St. AugustineSt. Augustine grass (also known as Charleston grass in South Carolina) is often the most popular choice for lawns throughout southern United States. Especially in coastal regions where cold temperature extremes are moderated by oceanic climatic conditions. St. Augustine grass is native to the Caribbean, Africa and Mediterranean regions, and best adapted to subtropical climates.

Good for coastal regions, thrives in heat, does poorly in cool climates. Excellent to fair under drought conditions. Moderately good to heavy traffic. Somewhat shade tolerant. Can be used in moist, semi-fertile soils. At the moment, most common installation method is sodding or plugs; seeds are very difficult to obtain if not impossible.

HIGHLIGHTS: Compared to finer textured grasses like the bermudas, St. Augustine has large flat stems and broad coarse leaves. It has an attractive blue-green color and forms a deep, fairly dense turf. It spreads by long above-ground runners or stolons. While it is aggressive, it is easily controlled around borders. It produces only a few viable seed and is commonly planted by sod, sprigs, or plugs. St. Augustine grass is a big thatch producer, more so than other types of grass. It also requires plenty of moisture and is best suited to humid regions. Has good shade tolerance, except for Floratam. Susceptible to fungal diseases. St. Augustine grass Decline is a virus common to Texas and Louisiana and there is no known control.

Texture: coarse

Cold Tolerance: Poor (damage possible below 20)

Shade Tolerance: tolerates moderate levels of shade, but will become thin under dense shade conditions.

Traffic Tolerance: Poor

Rate of Establishment: Medium/Fast

Planting: sod or plugs

Watering: needs weekly watering for optimal appearance, but will survive drought conditions

Mowing Height: 2" 4"

Common Pests: grubs, chinch bugs, mole crickets, sod webworms, armyworms and cutworms.

Thatch: heavy producer of thatch made from stolons

WARNING: an ingredient in many weed/feed products (2,4-D) designed for cool-season grasses, Bermuda and Bahiagrass, can kill St. Augustine.

Q. Why won't my grass grow under the tree? I have the best St. Augustine type.

A. The reason for the general poor performance is a lack of, or alteration of, sunlight. The light quality is diminished because trees absorb the same light needed by grass, and since the trees get to it first, they get the most. In addition, trees affect the intensity and duration of light on the turf.

Trees with a dense overhead canopy also have a denser root structure that absorbs more moisture from the soil, leaving less for the grass.

Trees alter conditions by moderating temperatures, leveling out the highs and lows, decreasing wind, increasing humidity and intensifying competition for water and nutrients. As a result, turf experiences reduced shoot density, more upright growth, increased plant height, decreased root depth and thinner leaves and cell walls, causing fewer carbohydrates to develop in the cell walls, reducing photosynthesis and transpiration rates and making them more susceptible to disease. In other words, grass doesn't do too well under trees.

Many of the semi-dwarf types have excellent shade tolerance relative to the coarse-type St. Augustine grasses and other warm-season grasses. We also know that the semi-dwarf varieties do not possess chinch bug resistance, and those planting this grass will need to use insecticides to control infestations when they occur.


Floratam St. Augustine grass was released by the Florida and Texas Agricultural Experiment Stations in 1972 as a SAD virus and chinch bug resistant selection. It has since been observed to be brown patch tolerant. Like other Florida types, Floratam is a vigorous, coarse textured St. Augustine grass variety. Stolons of Floratam are large, purplish-red in color (demand this characteristic when purchasing sod) with internodes averaging 3 inches in length. Leaf blades are wider and longer than common St. Augustine grass. According to James Beard, TAEX Turf Researcher, tests at A&M concluded it is the most drought-tolerant of all St. Augustine grasses.

Floratam is not as cold tolerant as common St. Augustine, so preconditioning by use of Winterizer fertilizer (3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio) in the fall (October) is CRITICAL. Floratam may suffer freeze damage.

A study of the drought tolerance of grasses entitled: " Comparative Intraspecies and Interspecies Drought Resistance of Six Major Warm-Season Turfgrass Species" by S. I. Sifers and J. B. Beard, Texas A&M University.

Their findings were: Four years of field drought resistance studies have been completed on a modified sand root zone. In the fourth year of the study, 29 Bermuda grass, 2 seashore pespalum, 2 Buffalo Grass, 8 St. Augustine grass, 6 Centipede grass, and 11 Zoysia grass cultivars were subjected to 158 days of progressive water stress with no supplemental irrigation applied and less than 7.5 cm of natural rainfall. Degree of leaf firing was used as an indicator of dehydration avoidance and post-drought shoot recovery was used as the indicator for drought resistance.

Significant drought resistance differentials were found across the cultivars and among the species. Results were consistent with the first three years of this study among the Bermuda grass, seashore pespalum, St. Augustine grass, and Buffalo grass cultivars. Among the Centipede grass cultivars only Oklawn fully recovered. Leaf firing of all Zoysia grass cultivars was in excess of 50%. All recovered, except Meyer at 20% and Belair at 45% after 30 days. Excellent dehydration avoidance was seen in Floratam and Floralawn St. Augustine grass. There were large variations in drought resistance among the 5 St. Augustine grass cultivars. Floralawn and Floratam showed high green shoot recovery. They showed less than 50% leaf firing after 34 days of drought stress and recoveries of over 90%. However, Texas Common and Raleigh St. Augustine grass as well as Prairie Buffalograss showed over 98% leaf firing and less than 20% recovery. The performance of Floratam and Floralawn was excellent throughout the study in terms of shoot color, turgidity, and uniformity. They were comparable to 609 Buffalo grass.

Time will tell whether Palmetto outperforms Raleigh (cold tolerance) and Floratam (shade tolerance).


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