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All You Need to Know About Centipede Grass

All You Need to Know About Centipede Grass Header

Centipede grass is known for its excellent heat tolerance and extremely low maintenance requirements. A favorite of lawn owners interested in minimal upkeep, Centipede requires far less attention and input than other grasses in its growing region. However, Centipede grass has very specific climate and soil needs that limit its U.S. use primarily to the Southeast. If you reside in that region, this low-maintenance grass may be a top lawn choice for you.

  • Warm-season, heat-tolerant grass.
  • Suitable for Southeast lawns.
  • Low maintenance and nutrient requirements.
  • Moderate shade tolerance.
  • Sensitive to alkaline soil.
  • Relatively shallow root system.

Centipede grass is native to China and Southeast Asia, but it's been in the U.S. since seeds were introduced here in 1916.1 Centipede is what's known as a warm-season grass. That means its most productive growth period comes during warm weather of the late spring through summer months. Centipede grass is more sensitive to cold than many other warm-season grasses. But when grown in mild climates, this perennial can withstand winters year after year.

Centipede's use as a lawn grass is restricted mainly by climate and soil requirements. In the sandy, acidic soils of the Southeast, from the Carolinas across the Southern Coastal Plains to the Texas Gulf Coast, warm winters accommodate Centipede's needs. North of this area, winters are too cold for its survival. Similarly, the soils of the American Southwest are too alkaline for healthy Centipede grass growth.

Centipede's outstanding tolerance to heat doesn't equate to drought tolerance. That's another reason the Southeast and its high annual rainfall suit Centipede well. Compared to other warm-season grasses, Centipede's root system is relatively shallow. That translates to extra vigilance and watering during times of low rainfall. But Centipede recovers from stress rapidly once normal conditions return.

Centipede grass does not have a true period of winter dormancy like warm-season Zoysia and Bermudagrass.1 In very mild climates, Centipede may remain green all winter. However, this lack of dormancy leaves it vulnerable to winter cold. When temperatures drop low, Centipede can sustain damage; repeated injuries over winter can prove fatal.

Unlike Bermudagrass, Centipede does not typically require dethatching. Sandy soils typically eliminate the need for lawn aeration, too. Centipede grass doesn't tolerate being overseeded for winter color like many warm-season lawns. The resulting competition can weaken Centipede's root system and cause the grass to fail.1

Centipede has the slowest growth rate of common warm-season lawn grasses.2 It spreads by creeping, above-ground stems called stolons. It eventually forms a dense lawn, but Centipede doesn't hold up well to heavy traffic and it recovers slowly. It is more shade-tolerant than Bermudagrass, but less tolerant of salt.1

Proper soil preparation and planting conditions are critical to Centipede seed success. Pennington Centipede Grass Seed and Mulch includes a natural mulch product that improves spreadability and encourages germination by retaining moisture. Pennington TifBlair Centipede Grass Seed and Mulch combines those benefits with TifBlair, a Centipede variety with superior cold tolerance.

As a warm-season grass, Centipede grass responds best when major lawn tasks coincide with its peak growth period in spring and early summer. Seed new Centipede lawns and overseed thin lawns with Centipede seed in early to late spring for best results.

As with Bahiagrass, Centipede grass is sensitive to some ingredients commonly used in weed-and-feed lawn products.1 It is especially vulnerable during winter. Before using any weed killer or fertilizer product, read the label thoroughly to ensure the product is safe for Centipede lawns. Then follow application instructions carefully.

If you're uncertain about your area's typical weather conditions — or an unexpected weather event occurs — check in with your county extension agent for local lawn care advice. Then follow this lawn care calendar for a low-maintenance Centipede grass lawn.

FEBRUARY/MARCH THROUGH MAY

Weed Prevention and Fertilization

Prevent crabgrass and feed your established Centipede grass lawn in early spring with Pennington UltraGreen Crabgrass Preventer Plus Fertilizer III 30-0-4. Apply any time before soil temperatures hit 55 degrees Fahrenheit and crabgrass starts germinating. That can be early February or late January in parts of Centipede's range. Read and follow product instructions carefully.

Mowing

Mow Centipede lawns as needed to maintain a recommended grass height of 1 1/2 to 2 inches.

Seeding and Overseeding Thin Lawns

Seed or overseed your lawn with Pennington Centipede Grass Seed and Mulch or Pennington TifBlair Centipede Grass Seed and Mulch after any frost danger has passed and soil warms to 65°F to 70°F. Timing can vary depending on where you live in the Southeast. A simple soil thermometer from your favorite garden retailer can guide you.

Weed Control and Fertilization

Control emerged weeds and feed your Centipede lawn in late spring with Pennington UltraGreen Southern Weed & Feed 34-0-4. Wait until grass and weeds are actively growing. Do not overseed treated areas until at least three to four weeks after using weed and feed. Follow label instructions thoroughly.

Watering

Water Centipede lawns as needed to keep grass from becoming stressed. Shallow watering encourages shallow, stress-susceptible roots. Encourage deeper roots with deep, thorough watering.

JUNE THROUGH AUGUST

Mowing

Continue mowing Centipede grass at 1 1/2 to 2 inches tall. Never remove more than one-third of the blade at a time.

Soil Testing

Test your lawn soil every three to four years to confirm your soil pH. Centipede grass tolerates acidic soil with pH as low as 4.5 to 6.0 — much lower than most grasses prefer.2 At higher pH levels, Centipede may turn yellow due to pH-induced iron deficiencies. Soil testing reveals if your lawn needs lawn iron supplements or other soil amendments.

Fertilization

Centipede grass excels in sandy soils with limited nutrients. Overfertilization can lead to lawn disease.2 If your soil test recommends fertilization, feed with Pennington UltraGreen Lawn Fertilizer 30-0-4 during active growth. The added iron in this product helps maintain Centipede's green color.

Watering

During dry periods, Centipede may need frequent watering to avoid wilting and poor color. Sandy soils require more frequent irrigation. Water your lawn as needed to avoid stress.

Pest Control

Control lawn-damaging pests, including mole crickets, chinch bugs and billbugs, with Sevin Lawn Insect Killer Granules.

SEPTEMBER THROUGH NOVEMBER

Mowing

Continue mowing as needed to maintain your Centipede grass lawn at 1 1/2 to 2 inches.

Weed Control and Fertilization

Six to eight weeks before your area's first expected frost, treat weeds and feed your Centipede grass lawn with Pennington UltraGreen Winterizer Plus Weed & Feed Fertilizer 22-0-14.

Watering

Continue watering Centipede as needed to retain attractive color and avoid grass stress.

Leaf Management

Keep your lawn free of leaf debris by raking or mulching as needed.

DECEMBER THROUGH FEBRUARY

Mowing

Mow only if needed to keep your Centipede lawn attractive during winter months.

Watering

Supplement rainfall with irrigation as needed to prevent desiccation.

Winter Weed Control

Spot treat winter weeds in Centipede lawns with targeted treatments. Active winter weeds stand out against winter lawns.

If your lawn grows in the acidic soils of the U.S. Southeast, Centipede grass may be the perfect option for a beautiful, low-maintenance lawn. Pennington is dedicated to producing the finest grass seed and premium lawn care products possible. We're here to help you learn, grow and enjoy an attractive, healthy lawn — wherever you live.

Always read product labels thoroughly and follow instructions.

Pennington is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.

UltraGreen is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company.

Sevin is a registered trademark of Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc.

Sources:

1. Duble, R.L., "Centipedegrass," Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

2. Patton, A. and Boyd, J., "Choosing a Grass for Arkansas Lawns," University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension.

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