All You Need to Know About Bahiagrass

All You Need to Know About Bahiagrass Header
Bahiagrass is valued for outstanding drought and heat tolerance and an ability to thrive where many lawn grasses falter. Its use in lawns occurs in a very limited region of the southeastern United States. Within this area, Bahiagrass produces a relatively durable, low-growing, low-maintenance turf. When your lawn goals, location and soil complement Bahia's natural preferences, this resilient grass may be an excellent choice.

Bahiagrass at a Glance

  • warm-season grass
  • prefers full sun
  • suitable for Deep South and Gulf Coast lawns
  • drought- and heat-tolerant
  • low water and nutrient requirements

Bahiagrass Basics

Bahiagrass was brought to the United States in 1914 for use as a pasture grass in the Southeast.1 This South American native is still used extensively in agriculture, conservation and erosion control programs.2 As its origin suggests, Bahia is a warm-season grass. Its most active growth occurs from late spring through the hot summer months. In its proper climate, this perennial grass persists year after year.

A naturally deep root system makes Bahiagrass very drought tolerant, even in sandy soils common to the Southeast. Its natural texture is coarser than many regional grasses, particularly cool-season grasses common in northern zones. Though Bermudagrass has greater drought tolerance in sand, few other warm-season grasses match Bahia on this strength. Bahiagrass prefers full sun, but tolerates limited shade better than Bermuda. It also has better tolerance for poorly drained soils.2

Since its pasture-grass beginnings, some Bahiagrass varieties have been singled out for lawn use in the heat- and humidity-prone Southeast. Its lawn use extends from Florida through the southern Coastal Plans and the Texas Gulf Coast. For homeowners in this challenging turf zone, these Bahiagrass varieties offer benefits other warm-season grasses don't.

Pennington Pensacola Bahiagrass builds on basic Bahiagrass strengths, and excels even in poor soil conditions to form durable, dense, drought-resistant lawns. Its deep, extensive root system enhances tolerance to heat and cold, giving Pensacola better winter hardiness and improved turf quality than common Bahia. Pennington Argentine Bahiagrass has a finer leaf texture and darker color, resulting in more attractive lawns. Its deep roots and drought and disease tolerance combine with very low growth and low maintenance needs.

Other Characteristics to Consider

Bahiagrass seed germinates slowly but establishes well, so you can enjoy all the advantages of starting from seed. Common Bahia's naturally open growth habit makes it vulnerable to weeds when young. Part of its slow, steady growth comes through short, above-ground stems, known as stolons. The stolons root at very short intervals and eventually form dense, durable, all-purpose turf.

As with Zoysia grass and most warm-season grasses, Bahia stays green only during active growth. Periods of extended drought bring on dormancy and an unnaturally dark or tan color, but Bahia withstands these stresses better than other grasses. It's especially well-suited to large, less maintained areas with limited irrigation. Once stresses subside, Bahiagrass lawns bounce back quickly.

As winter arrives, Bahia enters an annual dormant period and turns brownish tan. However, it stays green longer than Bermudagrass and greens up earlier than Bermuda in spring. For homeowners who want green lawns regardless of the season, Bahia can be overseeded in autumn with cool-season ryegrasses for winter-long color.

Bahiagrass Lawn Care

As a warm-season grass, Bahia operates on a different timetable than northern grasses for month-by-month lawn tasks. Seeding is best done in spring, as growth accelerates. Overseed existing thin lawns at the same time. However, the warm, moderate winters in Bahia's limited area offer some flexibility. Fall seedings in Florida will establish fairly well.1

Mow Bahiagrass lawns at the recommended height of 2 to 3 inches to improve stress tolerance and encourage deep roots. Heavy seed production is typical for this grass. The stiff, numerous seed stalks rise taller than the low-growing blades. Depending on your tolerance for their appearance, more frequent mowings may be needed to eliminate the V-shaped seed heads.

Test your soil before planting Bahiagrass. This grass does well in poor, sandy soils with limited nutrients and pH near 5.5 to 6.5.2 In soils with pH above 7.0, Bahia suffers iron deficiencies that result in pale yellow color.1 Iron supplement products and other soil amendments may be needed to keep Bahia healthy and attractive. In these cases, another warm-season grass may be a better choice.

Established Bahia lawns need limited fertilizers and irrigation. Feed according to soil test recommendations, and water as needed to maintain the color desired. Overwatering weakens Bahiagrass and leaves it susceptible to lawn disease.1 As with Centipede grass, some ingredients in common Weed & Feed products can harm Bahia.1 Always check product labels to make sure they're safe for use on Bahiagrass lawns.

If you live in the challenging geographical area where Bahiagrass excels, this resilient lawn option may give you the advantages you need. Pennington is committed to growing the finest grass seed possible and helping you learn, grow and enjoy an attractive, healthy lawn — wherever you live.
Pennington is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.

Sources:

1. Trenholm, L.E., Unruh, J.B. and Cisar, J.L., “Bahiagrass for Florida Lawns," University of Florida IFAS Extension.

2. Houck, M., “Plant Fact Sheet: Bahiagrass," USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2009.

Photo by Forest Starr and Kim Starr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
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