Carpetgrass is a distinct species of grass that can grow in shady and relatively infertile areas.
Many homeowners find it less visually appealing than other grasses due to its weedy, pale appearance.
Since carpetgrass is hardy and tough, most people use it as turf grass or to prevent soil erosion.
Whoever said that the grass is always greener on the other side obviously did not have much experience with carpetgrass. You may not have ever heard of it, but chances are, you’ve seen it. And if you’re looking for a hardy turf grass, especially one that helps prevent soil erosion, then carpetgrass is a great option. Let’s define what is carpetgrass and whether it’s the right grass for you.
What Is Carpetgrass?
Carpetgrass is a species of warm-season grass native to the Gulf Coast of the southern U.S. It’s a hardy variety that often survives where other species fail. For that reason, you’ll often find it planted in shady or relatively infertile areas.
Because carpetgrass is a warm-season grass originating from the hot, humid climate of the Gulf, it doesn’t typically respond well to cool temperatures. That means it’s usually among the last species of grass to green up in the spring and among the first to turn brown in late summer and fall.
What Does Carpetgrass Look Like?
If you’re looking for a lush, emerald-green lawn, carpetgrass probably isn’t going to cut it. Unlike popular grass species such as Kentucky bluegrass or Bahia, carpetgrass usually maintains a pale green or yellowish-green color and sparse appearance, even at the height of the growing season.
Carpetgrass is also notorious for its weedy shoots, which can grow nearly a foot tall within days. These shoots feature seed heads that enhance their weedy appearance. And because the shoots grow so quickly and are notoriously difficult to cut (even with a lawnmower), maintaining carpetgrass can be quite a chore. You’ll typically need to mow carpet grass every five days, keeping it trimmed to a height of 2 inches, to keep your lawn from turning into an overgrown mess.
Pros and Cons of Carpetgrass
Like most other types of lawn grasses, carpetgrass has excellent features that are handy for specific uses. Also, like other types, it has its downsides too. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of carpetgrass.
Controls erosion on slopes
Grows well in soils that drain poorly
Requires little to no added fertilization
Grows thick to crowd out weeds
Grows well in shady locations
Tolerates acidic soils
Not drought tolerant
Last to green up in spring and first to brown in fall
Lacks deep green color
Requires frequent mowing to avoid a weedy appearance
Not salt tolerant
Susceptible to damage from disease and pests
Types of Carpetgrass
Carpetgrass comes in two main varieties: broadleaf and narrowleaf. Narrowleaf carpetgrass is the most prevalent species, and its seeds are readily available in most lawn and garden centers.
You may be familiar with broadleaf carpetgrass more as a weed than lawn grass. Broadleaf carpetgrass grows rapidly with a clumpy appearance and easily crowds out more desirable grasses.
Narrowleaf carpetgrass is a more attractive turf grass than broadleaf, but it lacks its deep-green color. Narrowleaf carpetgrass also grows and spreads less rapidly, and its blades are thinner than its counterpart while still maintaining a coarse appearance.
Is Carpet Grass Good for Lawns?
Even though carpetgrass may not be the beauty queen of grasses, it has some important uses. For instance, if you’re looking to plant grass in an area where other grass species struggle, then carpetgrass may well be your best option. Since it’s so hardy, it will likely take root and germinate where other varieties can’t.
Carpetgrass is also superb as a tough, gripping turf grass. That means that if you need something to help prevent soil erosion in problem areas, then carpetgrass may provide the anchorage your lawn needs.
How to Grow Carpet Grass
When to Plant
If you intend to plant carpetgrass, you can always tackle the project yourself or reach out to a local lawn service pro. It’s a good idea to wait until after the last spring frost. You’ll need to prepare the soil to be loose but firm and smooth. Sow seeds at a rate of around 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet. After sowing, cover the seeds lightly with a loose layer of soil.
Since carpetgrass tends to thrive where other grasses fail, you probably aren’t going to need to work terribly hard to get the grass to germinate. Keep the soil moist for the first two weeks after planting. After that, you should water the grass weekly for the next 6 to 8 weeks. After 10 weeks, your seedlings should be established, meaning you’ll only need to water them at any signs of drought distress.
How to Care for Carpetgrass
Although carpetgrass is a hardy species, it does have some maintenance and condition requirements to experience the best results. Ensure your carpetgrass growing conditions meet the following criteria and maintenance needs.
Carpetgrass grows well in shade or partial sunlight. However, it requires a few hours of direct or filtered sunshine per day for optimal performance.
Slightly acidic soils work best for growing carpetgrass. Planting carpetgrass requires loosening dense soils. However, once it’s established, the grass grows well in poorly draining soils such as silt, clay, and compacted medium.
Carpetgrass isn’t tolerant of drought conditions, and the soil must remain damp to achieve the best results. Young carpet grass needs watering at regular intervals, beyond which, as long as the soil is moist, it will thrive. Carpetgrass growing in sandy or other rapidly-draining soils requires more frequent grass watering to maintain damp conditions.
Carpetgrass prefers a moderate to warm climate. It actively grows during warmer months and lies dormant through the cooler winter months.
Carpetgrass usually grows well in relatively infertile soil. You probably won’t need to apply much fertilizer—if any—unless you want to give your seedlings a boost.
Carpetgrass can quickly gain a weedy and clumpy appearance without mowing your lawn at regular intervals of about five days. Carpetgrass is notorious for rapidly sending up foot-high seed stalks that are challenging to control with a mower once they’re present. Mow often to avoid seed stalks.
Carpetgrass is susceptible to heavy damage from parasitic nematodes, grubs, and other harmful pest infestations. If these pests are common in your area, treat your carpetgrass regularly with the appropriate pesticides.
Carpetgrass provides its own form of weed control by growing densely and not allowing undesirable weeds to gain a foothold. However, if weeds infiltrate your lawn, they can be difficult to control, as weed killers can readily harm carpetgrass. Use weed control chemicals sparingly and try eco-friendly weed control methods if possible.
Root rot, brown patch, and leaf spot are common enemies of carpetgrass. Although all grasses can fall victim to lawn disease, Carpetgrass can be especially susceptible. Apply fungicide as necessary during summer months.
Carpetgrass Yearly Schedule
Carpetgrass thrives in moderate to warm climates but still requires regular maintenance to survive. Follow the schedule below for the best results. Remember that lawns and conditions vary, and you may have to shift the following schedule to adapt to your climate area.
Spring: March through May
Carpetgrass will begin to grow actively. Maintain a mowing height of approximately 2 inches before seed stalks emerge. Allow the grass to establish itself without adding fertilizer, weed control, or pest control. Maintain damp soil conditions.
Summer: June through September
Carpetgrass will be actively growing during the summer. Mow to a height of 2 inches every five to ten days and water regularly to maintain damp to wet soil. Fertilize early in the summer season to promote growth if necessary. Look for early signs of disease and pest damage. Apply fungicide or pesticide if necessary during this time.
Fall: October through November
Continue mowing to 2 inches and maintaining damp soil by regularly watering until growth slows and stops.
Winter: December through February
Water occasionally, if necessary, to prevent the soil from drying out completely.
Carpetgrass vs. Other Grass Types
Carpetgrass is a warm-season type of grass that grows well in the shade in moderate to warm climate areas and can’t survive the cold winters of northern states. Here’s how it compares to other warm-season, shade grass varieties.
It’s possible to mistake St. Augustine grass varieties for carpetgrass. St. Augustine grass grows very dense and performs well in partial or filtered sun but thrives with a few hours per day of direct sunshine. St. Augustine is excellent for use in high-traffic areas. The most notable difference from carpetgrass is St. Augustine’s bluish color tint.
Kikuyu grass varieties grow rapidly in shady conditions and have a coarse texture similar to carpetgrass. However, Kikuyu is drought resistant and requires less frequent watering.
Zoysia is another grass variety that performs excellently with just a few hours of sunlight daily. However, zoysia grass grows slower, requiring less frequent mowing. Zoysia can also handle dryer soil conditions and has a deeper green shade than carpetgrass.
Like carpetgrass, centipede grass appears coarse, is light-green in color, requires frequent mowing, doesn’t need much fertilizer, likes damp conditions, and can tolerate shady areas. However, centipede grasses can’t handle compact or poor soil conditions and perform best under at least six hours of direct sun daily.
Terri Beth Miller contributed to this piece.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although crabgrass and carpetgrass both produce large, stalky seedheads and can appear similar, crabgrass is distinctive by its star-shaped clumpy growth pattern and deep green color.
Carpetgrass is a low-maintenance grass requiring little fertilization that thrives in subprime growing conditions. However, regular mowing is necessary to avoid the growth of unsightly seed stalks, and you may have to water it frequently to prevent drying out the soil.
Carpetgrass is distinguishable by its pale green to yellowish color and coarse appearance that grows well under shady conditions in poor and compact soils. If you discover these traits, you’re likely looking at a carpetgrass variety.