As a longtime gardening enthusiast, I’ve spent years cultivating both centipede and St. Augustine grasses in my lawn. Their fine-bladed, emerald green hues are a thing of beauty during the warm months. But could these two popular Southern grasses successfully coexist in the same yard?
It’s a common question for homeowners seeking the benefits of each grass in one space. St. Augustine offers a lush, thick turf, while centipede thrives in acidic soils and partial shade. Having both could give you the best of both worlds, right?
Well, it’s not quite that simple. While visually strikingly similar, centipede and St. Augustine have key differences in their ideal growth conditions and maintenance needs. Planting them together requires careful consideration to avoid lopsided growth or die-off.
In this article, I’ll share my experiences combining these grasses over the years. You’ll learn their key differences, compatibility factors, and solutions to make cohabitation work. While tricky, mixed plantings can succeed in the right climate and with proper care.
Ready to find out if a centipede and St. Augustine lawn is possible at your home? Let’s get growing!
What Are the Key Differences Between Centipede and St. Augustine Grasses?
At first glance, centipede and St. Augustine can appear quite similar, with their flat, broad blades and creeping growth habit. But when you look closer, some notable differences emerge in terms of their growth characteristics, climate preferences and maintenance needs.
As an avid gardener with years of experience cultivating both grasses, I’ve observed how these distinctions impact their performance and care. Here’s an in-depth look at what sets them apart.
Different Growth Habits and Appearance
While both grasses produce spreading stolons that fill in bare areas, St. Augustine grows much more aggressively. Its thick stolons and upright growth habit allow it to outcompete weeds and produce a lush, dense turf.
Centipede grass has a more bunch-type growth pattern. Its stolons are less robust than St. Augustine, producing a thinner, more open turf. Centipede also features a yellowish-green hue compared to St. Augustine’s deeper emerald green blades.
The growth habit differences mean St. Augustine’s vigor can sometimes overpower slower establishing centipede when planted together.
Divergent Climate and Growing Conditions
St. Augustine thrives in the hot, humid conditions found across the Southeast and Gulf Coast. It tolerates drought, salt and a range of soil conditions. Centipede, meanwhile, grows best in central and northern zones of the south, where summers are hot but not extreme.
Centipede prefers more acidic soils than St. Augustine. It does well in partial shade and areas with poor drainage thanks to its open growth habit. St. Augustine needs full sun and well-drained soil to flourish.
These adaptations make each grass suited for different site conditions. What thrives one species may stress the other when planted in the same space.
Maintenance and Care Challenges
The two grasses also have differing maintenance needs in terms of mowing, fertility, pest control and other care. St. Augustine should be mowed higher, from 3 to 4 inches, while centipede looks best around 1.5 to 2.5 inches.
Centipede requires less nitrogen and prefers slow release feeds. Too much nitrogen causes foliar damage. St. Augustine benefits from regular, moderate nitrogen for strong growth.
When planted together, following proper care practices for each grass gets tricky. What meets one species’ needs may negatively impact the other. It takes skill and diligence to strike the right balance.
As you can see, centipede and St. Augustine have several key differences that influence their performance and care. Understanding these unique characteristics provides insight into the challenges of growing them together in the same landscape.
What Happens When Centipede and St. Augustine Are Planted Together?
Based on my experience mixing these grasses, planting centipede and St. Augustine together results in increased competition, challenges finding ideal growing conditions, and tricky maintenance needs. Getting them to coexist requires careful planning and diligent care.
When two grasses share the same space, they end up competing directly for light, nutrition and water. One species inevitably gains advantage over the other. The differences in centipede and St. Augustine’s growth habits amplify this issue.
St. Augustine’s Vigor Can Overpower Centipede
With its dense, upright growth and aggressive spreading stolons, St. Augustine is highly competitive. Its vigor allows it to gain a dominant foothold when grown alongside slower establishing centipede grass.
Over time, the robust St. Augustine tends to choke out centipede’s less assertive horizontal stolons. Thin spots and dieback of centipede can occur, resulting in St. Augustine taking over entire sections of the lawn.
Much depends on the original ratio of each grass planted. A higher percentage of St. Augustine will hasten its takeover of thinner centipede stands.
Finding Ideal Growing Conditions Gets Tricky
Remember, centipede and St. Augustine have differing preferences for climate, soil pH, drainage, sun exposure and other factors. Finding a happy medium for both presents a challenge.
For example, centipede prefers shade and acidic soils. But too much shade and low pH negatively affects St. Augustine. Meanwhile, St. Augustine needs full sun and good drainage to thrive, which can stress centipede. It’s tough to strike the right balance.
Areas of the lawn featuring different microclimates and soil conditions will likely favor one species over the other, making coexistence difficult.
Maintenance and Care Needs Vary
Managing and caring for both grass types requires compromises. Mowing, watering, fertilization and other practices must be adapted to avoid overly stressing either species.
Centipede shouldn’t be mowed lower than 1.5 inches, while St. Augustine looks best around 3 inches. Proper mowing height for both together is hard to achieve.
Likewise, too much nitrogen benefits St. Augustine but can damage centipede. The fertilization needs don’t align.
Satisfying the preferences of each grass together proves consistently challenging. Ongoing diligence and flexibility are required.
As evidenced, planting centipede and St. Augustine in the same space involves some distinct challenges and risks. But with careful planning and maintenance, a mixed planting can work in certain situations, as we’ll explore next.
Should I Plant Centipede and St. Augustine in the Same Lawn?
Given the potential drawbacks, you may be wondering if mixing these grasses is worth the headache. The answer depends on carefully evaluating your climate, landscape conditions, and maintenance commitment.
With reasonable expectations and proper planning, it is possible to get centipede and St. Augustine to coexist in certain situations. Here are some key factors to consider if debating whether to plant them together.
Assess Your Climate and Growing Conditions
Take an honest look at your local climate and yard conditions to determine if they could support both grasses. St. Augustine prefers hot, humid coastal areas, while centipede thrives in the cooler Upper South. If your location falls somewhere in between, a mix may work.
Also evaluate sunlight, drainage, soil pH and other factors. If parts of your landscape feature different microclimates, vary the grass species accordingly. For example, plant centipede in shadier, wetter sections and St. Augustine in full sun.
Realistically assess if your yard can provide the different conditions each grass needs to survive. If not, pick the species best suited for most of your space.
Understand the Maintenance Commitment
Expect to spend more time maintaining a mixed lawn. You’ll need to mow, fertilize, aerate and care for each species according to its needs. This may involve varying practices in different zones.
If you don’t stay on top of proper mowing heights, nutrient needs and seasonal maintenance for both grasses, the lawn will suffer. Preventive disease and pest treatments are also critical.
A mixed planting doubles the care requirements. If your schedule can’t accommodate the extra work, opt for one species instead.
Try Interplanting As a Transition
If your heart is set on a centipede and St. Augustine lawn, try interplanting first before fully integrating. This involves gradually introducing the new grass into existing turf.
For example, first remove cores from St. Augustine and plug centipede plugs into the holes. This limits root competition and allows the centipede to establish. Over a few seasons, the percentage of centipede can be increased.
Patience is required, but interplanting eases the transition to a mixed lawn and reduces shock to both grasses. It also limits the need to renovate large sections all at once.
With smart preparation and care, integrating centipede and St. Augustine can succeed. But a willingness to compromise and provide extra maintenance is a must. Take time to make an informed decision on whether a mixed planting will work at your home.
FAQ: Mixing Centipede and St. Augustine Grasses
Combining centipede and St. Augustine in the same lawn raises lots of questions. Here I’ll tackle some common FAQs about growing these two grasses together based on my experience.
Will centipede grass take over St. Augustine?
This is highly unlikely due to St. Augustine’s more vigorous growth habit and competitiveness. St. Augustine will more often choke out centipede instead of the other way around.
Centipede’s slower growth, thinner stolons and bunching growth pattern make it unlikely to ever gain a strong foothold among thick, spreading St. Augustine. Expect St. Augustine to dominate sections over time.
To give centipede a fighting chance, plant it in higher percentages in the lawn and keep St. Augustine in check through frequent mowing and care. But eventually, St. Augustine’s vigor usually wins out.
Can I have centipede and St. Augustine in the same zone?
It depends on your location and microclimates. St. Augustine thrives in hot, humid coastal climates, while centipede prefers cooler inland areas. So they may not do well together regionally.
But within your yard, you can potentially have areas of each grass. For example, use centipede in shady sections and St. Augustine in full sun. Just don’t expect them to thrive side-by-side in the same space.
Careful planning and dividing your yard into separate zones based on sun, drainage and other factors can make integrating the grasses workable.
How can I make centipede and St. Augustine compatible?
To increase compatibility, stick to a 60/40 or 70/30 ratio favoring the grass best suited for your climate. Gradually introduce the new grass via interplanting instead of full renovation.
Also, divide the lawn into zones catering to each grass’s needs. For example, use more centipede in shady, wetter sections and St. Augustine in sunny spaces. Adjust mowing, watering and care separately for each area.
Finally, give the weaker grass extra care by aerating, fertilizing, dethatching and replenishing as needed. With diligence and reasonable expectations, you can get the grasses to coexist.
While tricky, planting centipede and St. Augustine together can work in the right setting. But it requires compromises in maintenance and accepting each will thrive better in certain areas. Take the challenges and benefits into consideration before deciding to mix them.
Key Takeaways: Mixing These Warm-Season Grasses
As we’ve explored, integrating centipede and St. Augustine grasses into one lawn has both benefits and challenges. While their fine-textured blades and green colors complement each other beautifully, their differing needs make them tricky companions.
The vigor and competitiveness of St. Augustine often overpowers slower growing centipede over time, leading to dieback. Finding a happy medium for sun, drainage and ideal climate for both is also difficult. And the extra maintenance demands shouldn’t be underestimated.
However, with reasonable expectations and proper planning, these grasses can successfully coexist in certain zones. Taking stock of your climate, gradually introducing centipede via interplanting, and tailoring care to each species’ requirements will give you the best chance of creating a thriving mixed lawn.
If you remain flexible and diligent in maintenance, it is possible to unlock the benefits of both sturdy St. Augustine and shade-loving centipede in your yard. But also be prepared for one grass to dominate areas. With compromise and care, you can create a diverse, beautiful lawn showcasing these two Southern favorites.