Bermuda vs. St. Augustine Grass – Which Is Right for You?

When deciding which turf is the best for your garden, there are several considerations to consider besides how often you will be required to mow it. Everyone loves the emerald green of a well-manicured lawn, but this requires a certain amount of maintenance and care.

When choosing suitable grass for your yard, you must factor in heat and drought tolerance levels, durability, and growth rate. 

For example, certain types of grass do better in warmer climates, while others are less durable and don’t like a lot of foot traffic. In addition, certain grasses grow faster than others and require more maintenance. 

Is St. Augustine grass better than Bermuda?

Each grass type has its particular strengths and weaknesses. While St Augustine grass grows slower than Bermuda grass, it does require more water and is less tolerant of damage caused by high traffic.

If you are looking for the best grass for your garden, this article looks at two popular grass types, Bermuda and St Augustine. It looks at their merits, growing habits, and most suited climates. If you want to discover which is best for your special patch, read on! 

Bermuda vs. St. Augustine Grass

Deciding which grass is better between Bermuda and St Augustine requires careful comparison; use the below table as a quick guide to help you decide. 

Bermuda GrassSt. Augustine Grass
Best for Grow Zones7-118-10
Grows well from seedYes No
Shade tolerantNoYes 
Watering frequencyOnce weekly Twice weekly 
Time to become established6-10 weeks 7-14 days 
Mowing frequencyEvery 5-7 days Weekly in the summer
FertilizationEvery 4-6 weeks in the summer 2-4 times per year
Common pestsWhite grubs, sod, webworms, cutworms, fire ants, Bermuda grass mites Mole crickets, sod webworms, armyworms, spittlebugs
Common diseasesLeaf spot, Spring dead spot, Fairy ring, Brown patch lawn disease, Dollar spotGray leaf spot, Brown patch lawn disease, Dollar spot disease
DurabilityHeavy wear & tear, Drought & heat tolerant, Withstands saltAverage wear & tear, Vulnerable to cold, Withstands salt

Bermuda Grass

Climate Zones

Bermuda grass prefers hot, dry climates. It is not cold resistant and should ideally be grown in the Southern states or zones 7-11. These zones have warmer climates and experience mild winters. 

Seed or Sod

Unlike other grass types, Bermuda grass is easily propagated from seed. When planting Bermuda grass seed, rake the area before sprinkling the seed over the soil. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and water daily until the seeds start to sprout. The grass seed can take up to six weeks to establish. 

Sun or Shade

Bermuda grass prefers hot, warm conditions and requires plenty of direct sunlight to thrive. This grass is not shade tolerant and won’t grow well in deeply shaded areas; therefore, avoid planting it under trees, large shrubs, or in the shade of tall buildings.

Watering Requirements

While Bermuda grass is drought-tolerant, it doesn’t mean it remains green when exposed to long periods without water. Instead, it goes into a semi-dormant state and can turn yellow or brown.

Keeping Bermuda grass lush and green requires weekly irrigation, whether by rainfall or your trusty hosepipe. However, don’t overwater as this can cause your lawn to die! A good rule of thumb is to apply approximately 1 inch of water every 7-10 days if it hasn’t rained.

Time To Become Established

Bermuda grass seeds sprout in 3-7 days when planted in the spring or early summer and take about 10 weeks to develop into a lush, beautiful lawn. When planted outside the growing season, the seeds may take 6 weeks or longer to sprout; in some cases, they don’t sprout at all. 

Maintenance & Fertilization Needs

Bermuda grass grows relatively quickly and requires regular cutting every 1-2 weeks. Heavy foot traffic can also compact the lawn preventing it from receiving the required nutrients and water; aerate the lawn twice yearly in the late spring and early summer. 

Use a slow-release granular fertilizer to feed your lawn every 4-6 weeks in the growing season. Apply the first fertilizer application in mid-spring after the danger of frost has passed, followed by further applications in mid-summer and early fall.

Do not apply fertilizer to Bermuda grass in the winter, as this can break its dormancy period and cause it to become damaged by cooler temperatures. 

Overall Durability

Bermuda grass is loved by Southern gardeners because of its excellent heat and drought tolerant properties. It can also withstand heavy use and recuperates from damage very quickly.

For this reason, it is often used in high-traffic areas such as golf courses, football fields, and athletic fields. 

St. Augustine Grass

Climate Zones

St Augustine Grass does well in the tropical climates of zones 8-10. It tolerates a range of challenging conditions such as uneven soil, full shade, and direct sun. Its also easily grown in coastal areas due to its tolerance to salt, but it is vulnerable to cold. Climates with frigid winters are not suitable for St Augustine grass. 

Seed or Sod

St Augustine Grass isn’t easily propagated using seed as it doesn’t yield enough viable seed. As a result, the lawn can take a long time to germinate and become established.

A more popular method of growing St Augustine grass is by using sod. Sod is pre-grown, established grass grown in a thin layer of soil. The roots hold the grass together, and the grass is usually sold in easy-to-use rolls. This can be cut to size and fitted to any area. 

This method eliminates the long germination period associated with St Augustine grass seed and has your garden looking spectacular in approximately 2-3 weeks! 

Sun or Shade

St Augustine grass enjoys full sun and partial shade. As long as the grass receives a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily, it will remain lush and green. This makes it perfect for those shady areas under trees or next to your home. 

Watering Requirements

This grass loves water and requires regular soakings 2-3 times a week. Each irrigation event should last approximately 30 -45 minutes. Alternatively,  a ¾ inch of water should be applied to the soil each time you water if there has been no rain. 

Time To Become Established

If grown from seed, St Augustine grass can take a long time to establish due to its poor seeding capabilities. However, when grown from sod (pre-established grass rolls), the roots, rhizomes, and stolons are already in place and only take 2-3 weeks to establish.

Grass plugs are another method used to grow St Augustine grass; plugs can take 7-14 days to establish a good root system in soil and begin spreading. 

Maintenance & Fertilization Needs

St Augustine grass grows well in many types of well-draining soil and requires a medium amount of maintenance. It also grows relatively quickly in the growing season and requires a weekly cut in the summer to keep it looking its best.   

This grass only requires feeding 2-4 times yearly during the growing season. Apply a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer in late spring, after the last frosts occur, followed by regular applications until the end of August.

Fertilizer should not be applied in the winter as this can interrupt the dormancy period and result in damage should the new grass be exposed to cold temperatures.

Overall Durability

St Augustine grass is appreciated for its sun, shade, and salt tolerance. Consequently, this attractive grass is often found growing in warmer coastal gardens. Unfortunately, this grass type is susceptible to the Southern Clinch Bug, which can destroy it easily if left to take over.

In addition, it can withstand medium levels of use, making it an ideal grass for homeowners. 

Can Bermuda Grass Be Mixed With St. Augustine?

Yes, these grasses each have great strengths and weaknesses, complementing each other nicely. In addition, their similar climate requirements mean they can co-exist with ease. A combination lawn of Bermuda and St Augustine grass means that both the sunny and shady spots in your garden remain gloriously green!

Will St. Augustine Choke Out Bermuda?

Depending on the growing conditions and maintenance provided, St Augustine grass can take over from Bermuda grass. Although Bermuda grass is considered more aggressive, it doesn’t like shade.

Set the mower on a higher setting; this allows the taller grass blades of the St Augustine grass to shade the Bermuda grass blades causing their growth to weaken.  

Will Bermuda Grass Choke Out Weeds?

Yes, the fast-growing thick Bermuda grass overpowers weeds by interrupting their lifecycle. Although many believe this grass is a weed, its growing habits are the perfect eco-friendly weed killer! 

Will St. Augustine Grass Choke Out Weeds?

No, St Augustine grass does not eradicate pesky weeds. Common weeds found in St Augustine grass include the broadleaf (Henbit, spurge, clover) and grassy weed (crabgrass). 

Conclusion 

Both St Augustine and Bermuda grass enjoy similar climates and tolerate warmer temperatures. However, each has unique growing requirements that should be considered before making your final choice.

For example, the sun-loving Bermuda grass won’t be a good option if your garden is particularly shady. Conversely, if your garden has very little shade and is a high-traffic area, the St Augustine grass will soon show signs of ill health.

If you’re still struggling to decide which grass option is best, choose both and enjoy a luscious lawn throughout your entire garden!

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