5 Best Grass Types for Jacksonville Lawns

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Jacksonville, Florida, skyline at night in background with colorful fountain in the foreground.

Which grass types are best for your First Coast lawn? Five species work well in Jacksonville: 

  • St. Augustinegrass
  • Zoysiagrass
  • Bahiagrass
  • Centipedegrass
  • Bermudagrass 

Here are two reasons why these are the best grass types for your lawn:

  1. Warm-season grasses work best for Florida lawns.
  2. You’re probably familiar with many of these grasses, but each one is quite different. Read the characteristics of each to choose the best grass for your lawn.

Which grass is best for my Jacksonville lawn?

1. St. Augustinegrass

As warm-season grass, St Augustinegrass stays green throughout the growing season. Barring any drought, it may go brown during the cooler winter months. If there is a drought and you want to keep the lawn green, you’ll need to water until the rainfall returns. St. Augustine tolerates salt spray as well.

Most homeowners in Florida have a St. Augustinegrass lawn. It’s the most popular grass in the Sunshine State and establishes quickly from plugs, sprigs, or sod. 

Success with St. Augustinegrass depends on regular maintenance (mowing, fertilizing, dethatching, and watering) to keep pests and disease at bay.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Generally good but depends on the cultivar 
  • Drought tolerance: Low
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: High
  • Mowing height: 2-4 inches, depending on the cultivar
  • Potential for disease: High

Other notes: Fertilize with 2-4 pounds of nitrogen/1000 square feet/year. Requires watering during dry spells and may develop a thick thatch layer. Chinch bugs are its most common pest, and diseases such as gray leaf spot, take-all root rot, and large patch are not uncommon. Each cultivar has different strengths and weaknesses, so do your research before you buy.

2. Zoysiagrass

If you prefer a dense, thick lawn, Zoysiagrass is a great option. Not only does this grass give your lawn a carpet-like appearance, but the thick stand of grass also prevents most weed growth as well. 

Zoysiagrass needs a moderate amount of care, requiring three applications of nitrogen per year, weekly mowing during the growing season, and weekly watering during periods of drought. Zoysia can handle some salt spray. The few downsides include a slow growth pattern and thatch buildup.

Other notes: Fertilize with 2-3 pounds of nitrogen/1,000 square feet/year. Dethatch or aerate every year or two. Mow once per week during peak season. Water during droughts to maintain its green color. Hunting billbugs and large patch are the most common insect and disease issues with a zoysia lawn.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Good, but can vary depending on the cultivar
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate to high — requires watering once per week to stay green; drought tolerance varies depending on the cultivar
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Good
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate
  • Mowing height: For medium- or coarse-textured varieties, mow at 2-2.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate

3. Bahiagrass

If you prefer a dense, carpet-like, highly maintained turf, bahiagrass is not the grass for you. But if you prefer a low-maintenance lawn with a relatively open canopy that resists insects and disease, this is an option worth considering.

Bahia came to the southeastern U.S. in 1914 to be used for pasture. Since then, scientists have developed cultivars such as ‘Argentine’ that work well in home lawns. Worried about poor soil? Bahiagrass tolerates low-quality, sandy soils and prefers an acidic soil environment.

A word of caution: If you have neighbors with well-maintained lawns, you may want to seek professional advice before installing bahiagrass. This grass is often considered a competitive and invasive weed if it ends up in another warm-season lawn and can easily spread to other lawns via its rhizomes.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: High 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low — mow every one to two weeks
  • Mowing height: 3-4 inches 
  • Potential for disease: Low

Other notes: Does not tolerate saltwater well. Although it forms a deep root system, it will turn dormant (and brown) during a severe drought. Not highly susceptible to insect or disease problems, though mole crickets are not uncommon. Fertilize at 1-3 pounds of nitrogen/1,000 square feet/year. 

4. Centipedegrass

Centipedegrass is a short, slow-growing grass that tolerates acidic and low-quality soils. It requires a relatively low amount of maintenance and has a light green hue. It does not tolerate freezing temperatures or high levels of salt. But this is not the grass to choose if you like to entertain outdoors or play frisbee on the lawn as it has a low traffic tolerance.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Fair
  • Drought tolerance: Fair — will go dormant
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low — mow every week or two during peak season.
  • Mowing height: 1.5-2.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate

Other notes: Centipedegrass problems include centipedegrass decline, ground pearls (an insect), and nematodes. To prevent or correct most problems, mow at the correct height, don’t over-apply nitrogen, and remove excess thatch.

5. Bermudagrass

Bermudagrass is a full-sun, high-traffic grass. If you like to play flag football or badminton on your sunny, open yard, consider a bermuda lawn. Improved common varieties of bermudagrass varieties are well adapted for home lawns and require less maintenance than hybrid varieties, which are more often used for high-maintenance sports turf.

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Maintenance needs are variety-dependent: Hybrid varieties require a high maintenance level, but improved varieties require a moderate maintenance level. Home lawns with improved varieties may require mowing up to twice per week.
  • Mowing height: 1-2 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate – depends on the cultivar

Other notes: Able to tolerate salt well. Hybrid varieties are more maintenance intensive than common varieties, so pay attention to which cultivar you are purchasing. Bermudagrass tends to develop a high level of thatch, so be prepared to dethatch once the thatch level exceeds ½”. As long as you fertilize at recommended rates, don’t overwater, and mow on the high side, your chance for diseases and insects remains low. Nematodes, mole crickets, and fungal diseases are the most prevalent forms of pest and disease problems.

Florida lawns

Homeowners and landscapers in Florida are encouraged to follow Best Management Practices (BMPs) when fertilizing their lawns. Overuse or misapplication of fertilizers can harm groundwater and local bodies of water. Many cities and counties have restrictions on fertilizer application as well, so be sure to consult your county or city’s ordinances before fertilizing your lawn.

How to select the best grass type for your lawn

Remember to consider a few key points before you run to the store and purchase the first bag of seed you see on the shelf:

  • What is your lawn’s soil type and pH?
    • Bahiagrass will grow in sandy, acidic soil and centipede tolerates acidic, poor quality soil.
  • How much shade does your lawn get? 
    • St. Augustine and Zoysia generally have good shade tolerance but it varies depending on the cultivar. Bahia, centipede, and bermuda need full sun.
  • Does your lawn get high levels of foot traffic?
    • If you like to host get-togethers or play pickup football on your lawn, consider Bermuda. Zoysia can handle some traffic, but the other grasses don’t hold up well to wear.
  • Does your water or soil contain a high level of salinity?
    • St. Augustine, Zoysia, and bermuda can handle some salt spray.
  • How much maintenance will you do (or pay someone else to do)?
    • St. Augustine and some bermuda varieties require a high level of care. Centipede and Zoysia require moderate care, and bahia is a low-maintenance grass. 
  • Do you have watering restrictions?
    • Bahia and bermuda have the highest drought tolerance while St. Augustine has the lowest.

If you keep these points in mind, you’re sure to select an ideal grass type that will bring greenery and growth to your Jacksonville lawn.

Do you want someone else to plant the grass, mow, and weed the lawn? Contact one of our Jacksonville lawn care professionals today to get your lawn and ornamental plants ship-shape in no time.

Main Photo Credit: Jorge2015 | Pixabay

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