Grass is a low, medium textured, slow growing, but
aggressive grass that can produce a dense,
attractive, weed-free turf. It is more shade
tolerant than Bermuda grass but less shade tolerant
than St. Augustine and Zoysia grass. Since centipede
produces only surface runners, it is easily
controlled around borders of flower beds and walks.
Centipede grass is native to China and southeast
Asia and ranks between Bermuda grass and St.
Augustine grass in leaf width, shoot density, and
first introduced into the United States in 1916 from
seed collected by Frank N. Meyer in South China.
Centipede grass has since become widely grown in the
southeastern United States from S. Carolina to
Florida and westward along the Gulf Coast states to
popularity as a lawn grass stems from its adaptation
to low fertility conditions and its low maintenance
requirements. Where Centipede grass is adapted and
properly managed, it has few serious pest problems.
It is particularly well adapted to the sandy, acid
soils of the southeastern United States. Its
westward movement is somewhat limited by severe iron
deficiencies that develop in the alkaline soils of
the arid regions. And, its northward movement is
restricted by low temperatures. Centipede grass is
slightly more cold tolerant than St. Augustine
grass, but extended periods of 5°F or less can kill
Centipede grass is moderately shade tolerant, but
grows best in full sunlight. It is not as salt
tolerant as St. Augustine or Bermuda grass.
Centipede grass thrives on moderately acid soils, pH
5 to 6. Above pH 7.0 iron becomes a limiting factor
and supplemental applications of iron may be
Centipedegrass does not enter a true dormant state
during winter months and is severely injured by
intermittent cold and warm periods during spring.
Hard freezes kill the leaves and young stolons of
Centipede grasses. The grass usually recovers as
soon as temperatures become favorable. Recurring
cycles of cold / warm during the winter months
depletes its energy reserves and is susceptible to
extreme winterkill. Thus, its adaptation is limited
to areas with mild winter temperatures.
Centipede is the ideal grass for the homeowner who
wants a fairly attractive lawn that needs little
care. Centipede does not require much fertilizer or
mowing, and compared to other lawn grasses, is
generally resistant to most insects and diseases. It
will, however, respond to good management and
provide a very attractive turf. Centipede can be
established from either seeds or sprigs. Since it is
slow growing, it takes longer than Bermuda and St.
Augustine to completely cover an area.
Cold tolerance: fair (damage possible
Shade tolerance: fair/good
Rate of establishment: slow
Mowing height: medium. First mowing,
do not mow Centipede close before the
growing season begins.
Aeration: may be aerating any time during the
growing season, except for during drought
conditions. Avoid aeration during the green-up phase
in early spring.
Winterization: Centipede grass does not need a
late fall application of fertilizer, often referred
to as a "winterization feeding."
Centipede lawns may be over seeded in the fall with
a cool-season grass to create a temporary green lawn
over the winter. Annual rye is a good choice.
mature centipede grass lawns (3 or more years old)
problem areas sometimes appear in the spring and
grow worse throughout the summer. These problem
areas usually develop in thatchy turf, compacted
soils, drought areas or areas under other stresses.
Since a specific disease organism has not been
identified as the cause, the problem has been
broadly named "centipede decline".
Symptoms: Centipede decline is
descriptive of the problem as the grass gradually
deteriorates and is replaced by weeds or other
invasive grasses. The grass often greens up in early
spring, but gradually turns off color, wilts and
dies. These areas may initially be less than 1 foot
in diameter, but by mid-summer it may expand outward
to 3' — 6' in diameter. Individual areas may join
together producing large irregular shaped patterns
of wilted and discolored turf. These areas resemble
centipede grass suffering from drought conditions.
Examination of the turf in these areas reveals
little root development. Many of the stolons, or
runners, have no root attachment to the soil. Some
small discolored roots may be found in the thatch,
or the organic layer. The grass may be dead in the
center of the discolored area with often dark green,
leaves radiating into the healthy grass.
Control: Cultural practices provide
the most effective means of preventing centipede
decline. Mowing heights above 2" tend to promote
centipede decline; while mowing heights of 1" or
less at weekly intervals lessen the problem. Mowing
height does not provide absolute control, but
reduces the potential for centipede decline.
Application of nitrogen at rates above 2 pounds per
1,000 sq. ft. per year has been shown to increase
problems with centipede decline. Ideal fertilization
of centipede grass would be 0.5 pounds nitrogen per
1,000 sq. ft. in April, June, August and October.