As a warm season turfgrass popular across the southern United States, St. Augustine is prized for its lush green color and natural density. Homeowners investing in St. Augustine sod often notice seed stalks rising above the grass blades at certain times of year. This leads many to wonder – can viable St. Augustine grass be grown from these seeds?
As an avid gardener who has tested propagation methods for St. Augustine, I’ve experimented with planting the seeds produced on these stalks. In this article, I’ll share my experiences on the challenges, results, and best practices if you want to try growing St. Augustine grass from seed yourself.
You’ll learn when and why St. Augustine forms seed heads, how difficult it is to produce turf from the seeds, tips for collecting and germinating them, and most importantly – alternate proven ways to establish and fill in St. Augustine lawns. My goal is to provide a realistic picture of what you can expect from St. Augustine seeds and set proper expectations.
Let’s explore the intriguing topic of St. Augustine grass seeds to demystify what they are capable of when it comes to growing lush St. Augustine sod.
Does St. Augustine Grass Produce Viable Seeds?
When it comes to growing St. Augustine grass from seed, it can be tricky to achieve successful results. Based on my experience testing St. Augustine seeds, I’ve found there are some distinct challenges and limitations to establishing turf this way. That’s why other propagation methods tend to be better options.
The Difficulty of Growing St. Augustine from Seed
While St. Augustine grass does produce seed heads containing seeds, there are a few hurdles that make growing turf from these seeds unreliable:
- Low Germination Rate – The seeds have a notoriously poor germination rate, even under ideal conditions. Many seeds fail to sprout when planted.
- Slow Growth – The seeds that do germinate are slow to establish and take a long time to mature into grass plants. It can take weeks before any visible sprouts.
- Susceptibility – The young grass plants started from St. Augustine seeds struggle to compete with weeds and are prone to diseases.
- Genetics – Seeds don’t always breed true to parent grass cultivars. Variability occurs.
- Labor Intensive – Seeding requires intensive prep work, frequent watering and vigilant weed control.
For these reasons, seeded St. Augustine lawns are difficult to achieve successfully compared to alternate propagation methods.
Better Ways to Establish St. Augustine Grass
Given the challenges with seeds, the most reliable ways to plant St. Augustine grass are:
- Sod – Pre-grown St. Augustine turf mats install quickly and establish readily.
- Plugs – Small plugs planted on 12” spacing fill in steadily.
- Sprigs – Sprigs create lush lawns in one growing season with proper care.
These methods allow St. Augustine to spread laterally at its natural vigorous rate, avoiding seed setbacks. Though more costly upfront than seeding, they deliver lush lawns faster and with less hassle and uncertainty.
When Seed Heads Form on St. Augustine Grass
While St. Augustine grass seeds may have low viability, the seed heads they form on stalks rising above the blades can generate questions for homeowners. Here’s insight into when and why St. Augustine produces these seed heads.
Identifying St. Augustine Grass Seed Stalks
St. Augustine seed heads form on vertical stalks that extend 6-12 inches above the grass blades. The stalks emerge from the stems at the base of the plant.
The seed heads cluster together, resembling wheat heads in shape. They start out pale green and turn straw-colored as the seeds mature in late spring or early summer.
The seeds themselves are small, ranging from 1/8 to 1/4 inches long. Seeds that fall to the ground are hard to spot in the grass.
Reasons St. Augustine Forms Seeds
There are a few key reasons you may witness seed stalks emerge from your St. Augustine lawn:
- Mature grass – Seed heads often develop on well-established St. Augustine grass over 2-3 years old.
- Stress triggers – Disease, drought, heat or cold stress can stimulate seed head production.
- Fertilization – Excess nitrogen fertilization prior to seeding encourages stalk growth.
- Unmowed areas – Letting grass get overly tall and bushy promotes seeding.
- Natural process – Mature St. Augustine naturally allocates energy to sexual reproduction via seeding.
While seed heads may form, remember seeds often fail to sprout well. But their presence is normal for mature, stressed or over-fertilized St. Augustine grass.
Trying to Grow St. Augustine Grass from Seed
If you want to try growing St. Augustine grass from seeds, follow these tips for collecting, germinating and caring for the resulting plugs. While challenging, it can be done with extra effort.
Harvesting and Germinating St. Augustine Seeds
To collect St. Augustine seeds, wait until the stalks and seed heads turn brown and dry. Cut the stalks and place indoors to finish drying upside down. Once thoroughly dry, rub the seed heads to separate and collect the small seeds.
For germination, sow seeds shallowly in trays using a sterile, high-quality potting mix. Maintain constant moisture and a temperature around 70°F. Be extremely patient – sprouting can take 4-6 weeks.
Once sprouts emerge, select the healthiest and transplant into small plug trays, keeping them consistently watered. Apply a balanced fertilizer.
Caring for Seeded St. Augustine Plugs
The young St. Augustine plugs started from seed require diligent care:
- Water frequently to keep soil consistently moist. Avoid underwatering.
- Apply fertilizer every 2-3 weeks to fuel growth. Use half strength to avoid burn.
- Control weeds meticulously to prevent competition. Consider a pre-emergent herbicide.
- Monitor for disease and treat promptly. Seeded St. Augustine is prone to issues.
- Transplant plugs once they reach 2 inches tall. Space 8-12 inches apart.
Seeded St. Augustine demands intensive nurturing to become established. It’s susceptible to stresses that mature sod and sprigs withstand. Be prepared for an uphill battle compared to other planting methods.
Frequently Asked Questions on St. Augustine Seeds
When it comes to St. Augustine grass and seeds, I often receive similar questions from homeowners looking to establish or fill in their lawns. Here I’ll address some of the most frequently asked topics.
Are St. Augustine Grass Seeds Sterile?
St. Augustine seeds are not completely sterile, but they have low viability compared to other grass species. The seeds form and ripen, but germination rates are notoriously poor.
This contributes to the challenges of growing St. Augustine from seed. But with extra careful harvesting, storage and planting methods, some seeds can eventually sprout. Just don’t expect high germination percentages.
Should I Plant St. Augustine Grass Seed or Sod?
I recommend planting St. Augustine sod over seed. Sod establishes much quicker, is more vigorous, outcompetes weeds and handles stresses better. Seeds take too long to germinate and mature, requiring extensive babying.
Occasionally, small bare spots can be reseeded if you diligently care for the delicate new seedlings. But for establishing large areas, always choose sod or other propagation methods over seed.
How Long for St. Augustine Grass to Grow from Seed?
Expect a very lengthy timeline when growing St. Augustine from seed. The seeds take 14-42 days just to germinate. Once sprouted, grass plants are painfully slow growing and take 4-6 months before they can be mowed and truly resemble a lawn.
The bottom line is seeded St. Augustine lawns require many months of meticulous care before filling in. I hope these answers help provide realistic expectations around St. Augustine seeds! Let me know if you need any other lawn care advice.
Conclusion: Rely on Proven Methods for St. Augustine Lawns
In closing, St. Augustine grass does produce seed heads but establishing turf from the seeds can be challenging. Germination rates are low and seedling growth is painfully slow. Mature St. Augustine sod establishes much quicker and with less hassle.
The key takeaways around St. Augustine grass seeds are:
- Seeds have low viability and germination rates
- Seedlings require extensive babying and Care
- Seeding takes 4-6 months to produce turf
- Sodding, plugging and sprigging are better propagation methods
- Occasionally small spots can be reseeded when carefully tended
While St. Augustine seed heads may form on lawns, rely on sod or other planting methods for best and fastest results. I hope these tips provide realistic expectations if you wish to experiment growing St. Augustine from seed. Let me know if you need any other advice for lush, healthy St. Augustine grass!