As a landscaping professional with over 15 years of experience, I’m often asked by homeowners to explain the differences between Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass. At first glance, they appear quite similar with their green color and dense, carpet-like growth habit. However, there are several notable distinctions between these two common warm season turfgrasses that impact their ideal climates, maintenance needs, and performance.
In this article, I’ll share my in-depth knowledge to clarify the unique attributes of Bermuda versus St. Augustine grass. You’ll learn about the differences in texture, growth patterns, and durability that set each grass type apart. I’ll also provide a side by side comparison of the pros, cons, and uses of each variety.
Whether you are deciding which is better suited to your yard or already have a mix of grasses, the information I’ll cover will help you better understand Bermuda and St. Augustine grasses. My goal is to answer the common question “are Bermuda and St. Augustine really the same?” while equipping you to cultivate thick, lush turf.
Let’s dive in and explore how to differentiate these two commonly confused grass types!
Key Differences Between Bermuda Grass and St. Augustine Grass
While Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass may appear similar at first glance, their growth habits, ideal climates, and care needs differ in several important ways. Drawing from years of hands-on experience landscaping lawns and golf courses, I’ve observed distinct variations between these warm season turfgrasses.
Understanding the unique attributes of each grass is key to proper selection, care, and troubleshooting. Let’s explore some of the notable differences between Bermuda and St. Augustine grasses.
Growth Habit, Texture, and Appearance
Bermuda grass grows laterally by aboveground stolons and below ground rhizomes, forming a dense mat with fine, thin blades. This aggressive spreading results in excellent traffic and wear tolerance. St. Augustine produces only aboveground stolons and has wider, flat blades with a coarser texture. Growth is less dense versus Bermuda.
In terms of color, St. Augustine exhibits a lush dark green compared to Bermuda’s lighter apple green tones. Bermuda goes dormant earlier in fall, turning beige until spring green-up. St. Augustine stays greener longer before winter dormancy.
Climate and Maintenance Needs
Bermuda thrives in hot, arid climates with lower humidity and rainfall. It needs less fertilization and watering compared to St. Augustine. St. Augustine prefers consistently warm, humid environments like Florida and the Gulf Coast. It requires more frequent mowing, irrigation, and fertilization.
Bermuda tolerates a wider range of soils and pH levels. St. Augustine performs best in well-draining, fertile soils. Both grasses are intolerant of highly shaded areas.
Durability and Wear Tolerance
Of the two grass varieties, Bermuda is significantly more tolerant of foot traffic, pets, and wear and tear. Its extensive rhizome network readily fills in damaged areas. St. Augustine is moderately traffic tolerant but recovery is slower compared to Bermuda.
Bermuda’s fine texture also hides divots and blemishes better. St. Augustine’s wider blades show marks more until new growth emerges to blend the damage.
The subtleties between Bermuda and St. Augustine grass growth, climate adaptation, and durability can have big impacts on lawn care. Now let’s compare other pros and cons.
Comparing the Pros and Cons of Bermuda vs. St. Augustine
When selecting a grass type for your lawn, carefully weighing the pros and cons of Bermuda versus St. Augustine can help guide your decision. Through years of hands-on experience, I’ve discovered some key advantages and disadvantages of each variety.
Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of the positives and negatives of Bermuda grass versus St. Augustine grass.
Growth Rate and Spreading Capabilities
One of Bermuda’s biggest assets is its rapid growth rate and vigorous spreading via above ground stolons and underground rhizomes. It establishes quickly and has outstanding ability to fill in bare areas. However, this aggressive growth requires more frequent mowing and edging to keep it contained.
St. Augustine spreads laterally only above ground via stolons so its expansion rate is slower. But this reduced vigor means less mowing and less risk of St. Augustine invading landscaped beds.
Shade and Drought Tolerance
Of the two grass types, St. Augustine has slightly better shade tolerance, though neither does well in deep shade. St. Augustine also exhibits better drought resistance thanks to its denser mat retaining moisture.
Bermuda prefers full sun and struggles under moderate to heavy shade. It has only moderate drought tolerance and requires more frequent irrigation compared to St. Augustine.
Susceptibility to Pests and Diseases
St. Augustine’s susceptibility to chinch bugs, sod webworms, and fungal diseases like brown patch and take all root rot makes it more maintenance intensive. Routine prevention and occasional curative controls are needed.
Bermuda has better pest, disease, and weed resistance. It requires less intensive management once established. But certain varieties are prone to spring dead spot fungus.
As you can see, each grass has advantages and disadvantages. Select the one best aligned with your climate, irrigation access, desired maintenance level and lawn usage.
Can Bermuda and St. Augustine Be Grown Together?
I’m often asked by homeowners if Bermuda and St. Augustine grasses can coexist successfully when planted together in the same lawn. Through extensive trial and error, I’ve found it can be done but requires careful variety selection, planting techniques, and tailored maintenance.
Let’s explore the challenges, best practices, and tips for integrating Bermuda grass into an existing St. Augustine lawn.
Challenges of Mixing Bermuda and St. Augustine
The aggressive growth habit of Bermuda grass makes it a challenge to contain when mixed with less vigorous St. Augustine. Bermuda’s rapid lateral spreading via above ground stolons and underground rhizomes enables it to quickly invade and overtake areas of the lawn.
Its finer texture and lighter green color also contrasts noticeably with St. Augustine’s wider blades and deeper green hues. This can create an uneven, patchy appearance in a mixed lawn.
Maintaining optimal mowing height, fertilization, and watering for both grass types together can also be difficult due to their differing needs. It takes vigilance and adaptation.
Tips for Integrating Bermuda into St. Augustine Lawn
From my experience establishing Bermuda/St. Augustine lawns, here are some key tips:
- Select new hybrid Bermuda varieties with finer blades and improved color for better blend
- Use sod instead of seed for faster fill-in and less invasive spreading
- Plant Bermuda in small test patches first to gauge growth and compatibility
- Mow at slightly lower height ideal for St. Augustine to inhibit Bermuda vigor
- Increase mowing frequency to control Bermuda spread
- Use edging and containment beds to restrict Bermuda encroachment
Overseeding St. Augustine with Bermuda Grass
One method forintroducing Bermuda is overseeding small patches into existing St. Augustine. This is best done in early spring when St. Augustine is still dormant.
Use a power rake to loosen the top layer and create seed-to-soil contact. Apply 1 lb per 200 sq ft of Bermuda seed. Irrigate twice daily to maintain moisture for germination and establishment.
Start small the first season and evaluate compatibility and appearance before expanding. Proper timing, preparation, seed selection and care are critical for success.
While challenging, integrating Bermuda into St. Augustine can provide increased durability, traffic tolerance, and drought resistance when done properly. Let’s look next at some common questions.
FAQs About Bermuda vs. St. Augustine Grass
In my many years as a landscaper, I’ve been asked every question you can imagine about Bermuda grass versus St. Augustine grass. Below I’ve answered some of the most common inquiries I receive on comparing these warm season grasses.
Is Bermuda or St. Augustine Better for High Traffic?
Without question, Bermuda is the clear winner when it comes to durability and tolerance of high foot traffic, pets, and play. Bermuda’s extensive network of rhizomes under the surface rapidly recover from wear damage. Its finer leaf texture also hides divots better.
St. Augustine has only moderate traffic tolerance before showing wear and compaction effects. It takes longer to fill in divots and repair damage since its stolons are above ground. For active yards, Bermuda is my top recommendation.
Which Has Better Cold Tolerance, Bermuda or St. Augustine?
While neither grass thrives in cold climates, St. Augustine exhibits better cold tolerance overall compared to Bermuda. Its deeper roots store more energy reserves to survive winter. St. Augustine also stays greener later into fall before going dormant.
Bermuda goes completely dormant faster when cold weather arrives, turning brown until spring green-up. It also has higher risk of winter kill off during extreme freezes. For mild winter climates, St. Augustine holds up better.
Should I Choose Bermuda or St. Augustine Grass for My Lawn?
There’s no universally “correct” choice between Bermuda or St. Augustine grass. Assess your specific climate, irrigation availability, shade coverage, and lawn use. Bermuda thrives in drier, sunnier regions but needs more maintenance. St. Augustine prefers humid climates but is less traffic tolerant.
I suggest looking at existing lawns in your area thriving under similar conditions to help select the best grass species for your yard and lifestyle. Both can make great choices in the right settings.
I hope these comparisons help clarify some common questions about Bermuda grass versus St. Augustine grass. Please reach out if you need any other advice specific to your lawn environment and goals.
Conclusion: Key Differences Summarized
While Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass share similarities, I hope this article has helped identify the key differences that make each grass species unique. As an experienced landscaper, the most important takeaway I can offer is to select the type that best fits your specific climate, lawn usage, maintenance preferences and landscape goals. There is no universally “better” choice.
Carefully evaluate the pros and cons of growth rate, durability, appearance, ideal conditions and care requirements when deciding between Bermuda or St. Augustine. And recognize it is possible to integrate them together in the same lawn with proper preparation, planting techniques and tailored maintenance. The differences come down to texture, spreading capabilities, climate adaptation and growth behaviors.
Understanding these distinctions will help you make the right grass choice for your yard and properly care for the variety you select. Please reach out with any other questions! I’m happy to offer guidance on warm season grass selection and maintenance tailored to your unique needs as both an experienced landscaper and lawn owner myself.