How To Maintain a Healthy St Augustine Lawn

How To Maintain a Healthy St Augustine Lawn

St. Augustinegrass is a popular warm-season turfgrass known for its ability to thrive in subtropical climates. If you live in Florida or other coastal regions in the southern United States, chances are you’ve come across this thick-bladed grass. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know to maintain a healthy St. Augustine lawn, from its characteristics and maintenance needs to common pests and diseases.

St. Augustinegrass at a Glance

Before we delve into the details, let’s take a quick look at the key characteristics of St. Augustinegrass:

  • Classification: Warm-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: St. Augustinegrass exhibits a notable ability to tolerate shade, ranking among the highest among warm-season grass varieties
  • Drought resistance: Moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate to high mowing frequency
  • Mowing height: 2.5-4 inches (dwarf varieties mow at 2.5-3 inches; standard cultivars mow at 3-4 inches; mow taller in shade)
  • Potential for disease: Moderate to high
  • Soil pH: 6-7.5
  • Soil type: Tolerates various soil types, but prefers moderately fertile and moist soils
  • Other notes: Native to coastal areas worldwide, thrives in moist soils and mild winters, has good salt tolerance, and goes dormant in winter except in the southernmost regions.

Now, let’s dive deeper into each aspect of growing and caring for St. Augustine Grass.

What is St. Augustine Grass?

St. Augustinegrass, also known as St. Fungustine due to its susceptibility to fungal diseases, is a warm-season turfgrass commonly found in subtropical regions of the United States and Hawaii. It is highly favored for its wide blades, fast growth, and moderate shade tolerance. This grass is particularly well-suited for coastal areas and exhibits high salt tolerance.

Pros and Cons of St. Augustinegrass

Before deciding if St. Augustinegrass is the right choice for your lawn, consider the following pros and cons:


  • Heat-loving grass that thrives in warm climates
  • Moderate shade tolerance, making it suitable for partially shaded areas
  • Well-adapted to coastal regions and exhibits high salt tolerance
  • A fast growth rate allows for quick establishment
  • Available in sod, sprigs, or plugs
  • Coarse-bladed grass that effectively crowds out most weeds


  • Requires frequent mowing due to its rapid growth
  • Limited range due to low cold tolerance
  • Susceptible to chinch bugs and fungal diseases
  • Not available as seed, making establishment through sod, sprigs, or plugs necessary
  • Prone to thatch buildup if over-fertilized or over-watered
  • Growth habit is not exceptionally dense

Establishing Healthy St. Augustine Lawn

St. Augustinegrass can be established using sod, sprigs, or plugs, as there is no commercially available seed. The best time to establish this grass varies depending on the region. In South Florida, spring, fall, and winter are suitable, while spring or fall is preferred in other areas. Avoid establishing St. Augustinegrass during extremely hot or cold weather.

After planting sod, sprigs, or plugs, it is crucial to keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. Water multiple times per day during the first week to 10 days, then reduce frequency to once per day for the next two to three weeks. After this initial period, water two to three times per week.

The grass typically establishes itself fully within three to four weeks. After this period, water it as you would for an established lawn. Delay fertilization until one to two months after sodding, and start mowing two to three weeks after planting.

Cost of St. Augustinegrass

The cost of St. Augustinegrass varies depending on the method of establishment:

  • St. Augustine sod: Typically priced between 30 to 80 cents per square foot.
  • St. Augustine plugs: A 64-count plug tray starts at around $110, with prices increasing based on the cultivar.

Mowing St. Augustinegrass

Proper mowing is essential for maintaining a healthy St. Augustine lawn. The ideal mowing height varies depending on the cultivar, with dwarf varieties mowed at 2.5-3 inches and standard varieties mowed at 3-4 inches. Follow these tips for effective mowing:

  • Adhere to the ⅓ rule of mowing, never removing more than ⅓ of the grass blade at one time.
  • Adjust mowing heights for shaded areas or during drought conditions.
  • Keep the mower blades sharp to ensure a clean cut and prevent tearing of the blades, which can lead to fungal diseases.
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn to provide natural fertilizer; regular mowing prevents thatch buildup.

Watering St. Augustinegrass

St. Augustinegrass can tolerate frequent rainfall, but it’s important to adjust watering practices during dry periods. Wait until the soil is completely dry before irrigating if there has been no rain.

If you notice signs of wilting, folding, or loss of natural color in the grass, it is an indication that watering is needed. To enhance drought tolerance and encourage deeper rooting, ensure your lawn has adequate potassium. Watering should be done in the early morning to minimize evaporation.

Fertilizing St. Augustinegrass

To maintain optimal growth and health, St. Augustinegrass requires regular fertilization. The recommended nitrogen application rate is typically 2-6 pounds per 1,000 square feet per year, with higher rates in southern regions.

Adjust fertilizer amounts for shady or sunny areas, as well as based on organic matter levels and soil type. Conduct a soil test to determine nutrient requirements and avoid over or under-application of fertilizer. Mulching grass clippings back into the lawn provides additional nutrients with each mowing.

Dethatching and Aeration

St. Augustinegrass tends to develop thatch, particularly when subjected to excessive water and fertilizer. Some thatch is beneficial, but a layer over 1-inch calls for action. If dethatching is necessary, rent a dethatching or vertical-cutting machine between spring and mid-summer. Follow these steps:

  1. Dethatch the lawn in a north-south or east-west direction, avoiding all four directions.
  2. Rake and remove the debris.
  3. Mow the lawn.
  4. Water the lawn to prevent root dehydration.
  5. Apply ½ pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet after one week. Water it in to aid in grass recovery.

Aeration is also beneficial for St. Augustinegrass, especially if the soil is compacted or experiences heavy foot traffic. Core aeration allows for better airflow, water penetration, and nutrient absorption. After aeration, topdress with compost to improve soil conditions gradually.

Common Pests, Diseases, and Weeds

St. Augustinegrass is susceptible to various pests, diseases, and weed infestations. Familiarize yourself with these potential issues to effectively manage and prevent them:


  • Gray leaf spot
  • Large patch
  • Take-all root rot

Fungal diseases are common in St. Augustinegrass, and proper lawn care practices are essential to minimize their occurrence. Consult with neighbors or local experts to learn about their experiences and effective solutions. Fungicides can be used for control, but cultural practices play a crucial role in preventing fungal growth.


Chinch bugs are the most significant pest for St. Augustinegrass. Proper lawn care, such as maintaining adequate potassium levels and mowing at a taller height, can help strengthen grassroots against nematodes. Consult with local experts for effective insect control methods.


Proper cultural management practices, including regular mowing, appropriate fertilization, and watering techniques, are key to minimizing weed problems. Use chemical products with caution, ensuring they are suitable for St. Augustine Grass. Consider applying pre-emergent crabgrass control when soil temperatures reach 55 degrees or higher.

Post-emergent grassy and broadleaf weed control can be done as needed during the summer, avoiding application during drought or high-temperature conditions. Organic options are available for those seeking to limit chemical use.


St. Augustinegrass is a versatile warm-season turfgrass that thrives in subtropical regions. With its wide blades, moderate shade tolerance, and fast growth, it offers an attractive option for homeowners in coastal areas. By following proper maintenance practices, including regular mowing, watering, fertilization, and pest control, you can enjoy a beautiful and healthy St. Augustine lawn. Consult local experts for personalized advice and guidance to ensure optimal results.

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