Zoysia and centipede are both warm-season grasses that thrive in hot and humid climates. Both types of grasses make good turf grasses, especially in the southern United States, because they withstand drought and certain degrees of stress. However, despite their overall similarities, both grasses have certain unique characteristics that make them different.
Zoysia grass is native to Japan, China and parts of Southeast Asia. Zoysia matrella was the first variety of zoysia grass introduced in the United States in 1911, which is why it is also commonly known as Manila grass. Native to Southeast Asia and China, centipede grass (Eremochloa Buse) was introduced in the United States in 1916.
Zoysia forms a dense turf with hard grass blades. It spreads by rhizomes and stolons. The Texas Cooperative Extension states that these grasses are one of the few warm-season grasses to turn green in spring. The grass blade texture varies from fine to coarse, depending on the variety. Centipede grass has short, erect, yellowish-green grass blades. It spreads by stolons and grows slowly.
Zoysia grasses are used on golf courses, athletic fields and parks because they withstand moderate traffic, and are moderately wear-tolerant. They are not recommended for heavy and concentrated traffic areas such as football or soccer fields. They grow in all types of soils ranging from acidic or alkaline clays to sands. Centipede grass grows in sandy or acidic soils with annual rainfall more than 40 inches. It is used for parks, golf course roughs and lawns, but not athletic fields, as it cannot withstand heavy traffic.
Zoysia grasses grow best in full sunlight and partial shade. Their deeply embedded roots allow it to extract water from soil depths, which is why it is extremely drought-resistant. It cannot tolerate poorly drained soils. Centipede grass thrives in full sunlight, but is less shade tolerant than zoysia grass. It has a shallow root system that cannot extract water from soil depths, which is why it is moderately drought-tolerant.
Zoysia propagates by sprigs, plugs or sod. According to the Texas Cooperation Extension, Zoysia japonica is the only species that propagates by seed. Centipede grass is established from seed, sprigs, plug or sod.
Although zoysia grass is extremely drought-tolerant, it tends to discolor and its growth pattern comes to a halt during extended periods. Regular watering is required to keep its roots moist. Two to three applications of nitrogen-rich fertilizer during growing season help retain color. Remove thatch buildup mechanically from your lawn frequently, as it causes zoysia grass to deteriorate. Centipede grass is low-maintenance, requiring regular mowing, irrigation and annual fertilization. However, most centipede grass problems in home lawns are because of excessive nitrogen fertilization and improper watering, especially during hot months.
Disease and Pests
Zoysia is susceptible to dollar spot, rust and patch diseases, and pests such as billbugs severely damage this grass. Centipede grass is susceptible to dollar spot and brown patch disease, and pests such as spittlebugs, white grubs, mole crickets and ground pearls and nematodes.