and is very salt tolerant. It has limited wear tolerance and requires frequent irrigation. Chinch bugs are a major problem of St. Augustine grass, as well as armyworms, sod webworms, fungal diseases, mole crickets and nematodes. Thatch (underlayer of dead stems beneath growing grass) is an issue for St. Augustine grass, and also a virus called St. Augustine decline. This grass is a common lawn grass in Florida.
Zoysia grass (Zoysia spp.) is a low-growing, thick, fine-textured grass used for lawns, but is not widely used in Florida. It grows in all areas of the state and prefers full sun to partial shade and grows on a variety of soils. It requires a moderate amount of maintenance but tolerates wear well. Problems for zoysia grass include: mole crickets, armyworms, sod webworms, nematodes and fungal disease. It has a slow growth rate, therefore it does not require frequent mowing. Zoysia grass needs frequent irrigation and fertilization and is used for lawns.