We all want a green, lustful lawn that is the focal point of the house and a great place for outdoor activities. Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass are great for having green, lush lawns in warm areas. Sometimes these two are mixed to grow lawn or turf grass that has long blades and spreads over a wide area. But if you’re looking to grow just one, it’s better to consider all the differences, similarities, pros, and cons of both grass types before making a decision.
Bermuda Grass vs St Augustine Grass: How To Choose One For Your Lawn?
Here is a list of 5 noteworthy differences between them
Bermuda grass, also known as Cynodon dactylon, has fairly short blades ranging from 2 cm to 15 cm. The root system is deep with flat stems and can grow up to 30 cm when tall. The leaves have a greyish-green color. When mowed regularly, Bermuda grass grows more quickly, giving the lawn a full, green, and thick appearance. When their nodes touch the ground, new blades appear and the grass spreads laterally, sprouting new leaves and shoots.
St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is best grown in tropical, subtropical, and coastal regions. It requires less sunlight and does well in an area with a sufficient water supply. Its blades are dark green, with broad, flat leaves. It grows fast, choking out weeds, and spreads across a large area quite easily.
Exposure to Sunlight
While Bermuda grass requires full exposure to sunlight to grow optimally, St. Augustine grass can survive in less sunlight. Lack of sunlight retard the growth of the Bermuda grass due to reduced photosynthesis. This is the major reason why Bermuda lays dormant in winter, as there is no proper sunlight to make food and produce energy to grow. St. Augustine grass, on the other hand, can survive better than Bermuda in low light conditions.
Bermuda grass can thrive in areas with a low water supply. It only requires watering 2-3 times during the week after a period of full growth. In the winter season, it can even go without water since the growth is dormant.
St. Augustine grass requires twice as much water as Bermuda grass. It may require watering up to 4 times a week in summer.
St. Augustine grass is fertilizer-intensive grass and needs to be fertilized regularly for the best growth. It requires a slow release of nitrogen fertilizer every 8-10 weeks. Bermuda grass requires fewer fertilizers and is best fertilized twice a year, in winter. In winter, the growth of the grass is dormant and it can absorb the nitrogen-rich fertilizer to grow.
The easiest and best way to establish a St. Augustine grass lawn is by using sod, while Bermuda grass grows best from grass seed.
Bermuda Grass vs St Augustine Grass: Which one grows in shade better?
St. Augustine grass has a high tolerance for shade and grows best in lawns that are covered with shade for most of the day. Bermuda grass requires more sunlight to grow to its full potential and does not tolerate shade well. If your lawn is covered by trees and buildings that block sunlight for most of the day, planting St. Augustine grass is a better option.
Bermuda Grass vs St Augustine Grass: Which Grass stays longer?
While Bermuda grass is highly tolerant of foot traffic, St. Augustine grass does not do well. If your lawn has high foot traffic, planting Bermuda grass is a better choice. That’s the primary reason it’s preferred for golf courses and sports fields since it’s more durable and can withstand heavy foot traffic with high recovery rates.
Bermuda grass is less expensive and requires fewer maintenance efforts as it’s easier to establish with frequent mowing. St. Augustine lawns are expensive because they require frequent fertilization, mowing, and watering.
St. Augustine grass has large flat stems and broad leaves, while Bermuda grass has short, flat leaves. The best way to identify Bermuda grass is by its spikelets that are borne in four or five slender spikes at the tips of stems.
Both the grass types have great weed tolerance. They grow and spread fast, resulting in a full, thick lawn and killing weeds that come their way. This is the primary reason that they don’t require any weed killers in the growth period. On the other hand, if the lawn is already infested by weeds, it’s a great idea to plan one or a combination of both these types of grass to control weed growth easily. To grow faster across a wide area, these grasses compete with the weed growth and overcome them with ease.
Blade Width and Texture
St Augustine and Bermuda grasses have completely different blade widths. It’s one of the easiest ways to distinguish between the two types of grasses. St Augustine is most frequently preferred by homeowners who wish for thick, tropical green grass blades. It has a coarse texture, and the blades typically range from 8-9 mm in length.
Bermuda grass, in comparison, is on the opposite end of the spectrum and has really fine, hair-like glass blades. The width of the blades can range from 1.67 – 1.7 mm and are very soft to the touch.
Bermuda Grass or St Augustine Grass: Which Grass grows quickly?
Just like many other stark differences between the two types of grasses, St Augustine and Bermuda grasses grow differently and require different mowing heights to look their best. All Bermuda grasses grow with the help of rhizomes and stolons. Rhizomes run horizontally underground, just under the surface of the soil. These rhizomes produce new roots down into the soil and shoot stems upwards.
Stolons are the stems above the ground that creep along the surface of the soil and grow a clone of the original plant at the end of it. Due to this double growth, Bermuda grass ranks higher wear tolerance, recovers injury better, and is highly tolerant to droughts. It also has a more aggressive growth pattern and rate. Thus, it requires more maintenance – frequent mowing and edging to avoid fast spreading.
On the other hand, St Augustine grass only spreads through above-the-ground runners (stolon’s) and is usually better than Bermuda grasses when it comes to choking out weeds.
Each type of grass thrives better in the respective soil type. Soil types like sandy soils, clay soils, loamy soils have different water retention abilities and different pH levels, which play a central role in determining the grass’s performance and health. Both Bermuda and St Augustine soils can grow in a wide range of soil types.
However, St Augustine performs better in sandy or loamy soil due to the better supply of water. Bermuda grass, on the other hand, grows to its maximum potential in acidic and alkaline soil conditions, under the pH range between 6.5 – 8.0.
Insects and pests can plague both varieties of soils. Grub worms, sod webworms, and fall armyworms are the insects that can plague St Augustine grass and can limit its growth. Bermuda grass, on the other hand, is usually invaded by grass mites and billbugs. A few insect control protocols can help control the plague and prevent damage to the soil’s growth.
Bermuda Grass or St Augustine Grass: How to choose?
Before making the final decision, it’s best to ask some questions that help determine the best kind of grass for your lawn based on preferences, setup, and weather conditions.
Is the lawn covered in shade?
If the lawn is surrounded by trees or buildings that block sunlight and cover your lawn in shade for most of the day, planting St. Augustine grass is a better option. If the lawn is exposed to sunlight for a major part of the day, Bermuda grass is a better option as it grows to its maximum potential under full-light conditions.
How much traffic will be there on the lawn?
An important factor to consider before selecting the type of grass is traffic. Bermuda grass can thrive in high foot traffic, while St. Augustine does not tolerate traffic that well. Some grass species have a higher tolerance to foot traffic while others do not.
What’s the climate like?
Both the grass types are warm-season grasses that grow better in warm conditions. It’s best to choose one most suited to the current weather conditions and water supply. You can either choose one or mix the seeds and sods before planting. When sown together, Bermuda grass tends to easily overgrow St. Augustine grass with frequent mowings.
Tips to care for St Augustine Grass
Here are a few tips to maintain a thick, lush lawn full of St Augustine grass:
The two ways to plant St Augustine grass on a lawn are by planting plugs or laying sod. If there is a substantial area to cover, sods are the easier choice. They guarantee instant growth. However, plugs are great for filling in some barren patches of lawns. They take an entire season to fill in the patch and also cost significantly less than plugs. Once you’ve decided on the method of planting, the next step is to prepare the soil by applying fertilizer to ensure that the soil contains all the required nutrients for the soil to grow.
Most fertilizers well-suited for St Augustine grass contain a high level of nitrogen. Before choosing the right one for your lawn, it’s important to test the soil for any missing nutrients and invest in a fertilizer that meets all those needs. There are 2 types of fertilizers available for this variety of grass- water-soluble and slow-release.
Water-soluble fertilizer is a good option if the lawn requires a high amount of nutrients to look lushful. This kind needs to be applied every 8 weeks and can be absorbed immediately into the lawn. Slow-release fertilizer can be used when the soil possesses the required nutrients. As goes by the name, it takes a longer time for lawns to absorb slow-release fertilizers and they’re best suited for long-term growth. It’s required to fertilize the lawn with slow-release fertilizers every 10 weeks.
In addition to making your lawn look clean and well-kept, frequent mowing is also required to keep the grass healthy. It’s encouraged to start mowing St Augustine grass at the beginning of spring when the soil temperature is warm and the grass is getting back up from dormancy.
To ensure proper growth of the lawn, the grass is best cut to a height of 2.5 – 4 inches. The amount of rainfall received, the temperature, exposure to sunlight, and the nutrients in the soil are the factors that play a vital role in determining the frequency of mowing.
During the peak growing season during the warm months, the grass needs to be mowed twice a week to avoid scalping. Scalping limits the ability of the grass to keep growing. During the colder seasons as the temperature starts to drop, the lawns go dormant and the growth is limited. Mowing isn’t required in these seasons.
In general, this variety of grass doesn’t require heavy maintenance. It needs to be watered several times during the initial germination period but requires less amount of water as the roots start forming.
St Augustine grass has a great tolerance to moderately shaded areas and can grow well in areas that receive moderate sunlight during the day. However, if the leaf blades start to appear thin or flimsy, the grass should be exposed to more sunlight.
To ensure optimal growth of St Augustine grass, it’s important to maintain the lawn in the best way. To speed up the growing process, use a water-soluble fertilizer for St Augustine grass that gives it the required nutrients to grow quickly. Installing plugs and sod in the bare areas help to make the lawn look greener and more lushful. Weeds can inhibit the growth of the grass by robbing the grass of sunlight, food, and water. Handpick them out of the lawn before they damage the quality of the grass.
Deciding between Bermuda and St Augustine grass requires evaluating some important criteria like water supply, mowing, soil & weather conditions, and the budget required to maintain the lawn. If needed, you can seek assistance from lawn care professionals who have a deep understanding of lawn care tips in the area. They can help you understand the right amount of water, and fertilizing to understand the best-suited grass variety for your lawn.