For a maintenance schedule for Centipede care, visit our “LAWN CARE” at top of page.
This creeping perennial is well adapted to the sandy, acidic soils of low fertility and requires low maintenance. It spreads by stolons and has a coarse texture with short upright stems that grow to about 3-5 inches and requiring less mowing, survives in mild cold temperatures as long as there aren’t several hard freezes since it doesn’t go into a true dormancy and with light freezes will turn brown but as soon as the temperature rises it will recover and re-greens.
Centipede grass is a slow-growing, apple-green, coarse-leaved turf grass that is adapted for use as a low maintenance, general purpose turf. It requires little fertilizer (one to two pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year), infrequent mowing, and will tolerate moderate shade if it receives at least four hours of full sun, daily. It does not tolerate traffic, compaction, high phosphorus soils, high pH, low-potassium soils, excessive thatch, drought, or heavy shade. Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) was introduced into the United States from seed found in the baggage of Frank Meyer, a USDA plant explorer who disappeared on his fourth trip to China in 1916. It was initially used for low-maintenance cemeteries and eventually for lawns during and after the Depression and is sometimes referred to as “lazy man’s grass” or “poor man’s grass”. It is well adapted to the climate and soils of the coastal plains and lower Piedmont areas of the southern United States.
Centipede grass is a low-growing and medium-textured naturally yellow-green colored perennial turf. Its low fertility requirements result in slow growth and reduced maintenance. Centipede grass’ natural color is Granny Smith crab apple green. Over fertilizing to obtain an unnatural dark green color reduces its cold tolerance and usually increases long-term maintenance problems. Centipede grass is currently the most common home lawn turf grass in the South. Centipede grass is adapted to infertile soils. It spreads by stolons, producing a medium-textured turf. Maintenance requirements are low when compared to other turf grasses. It has fair to good shade tolerance, good drought tolerance, and can be established from seed or sod. Since it only produces surface runners (stolons), centipede grass is easily controlled around borders of flowerbeds and walks. Centipede grass is highly susceptible to damage from nematodes (especially ring nematodes) and ground pearl insects. Nematode damage limits centipede grass’ use in deep sandy soils. It exhibits iron Chloris (yellowing) and produces a heavy thatch if over fertilized. It has poor salt tolerance and forms a loose turf that is not very wear-resistant, so it will not withstand heavy foot traffic. Stolons from centipede grass have high lignin content and do not decompose readily, thus developing a thatch layer. The rate of thatch accumulation is a direct result of management practices, which provide excessive vegetative growth. When over fertilized, the subsequent growth means new runners are soon several inches above the soil surface and exposed to the wide fluctuations of temperatures normally experienced in late fall and winter. Within several years, large brown dead patches form in early spring. This die back is collectively referred to as “centipede grass decline.” Following proper management techniques can prevent this problem: Avoid over fertilizing (e.g., 0 to 2 lbs N per 1000 sq.ft. yearly) Prevent thatch accumulation or remove thatch when it exceeds ½-inch in thickness Irrigate during drought stress, especially in the fall and early spring Maintain a mowing height of 1½ to 2 inches.
Improved varieties of centipede grass are available, including Centennial, Oaklawn, Tenn Turf (formerly, Tennessee Hardy), Top Quality and TifBlair. The improved cultivars have better cold tolerance than common. However, these must be vegetatively propagated and are selected specifically for their improved cold tolerance. Centennial will perform a little better on alkaline soil than common centipede grass. The centipede grass seed and sod produced in most Southern areas are a mixture of red- and yellow-stemmed grasses.