St. Augustinegrass

Prepared by Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, and Debbie Shaughnessy, HGIC Information Specialist, Clemson University. (New 03/99.)

HGIC 1211

Printer Friendly Version

St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) grows best during the warm (80 to 95 °F) months of spring, summer and early fall. It grows vigorously during this time and becomes brown and dormant in winter.

This grass has large flat stems and broad coarse leaves somewhat similar to centipedegrass. 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 is commonly planted by vegetative means because of problems with seed viability.

St. Augustinegrass is the most shade-tolerant warm-season grass. It is very susceptible to winter injury, especially if planted farther west than Columbia. It is well-suited for the coastal plain. Perhaps the greatest disadvantage of this grass is its sensitivity to an insect, the chinch bug. Chinch bugs can cause extensive damage to St. Augustinegrass if not controlled early.

The more common St. Augustinegrass cultivars are Bitterblue, Floratine, Floratam, Raleigh, Jade and Seville. Bitterblue, Floratine and Floratam are less tolerant of cold and should only be grown in the coastal areas of South Carolina. Bitterblue has a finer, denser texture and darker blue-green color than common St. Augustinegrass. It also has the best shade tolerance but is not resistant to chinch bugs or gray leaf spot disease.

Floratine is an improved selection from Bitterblue that has a finer leaf texture and lower, denser growth habit that allows closer mowing than with common St. Augustinegrass. It is not resistant to chinch bugs but tolerates light to moderate shade. Floratine’s other characteristics are similar to Bitterblue’s.

Floratam is an improved type of St. Augustinegrass that has chinch bug and SADV (St. Augustinegrass decline virus) resistance, and reddish stolons (runners). It has a very coarse texture and poor cold and shade tolerance. It will thin in direct relation to the amount of shade received. Its winter and early spring color is lower as it goes into a deeper semi-dormancy period and sheds its leaves more than other cultivars. Spring green-up is also slow. Floratam is one of the preferred cultivars to plant in open sunny areas where chinch bugs are a problem; however, research has identified a strain of chinch bugs which can damage Floratam.

Raleigh is a cold-hardy cultivar that has a medium green color with a coarse texture. It is susceptible to chinch bugs and brown patch disease. During peak summertime heat, Raleigh has been noted to yellow and not spread as aggressively as during cooler temperatures. Supplemental iron applications are needed to reduce this yellowing tendency. Raleigh is best adapted to heavier, organic, clayey soils with a medium to low soil pH.

Seville is a semi-dwarf cultivar with a dark green color and low growth habit. Seville is susceptible to chinch bug and webworm damage and is cold-sensitive. Due to its compact growth habit, Seville tends to be thatch-prone and shallow rooting. It is resistant to SADV and has a finer texture than Floratam. Seville performs well in the shade and produces an excellent turf in full sun. Its cold tolerance is similar to Floratine’s. Being a semi-dwarf variety, Seville’s maintenance is different than for the taller growing cultivars.

Jade has good shade tolerance, a semi-dwarf growth habit and dark green color. It is susceptible to chinch bugs, sod webworms and brown patch disease and is cold sensitive.

Adaptations & characteristics of warm-season turfgrasses
 Bermudagrass (common)¹Bermudagrass (hybrid)¹Centipedegrass¹St. AugustinegrassZoysiagrass¹

Key: E=Excellent; VG=Very Good; G=Good; F=Fair; P=Poor; VP=Very Poor

¹ Can be seeded.
² Turfgrasses need at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day.
³ Establishment rate is dictated by planting dates, seeding and planting rate, intensity of culture, and environment.

Note: Some improved cultivars are better adapted and more pleasing in appearance than the comparison rating provided for a given lawn grass.

  Area Best Adapted
Statewide Statewide, excluding mountains Statewide Coastal Plain Statewide
Heat Hardiness VG VG G E E
Cold Hardiness P F F P VG
Drought Resistance E E G G G
Sun Tolerance VG VG G G G
Shade Tolerance² VP VP G E G
Salt Tolerance G G P E G
Wear Tolerance E E P F F
Establishment Rate³ Fast Medium Slow Medium Very Slow

Excerpted from the South Carolina Master Gardener Training Manual, EC 678. 

Page maintained by: Home & Garden Information Center

This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.