Dec 13, 2016 12:39:19 PM / by Claude Kershner IV

Whether you’re replanting an existing lawn or choosing grass for newly constructed landscape, you might be wondering: What type of grass is best for my Florida property? You’ve probably seen fine, thin, dark-green grass that feels like soft carpet to the touch. This is Zoysia grass, and there are several different varieties. The most popular right now in South Florida is Zoysia Empire.

St. Augustine grass is a hardy turf with a thick blade that grows readily in Florida. We half-jokingly say that it will grow on concrete. That’s how tough and resilient this grass is. While it’s not a grass that beckons a barefoot walk, we love how reliable and low-maintenance St. Augustinegrass is. And, when well maintained, this grass can also look great on a property. For most property owners, St. Augustine grass is the go-to. In Florida, we commonly grow the Floratam variety, named as such because it was created by the University of Florida and Texas A & M.

Decisions, decisions—how do you know which type of grass to plant in your Florida lawn? Before selecting Zoysia grass or St. Augustine grass, consider:

  • Appearance
  • Cost of installing the lawn
  • Growth habits of Zoysia vs. St. Augustine grass
  • Maintenance requirements
  • Disease control

Now, let’s go into more detail here…

A Closer Look—Grass Texture, Color, Feel

What’s the goal for your Florida lawn? Do you want a soft, green carpet of grass with thinner, gentle blades? (Think: touchable, yet higher maintenance.) Or, are you thinking resilient, hardy, grow strong turf that can be left alone for a good week or even 10 days without a mow? (You can’t have it all.)

grasses in florida.jpg

For some property owners, appearance and texture is everything. If the grass requires mowing every five days and applications of silica sand, fine. The end result is emerald-green, touchable turf. For others, the courser more rugged feel of a St. Augustine grass like Floratam fits the bill because they get a consistent, persistent green mat of grass without doting.

Because the aesthetic of Zosyia grass and St. Augstine grass are so different, property owners tend to have definite opinions about which type of grass they want for their Florida lawns. If touch and feel are not a big deal, then maintenance takes precedence. With mowing, fertilization and disease control in mind, St. Augustine grass generally comes out as the winner because of its lower-maintenance profile compared to Zoysia grass.

The Groundwork: Initial Cost Outlay Of Zoysia Grass vs. St. Augustine Grass

The cost of Zoysia grass is about twice as much as St. Augustine grass. The actual Zoysia grass costs about 30 percent more, and the rest of the expense is in soil preparation and installation labor. That’s because Zoysia grass requires first laying a base of silica sand and Canadian peat moss. That base is up to three times more expensive than what’s necessary to plant St. Augustine grass (a basic soil mix, or even planting on simply graded, prepared land).

expense.jpgAfter laying down Zoysia grass, a follow-up visit is required to apply silica sand to all sod joints to create a tight “weave” or finish.

On the other hand, St. Augustine grass grows readily in South Florida soil with minor preparation. This reduces installation expenses. And, the seed itself is economical and considered the most price conscious way to install grass in South Florida.

Growing Florida Grass: What To Expect

The growth habits of Zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass are quite different. And grass growth even depends on the type of Zoysia or St. Augustine grass you choose. Using the popular Zoysia Empire as an example, this grass establishes more quickly than some other Zoysia cultivars, is hardier and creates a tight carpet of soft, green grass. Zoysia grass likes full sun and lots of rain. It does not perform as well in shaded areas.

St. Augustine Floratam is considered native to areas like South Florida and adapts well to most soils. It is the most shade-tolerant warm season grass, but it needs at least four to six hours of sun to thrive. The grass establishes quickly.  

Maintaining Turfgrass In South Florida

Now, let’s get honest about what it takes to care for a lawn in Florida if you choose Zoysia grass or St. Augustine grass. Indeed, there’s a difference.

zoysia-or-st-augustine-grass-florida.jpgZoysia grass: It performs best when it is mowed often, and this means weekly (or even every five days for varieties like Cashmere). This putting green-like grass needs to be kept at about ½ to 1 inch tall. It needs lots of attention in terms of regular fertilization, irrigation and mowing.

St. Augustine grass: It can be mowed every two weeks. (It will be quite long at this point, but many property owners on a bi-weekly mowing schedule with St. Augustine grass are satisfied.) On some Florida properties, St. Augustine grass stays healthy without irrigation. It has drought-tolerance, though prolonged dry spells with no watering will stress the grass. St. Augustine grass Floratam is susceptible to some pests like chinch bugs and known to get fungal diseases. So, a proper lawn care program is necessary to fertilize grass, control weeds and pests, and prevent disease.

Right Plant, Right Place—Get Site-Specific Insight Before Choosing Grass

Planting wrong grass on your Florida property can be an expensive mistake. Grasses need varying levels of sunlight, water and care to thrive. And, it’s pretty tough to fight Mother Nature. What’s better is to work with your property’s conditions—soil type, sun exposure, irrigation.

Just because a property across town plants Zoysia grass does not mean that it will perform well on your property.

This is why we recommend consulting with a grounds management professional that can recommend the best type of grass for your Florida property. You can get a realistic idea of what it will cost to install and maintain the grass before you plant it.

Let’s talk more about maintaining a healthy lawn in South Florida and what you should know. Contact us any time at 305.367.2005, or fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.

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Topics: Landscape Maintenance

Claude Kershner IV

Written by Claude Kershner IV

President Reef Tropical • Pool & Landscape

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