5 Best Grass Types in Charleston

Front yard view of The Shops of Historic Charleston Foundation building

There’s more to Charleston’s charm than cobblestone streets and pastel houses. Lush, healthy lawns showcase the natural beauty of homes here. By choosing the best grass types for Charleston, it’s easy to have a landscape worthy of Magnolia Gardens. 

Warm-season grasses thrive in Charleston’s heat. But you also want to consider the amount of foot traffic your yard sees, the annual amount of rainfall, soil type, and how much work you want to put into your lawn.

Got kids and pets? You’ll want a hardy grass that recovers well after a game of fetch or Frisbee. 

We chose the five best grass types in Charleston that will hold up well in the climate, resist pests and diseases, and are fairly easy to maintain.

1. St. Augustine

Sometimes called Charleston grass, St. Augustine is great for salty coastal environments. The broad leaves and flat stems grow into a dense turf with a blue-green color. It grows so thick it crowds out most weeds.

It’s great for the Carolina coast because it can tolerate heat and salt and prefers moist soil and warm winters. St. Augustine is prone to fungal diseases and pests like chinch bugs.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass 
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Prefers full sun; more tolerant of shade than many other warm-season varieties
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate; requires proper irrigation to retain its green color
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate to high mowing frequency; overwatering or too much fertilizer will cause permanent damage and thatch buildup
  • Recommended mowing height: 2-4 inches

2. Centipedegrass

One of the most popular grass types in South Carolina, centipedegrass provides thick lawns that require limited maintenance. The medium texture and lighter color are adapted to the area’s climate and soil types. It’s a hardy grass that can thrive in infertile and acidic soils. It grows slowly, so it requires infrequent mowing. 

The main drawback of centipedegrass is its inability to withstand heavy use. This turf is best in a space with low traffic — it’s not for your kickball tournament.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons 
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate— at least six hours of full sun per day 
  • Drought tolerance: Low to moderate; like most turfs, this variety will go dormant without enough water
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Recommended mowing height: 1-2 inches

3. Bermuda

This thick grass handles salt spray and grows well just about anywhere that’s sunny. Dark green, bermudagrass has a coarse texture and rapid cultivation. It grows so quickly it can be considered invasive, so it will outcompete weeds and encroach on your flower beds.

In need of irrigation only during the growing season, bermudagrass is very tolerant of drought conditions. It stands up well to heavy use and recovers quickly from damage, making it a great grass for busy areas.

Bermudagrass is higher maintenance than most warm-season grasses. It needs regular fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide treatments. It also will need aerating once a year.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low; grows best with full sun throughout the entire day
  • Drought tolerance: High 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: High
  • Recommended mowing height: 1½-2 inches

4. Zoysia

With a light to medium green hue, Zoysiagrass is loved for its long-lasting color and dense coverage. Different varieties of Zoysia have slightly different characteristics, but most are medium to coarse in texture.

It’s great for Charleston because it tolerates salt and grows in any kind of soil — sand, loam, and clay. Zoysia is very versatile because it can tolerate heat and drought better than cool-season grasses and cold better than most warm-season grasses.

The dense growth enables Zoysia to handle all sorts of activity. Whether you’re playing badminton or catch with Fido, this turf can handle it. To support its carpet-like growth, you may want to add nitrogen during the growing season.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes and stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate; prefers full sun
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low to moderate
  • Recommended mowing height: 1-2 inches

5. Carpetgrass

With an appearance like crabgrass, this variety is not loved by everyone. But with a tolerance for shade, drought, and poor soil, carpetgrass is a good choice where other grasses won’t survive.

Carpetgrass does just fine without any additional fertilizers or applications. Most homeowners will want to consider nitrogen to support growth. Otherwise, carpetgrass is one of the lowest-maintenance options available.

And if you enjoy outdoor entertaining or have kids and pets, this turf stands up well to heavy use.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low 
  • Recommended mowing height: 2 inches

What to consider when choosing your Charleston lawn

Choosing the right grass type can be overwhelming. Ask yourself these questions about your specific lawn to help you narrow down which one is best for you. 

  • Do you want a grass that is low maintenance?
    • Centipede and carpetgrass are the best choices.
  • Do you have friends and family over often for outdoor get-togethers?
    • Bermudagrass, Zoysia, and carpetgrass can keep up with heavy foot traffic.
  • Do you have a lot of shade in your yard?
    • St. Augustinegrass tolerates the most shade out of all of these options.
  • Is your soil more on the acidic side?
    • Centipedegrass actually prefers soil with a lower pH. 

We listed the grass types that will give you the greenest lawn with the least amount of effort. But if you prefer walking barefoot in the grass, or a grass that will stay green into the winter months, you might consider overseeding with a blend of cool and warm-season grass types.

Most of all, you want a lawn that can hold up in Charleston’s salty air and humidity. You also want to consider the amount of time you have to maintain your lawn. The Clemson University Extension office points out even the most expensive turf won’t add to your property value if not regularly mowed, fertilized, and weeded.

Need help preparing your lawn or deciding on the best grass type? Visit our Charleston lawn care page to get in touch with a professional!

Main Photo Credit: Roman Eugeniusz | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Alison Hoover

Alison Hoover is a Midwesterner through and through, and loves to spend her time baking and reading. Always at home in the dirt, as a kid, Alison raised a vegetable garden with her dad, and flower gardens with her mom.