What is Centipede Grass? Here’s What You Need to Know

Candace Nelson
Written by Candace Nelson
Updated May 2, 2022
A boy and dog sit on grass
Photo: Daniel Grill / Tetra Images / Getty Images


  • Centipede grass is ideal for lawns in the Southeastern United States.

  • Centipede grass doesn’t need much maintenance and tolerates sandy soil.

  • It has a coarse texture and it’s typically used in parks, lawns, and golf course roughs.

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If you’re looking for a low-maintenance grass that loves to grow in states like Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, centipede grass is calling your name. Centipede grass, also known as “lazy man’s” grass, is best suited for lawns in the Southeast United States. 

Interested in growing centipede grass in your yard? Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of this grass option.

What Is Centipede Grass?

So, what exactly is centipede grass, and what makes it different from other grass types? Centipede grass has a coarse texture and has a yellow-ish green color with the right iron balance. It features leaves with flat ends and flowering stems, plus it has a creeping growth pattern that resembles a centipede—hence the name.

This type of grass thrives in mild climates that get at least 40 inches of rain per year. Keep in mind that centipede grass won’t survive the harsh winters of the north or the dry desert conditions in the southwest.

Centipede grass will bounce back from occasional foot traffic, but it’s not the right choice for a backyard or field with lots of movement. It can take up to three years for centipede grass to fill in an even ground covering. It will keep spreading, though, so hopefully your neighbors want centipede grass, too.

Is Centipede Grass Good for Lawns?

Centipede grass is a good choice for residents of the Southeast where rainfall is common and winters aren’t brutal. However, this type of grass requires about 40 inches of rain per year, so if the weather is dry, you’ll need to commit to a sprinkler. 

Centipede grass does well in heat and keeps some of its color during the winter. It greens up early in the spring, and it doesn’t require much fertilizer, which is a win for the environment.

How to Plant Centipede Grass

A hand sows grass seeds
Photo: Wilodzimierz / Adobe Stock

Centipede grass doesn’t go dormant over the winter like other grass varieties, but it’s harmed by multiple freeze and thaw cycles. So if you’re planting new centipede grass, give it a fighting chance and lay the seed in May or after any threat of frost.

Start by killing any grass already in place for a fresh start, and then till the ground and sprinkle seed. You can also apply a nitrogen fertilizer before covering the seed and watering. During the first 28 days after planting, you should water the grass lightly several times per day. Centipede grass likes to be moist, not drenched.

Another option is to lay sod. This option is more expensive, but quicker. You will have thick, evenly distributed grass right away, but it still needs frequent watering for about a month.

How to Care for Centipede Grass

One important thing to know is that centipede grass is not a needy grass. It won’t whine at you for sun, food, or attention. Centipede grass tolerates moderate shade, and it does well in sandy, acidic soil that other grasses detest. Plus, it isn’t particularly bothered by pests. 

All it asks for is a twice-yearly fertilizer and infrequent mowing and watering. Mow centipede grass when it gets between one and two inches tall during the summer months. Keep in mind that centipede grass is slower-growing than its competitors, but it will fill in on its own. There’s no need to overseed in the fall or spend a lot of time dethatching and aerating.

Watering Centipede Grass

Centipede grass does well in the Southeastern United States, where there’s usually plenty of rain, but it doesn’t get too cold in the winters. Once the grass is established, it might not need a lot of help from you. If the lawn appears dry, water it. Keep an eye out for signs that it needs watering, including the lawn having a blue-ish tinge to it. Hydrated grass blades will bounce back, so if you walk across it and your footprints remain, it needs watering.

To water the lawn, give it ¾ inch to one inch of water, ideally in the morning. If only some parts of the lawn appear dry, you can hand water those spots. To avoid damaging the grass, consider adding a walking path or a patio to cut down on foot traffic.

Centipede Grass Yearly Schedule

Not sure how to care for your centipede grass in the summer vs. the winter? Use this seasonal schedule as a guide.

February to March

If you choose to use an herbicide to control weeds, apply a layer before the spring growing season. It’s also a good time to overseed your lawn if you have some bare patches to fill in.

March to April

Early spring is a good time to check the grass for grubs. Grubs look like short white worms, but they’re beetle larvae. Control lawn grubs in the spring or they will leave brown patches all over your lawn. 

May to June

Early summer is the time of year when centipede grass needs more maintenance. In addition to keeping the grass moist and mowing it when it gets long, centipede grass might need fertilizer in the summer. Be sure to use one pound per 1,000 square feet.

It’s not a bad idea to check the pH of the soil during this time. Centipede grass does best between pH 5 and 6. If the level is below a 5, add some lime. If it’s above pH 6, then add sulfur.

If some weeds are poking through, apply another layer of herbicide. Finally, this is a good time to dethatch the lawn.

September to January

There’s not much to do this time of year other than giving the lawn one last helping of herbicide and lime or sulfur, if you’re using those materials. 

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