Centipedegrass Turf

Allen D. Owings, Koske, Thomas J.  |  10/5/2007 1:18:45 AM

Our most popular lawngrass.

Stressed grass shows red coloring.

Running stolon.

Centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) has become the most popular warm-season grass type in Louisiana. It is the major grass produced on Louisiana sod farms. The grass came to the United States from Southeast Asia in the early 20th century. It is called the “lazy man’s grass” because it thrives with less care and usually requires less mowing than many other grasses.

This grass is adapted to less fertile soils. Ideal centipede soil pH is upper 5s, but it will tolerate low 5 to low 6 quite well. Over-fertilization with nitrogen can lead to excessive growth, thatch and Centipede Decline Syndrome, which causes large patches to die out in late spring following a cold winter. This grass has a medium height and medium-textured blade with granny-apple-green-colored foliage; it is not dark green and never should be. High pH and extra phosphorus will promote a chlorotic yellowing of foliage.

The established sod has fair shade tolerance if tree root competition is not an issue. Its thin root system appreciates adequate moisture. As a drought-avoidance feature, it stops growing when soil becomes a little dry and then may even go dormant-brown in drought.

Centipedegrass produces only surface-running stolon stems and is easily controlled around landscape features or with the grass herbicides fluazifop, MSMA or glyphosate. It is, however, very tolerant to the selective grass killer sethoxydim.

Many turf pests don’t bother centipede, but it is susceptible to sting nematodes, ground pearls and brown patch disease. It is easily damaged by pet urine and will not tolerate much salinity, poor quality irrigation water or traffic wear. When bruised or stressed, centipede leaf blades turn a dark reddish color.

The best way to avoid centipede problems is to avoid over-fertilization by applying between 1 and at most 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. per season. Irrigate at first sign of drought and mow between a 1- and 2-inch height of cut. It does best with a soil pH of 5.5 to low 6 so choose an acid-forming nitrogen, like ammonium sulfate, if your pH is at mid 6 or higher. Some centipede fertilizers are blended with acid-forming nitrogen.

Centipedegrass is established by seed, plugs or sod. The expensive seeds are very delicate and require very good planting in a well-developed seed bed and much irrigation. Success with seed is less sure on non-loams and where soils crust over badly. Expect an average 1 ½ years from seeding for establishment on an irrigated, sunny lawn site.

"Common" centipede, Tennessee Hardy and Oaklawn, are mostly found. Centennial is a slow-growing, vegetative cultivar with better color, density and cold tolerance. There is a new TifBlair cultivar that grows faster from seed or plugs. This deeper-rooting new addition produces a dense turf that has better color retention in late fall and better sustainability in poorer soils.

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