You may have heard about the thick lawns centipede grass produces. Or maybe you envy your neighbor’s lush stand of turf that seems to require less mowing. So, now you’re wondering if centipede grass is right for you. Today I’ll help you answer that question, and if you already have this popular warm season turf grass in your lawn, I’ll tell you how to make Centipede grass spread to achieve that perfect carpet of green.
Let’s start with the short answer, and then I’ll explain everything you need to know to help get the best thick centipede grass lawn.
Answered: How to Make Centipede Grass Spread
Centipede grass spreads laterally via stolons (above ground shoots that have small nodes that will root and establish new plants once they make contact with the soil). To have best results making centipede grass spread in your lawn you need to create the best conditions for the grass to grow. This includes a pH level between 4.5 and 6.0, and your soil should be on the sandy side. Your lawn should get full sun and sufficient water to support rapid growth.
Your soil should be loose enough that it’s easy for the lateral shoots to quickly root and establish new plants.
Now let’s dig deeper into the conditions that will help your Centipede grass spread rapidly and establish a thick, lush lawn.
Region and Climate Needs for Centipede Grass
Centipede grass is native to the warm, humid climate of Southeast Asia. The US was introduced to this grass variety when the first seeds were brought here in 1916.
The sandy, acidic soil and warmer climate of the Southeastern US is ideal for centipede grass, and that’s the part of the country where it’s most popular in residential lawns.
Centipede grass thrives from the Carolinas across the coastal plains to the Gulf Coast of Texas. The warm, humid conditions of the Southern states in this region and the lack of heavy, accumulating snow in these areas is perfect for centipede grass.
While this grass variety thrives best in warmer conditions, some newer more tolerant types have hit the market. These varieties are capable of withstanding conditions as far north as southern Illinois and Missouri, so if you live in this part of the transitional zone, you can now consider a centipede grass lawn.
How Does Centipede Grass Grow and Spread?
Unlike most other grasses, centipede grass is a lighter shade of green and is known for its thick, coarse texture.
This thickness can mostly be attributed to the way it grows.
Grasses grow two different ways. Some grasses grow from underground rhizomes; however, Centipede grass, grows and spreads from stolons.
Stolons are above ground runners with nodes that set roots in your turf and sprout new grass plants whenever contact is made with soil.
This pattern of growth tends to produce thick, lush lawns. Because the stolons are above ground, they are vulnerable to foot traffic and as a result this type of grass does not do well with too much activity.
Other Important Growing Conditions You Need
A well-cared-for stand of centipede grass may be the envy of the entire neighborhood, but this variety is not for everyone.
For best results, you should test your soil (I use this kit from Amazon) to make sure it can produce the growth you want.
Preferred Soil Conditions
Centipede grass needs acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 and 6.0. This type of grass is also prone to iron deficiency if the pH is too high. Alkaline soil blocks the iron from nourishing the grass, making your lawn turn yellow.
To correct these conditions, you need to add sulfur to lower the pH and spray iron supplements diluted in water over the turf. When testing your soil, you will also need to make sure the levels of phosphorus and potassium are balanced.
Like most warm weather grasses, centipede grass does not go dormant in winter. This fact means you will need to water it in the winter months as well as in the warmer months.
Centipede grass is supposedly a drought-resistant grass variety; however, it cannot withstand severe drought. For that full, green growth to be top-notch, you still need to water your lawn if rain gets scarce. This action will promote a deeper, healthier root system.
A good way to tell if your centipede grass lawn needs water is if you can see your footprints on the lawn after walking across it, you need to water. Hydrated grass will spring back, and prints will disappear.
Tons of shade is also not suitable for this variety of grass. It needs near full sun exposure to be at its best.
This Doesn’t Sound Like a Low Maintenance Grass Variety
Centipede grass is marketed as a low maintenance grass. However, the information above seems to contradict this claim.
Keep in mind, as long as you live in a region where this grass can thrive and your soil tests to the growing conditions, centipede grass will flourish to your expectations.
And because it is slow-growing, once you have a good stand, you will not be firing up that mower nearly as often as your neighbors who have other varieties of grasses.
That said, if you don’t have the right conditions for growing, you will be burdened with adding supplements, which can be time consuming and expensive. While some lawn care bloggers and YouTubers have no problem telling you to go for it and embrace throwing down tons of extra product, I feel there’s a better way.
Rather than go through all of this extra work and expense, there is most likely a better grass variety for your conditions that will not require the added work and heavy chemical and fertilizer applications. Pick the best grass for your lot and you’ll be rewarded.
Getting a Good Start with Centipede Grass
The saying “all good things come to those who wait” is appropriate when describing the process of growing your centipede grass lawn. It is a slow-growing variety, but most people will agree that a centipede grass lawn is worth the wait.
There are three ways to start your stand of centipede grass:
- from seed,
- by laying sod, and
- by planting grass plugs.
It is worth mentioning that you might consider hiring a professional service to plant your lawn.
This service often comes with year-around maintenance, keeping your work to a minimum. Whether you do it yourself or hire the project out, these are the 3 ways to get your centipede grass lawn started. Now let’s take a closer look at each:
Seeding Centipede Grass:
- Seeding is the cheapest of the three options. Unfortunately, it is also has the longest time period before seeing the results you want.
- One pound of centipede grass seed will cover 3,000 square feet. A more even distribution can be achieved by mixing the seed in sand.
- After spreading the seed, keep it watered for three weeks. It would be best if you also fertilized with a high nitrogen fertilizer.
Centipede Grass Sod:
- Laying sod is the fastest way to have the lawn of your dreams, but sod will cost more than seed. Before laying sod, till the soil, adding organic material and nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
- When laying each piece of sod, make sure the edges touch so the stolons from the different strips can connect.
- Sod strip usually comes with staples to attach them to the soil underneath.
Centipede Grass Plugs:
- Plugs are the middle ground between using seed and sod. They are not as expensive as sod, but do cost more than seed, and you can order them online from Amazon or elsewhere and have fresh grass plugs shipped right to your home. The results are also between the two, growing a lawn from centipede plugs is not as quick as sod, but faster than seed. It’s a great way to start a lawn with a grass like Centipede grass that spreads laterally over time.
- Till the soil, adding organic matter and nitrogen-rich fertilizer the same way you would to lay sod.
- Using a sod plug drill bit (like this one on Amazon), insert the centipede grass plugs into the soil approximately one foot apart. Keep your centipede grass plugs watered for 3 – 4 weeks.
Centipede Grass in Review
A healthy stand of centipede grass can be beautiful and carefree if you live in the right climate zone and have the right soil conditions.
Centipede grass needs warmer weather without dense stands of snow. It also requires an acidic, sandy soil. If these conditions are met, centipede grass can be the thick, low-maintenance lawn of your dreams.
- Even though centipede grass is labeled a drought-resistant grass, you need to water it to establish a deeper root system that will produce the thickness you desire. If you are unsure whether or not your lawn needs watering, use the footprint test. If your footprints remain in the grass and the grass does not quickly spring back, you need to water.
- Centipede grass needs acidic, sandy soil.
- This variety of grass does not fare well in areas with too much shade. It’s a sun-loving grass.
- Above ground stolons that are responsible for spreading and growth cannot withstand too much foot traffic.
- Your centipede grass lawn can be created in three ways: by seeding, laying sod, or by planting established centipede grass plugs.
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