How To Maintain Centipede Grass Lawns (5 Factors!)

Did you painstakingly grow your centipede lawn from seed? Or did you get it professionally installed from sods? Either way, you wouldn’t want all that effort and money to go to waste, right? You see, although it’s dubbed as the poor or lazy man’s grass, it does need specific requirements to stay beautifully apple-green!

To maintain centipede grass it is important to 1) keep the soil pH within 4.5–6.5, 2), maintain moderately fertile soil, 3) provide 0.625 gals of water per 1 sq. ft. weekly, 4) mow to 1.5–2.5 inches twice a month, and 5) dethatch by late May. All of these promote thick turf growth and root development.

People like to feed centipede grass with lots of nitrogen-rich fertilizer to give it a deeper green color. But is it really as harmless as they think? Could it actually do more harm than good? Keep reading to find out all about centipede grass care!

1. Soil

The soil centipede grass grows on should be kept acidic, with a pH level between 4.5 and 6.5. Sulfur of lime can be used to keep its acidity to such levels.

Whether it’s acidic, neutral, or alkaline, it’s inevitable for the pH level of your lawn’s soil to change over time due to:

  1. Natural composition
  2. Rainfall
  3. Local plants
  4. Water
  5. Fertilizers
  6. Compost
  7. Tunnels and similar structures

Sandy soils, for example, easily get more acidic because everything except phosphate gets washed away. Clay-rich soils, in comparison, have a buffering effect for changing pH levels. Hence, they are more stable than the ideal sandy soils of centipede grass.

Generally, sandy soils in southeastern US states are better for centipede grass than clay and loamy soils in northwestern parts of the country.

Other than that, growing plants near or around your centipede grass lawn is likely to cause drastic changes in soil pH as well. The type, amount, and, frequency of fertilizer application can quickly make it more acidic or alkaline.

Learn how to find out your soil’s pH level in our article on soil analysis!

As such, it’s best to have your soil tested once every season for at least one year. This will give you a good idea of how the soil pH of your lawn fluctuates. In effect, you’ll also know when and how much soil conditioner to add.

Below are my recommended lime and sulfur from Amazon. They’re both really cost-effective!

Pro Tip: Follow a basic soil test’s instructions for the application of agricultural lime to raise the pH level. The application of sulfur is more standardized. Lower pH value by 0.5 with the application of 0.1 lb per 10 sq. ft. (45 g per 3 sq m) on a centipede grass lawn.

2. Fertilizer

For centipede grass lawns to thrive, the soil must be kept moderately fertile. More importantly, centipede grass better tolerates infertile soil over a highly fertile one. Seasonal fertilizer application is done following soil test results.

Dumping as much fertilizer on your lawn may sound like a simple and easy way to encourage good growth for centipede grass, but the opposite is actually true!

Being part of several online groups and forums for gardening, this is definitely something I’ve seen happen more often than expected—especially with sandy soils.

Once newbie home gardeners heard that nitrogen can turn the centipede grass’ color from yellow-green to dark green, they started doing even when it was not necessary.

Safer Fertilizers for Greener Centipede Grass Lawns
Safer Fertilizers for Greener Centipede Grass Lawns

In a year, nitrogen feeding should never exceed 2 or 3 lbs (1.63 kg) per 1,000 sq. ft. (304.8 sq m). This will differ depending on where you live. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for more information.

Rather than overfertilizing with nitrogen for greener centipede grass lawns, apply ferrous sulfate or chelated iron instead. Results can quickly be seen in just 24 hours!

The table below can serve as a general basis for yearly centipede grass lawn fertilization.

NitrogenDon’t fertilize1 lb/1,000 sq. ft.
(0.45 kg/304.8 sq m)
½–1 lb/1,000 sq. ft.
(0.22–0.45 kg/304.8 sq m)
½–1 lb/1,000 sq. ft.
(0.22–0.45 kg/304.8 sq m)
4–6 weeks before frost
PhosphorusDon’t fertilizeNone if already moderate to highNone if already moderate to highNone if already moderate to high
PotassiumDon’t fertilize½–1 lb/1,000 sq. ft.
(0.22–0.45 kg/304.8 sq m)
½–1 lb/1,000 sq. ft.
(0.22–0.45 kg/304.8 sq m)
½–1 lb/1,000 sq. ft.
(0.22–0.45 kg/304.8 sq m)
4–6 weeks before frost
Ferrous SulfateDon’t fertilize2 oz in 5 gals water/1,000 sq. ft.
(59 mL in 18 L/304.8 sq m)
2 oz in 5 gals water/1,000 sq. ft.
(59 mL in 18 L/304.8 sq m)
Don’t fertilize
Guide and Calendar for Centipede Grass Lawn Fertilization

In simpler terms, nitrogen fertilizer is best applied every spring. Meanwhile, fertilizers high in potassium—with or without phosphorus, depending on soil tests—can be applied from spring to fall. But in winter, it’s best to not fertilize centipede grass at all.

Pro Tip: It’s still best to conduct a soil test beforehand to determine whether or not the feeding of certain nutrients will be necessary. Remember, unnecessary fertilization can be detrimental to centipede grass growth.

3. Watering

Centipede grass lawns should be watered thoroughly early in the morning when the blades start showing signs of water stress such as folding, wilting, and tip discoloration. More specifically, only about 1 inch of irrigation or rainwater is needed per week.

You’ve probably heard some people say that centipede grass is drought-tolerant. But this is only true to a certain extent. When deprived of water—be it from rain or tap—for long periods, centipede grass lawns are bound to weaken, dry up, and die quickly.

Now, to keep your centipede grass lawn looking lush, you need to give it 1 inch (2 cm) of water weekly. For sandier soils, you’d want to water more frequently with less water. That’s equivalent to 1/2 inch (1 cm) of water twice a week.

How Much Is 1 Inch of Water When Watering The Gardening

Pro Tip: Avoid lightly watering your centipede grass lawn daily. This will promote shallow root growth, making it easy for the grass to get ripped off the soil.

When experts say you need to provide 1 inch (2 cm) of water for plants, what they really mean is 0.62 gals (2.36 L) per 1 sq. ft. (0.09 sq m) of soil. This also facilitates deep rooting.

As such, a 3,000 sq. ft. centipede grass lawn, for example, will need 1,860 gals or 7,040 L of water each week for proper irrigation. Homeowners must never let the soil on their yards become powder dry.

Find out how to measure your entire lawn in our article on planting centipede grass seeds!

During very hot and dry summers, it’s especially important to keep the soil moist enough for centipede grass. Most experts advise watering them only once they start showing signs of water stress.

Signs of Water Stress in Centipede Grass
Signs of Water Stress in Centipede Grass

When it rains on the day you were initially planning to water your lawn, you can skip it entirely for that session. In doing so, weed problems due to overwatering can be avoided.

From December to February, however, supplemental watering is generally not needed. Centipede grass doesn’t need extra moisture in the cold winter months unless signs of underwatering can be seen.

4. Mowing

Mow dry centipede grass lawns to 1.5–2.5 inches twice a month at most. Cut no more than one-third of the leaf blade height each time. This will encourage thick grass growth.

Pro Tip: Centipede grass lawns planted from seed can be mowed once the blades have reached a height of 2.5–3 inches (6–7 cm).

Since centipede grass is one of the slow-growing grasses that can be grown in America, frequent mowing is not necessary. In fact, mowing it too closely and too frequently can result in bald patches in your lawn once spring arrives.

Explore other options in our article on whether you should use slow-growing grass.

Generally, it only needs a good mowing every other week. As you may have guessed, this is one of the many reasons why it’s been dubbed the lazy man’s grass. You won’t have to worry about it growing too wildly even if you don’t mow it for several weeks.

Even when left untrimmed, established centipede grass rarely ever grows any taller than 5 inches (12 cm). More commonly, it will stay at a height of only 3–4 inches (7–10 cm).

Once you do let your centipede grass lawn grow without mowing it for a full month or so before fall, its flower clusters or racemes will start growing. Their seeds will normally fall by September.

Centipede Grass Flower Cluster
EOL − T.M.Jones (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Centipede Grass Flower Cluster

Having said all that, it’s still best to keep centipede grass lawns low-growing. Regular mowing to more or less 2 inches will encourage deep and extensive root development, as well as dense overall growth.

Ideal MOWING HEIGHT and frequency for Centipede Grass | Benefits of Reel Mowing

Timely mowing schedules also create dense turfs that better deal with negative external factors like drought, weeds, pests, and foot traffic.

Pro Tip: Don’t mow centipede grass right after watering the lawn. Mowing grass while the soil is still wet and soft can result in uneven trimming. Wet grass will also clog mowers, no matter how sharp the mower blades are.

5. Thatch Removal

Remove centipede grass thatch from lawns when thicker than half an inch with a thatch rake or dethatcher before spring ends. This is necessary to prevent the spread of diseases and pests like mice.

Thatch refers to the layer of dead but undecomposed grass. It accumulates on the surface of the soil among all the healthy blades and stolons of the centipede grass on your lawn.

Clippings leftover from mowing centipede grass can be left on the ground. Contrary to popular belief, grass clippings do not contribute to thatch buildup as they are readily decomposed by various natural microorganisms.

If the layer of thatch build-ups to about 0.5-inch (1 cm) thick, you know it’s time to remove it already. You’ll want to do this before may ends. This will ensure that your lawn recovers and stays lush for the rest of the year.

Don’t let the thatch on your yard any thicker than that unless you want it riddled with pests like nematodes and diseases such as centipede grass decline.

With a quick google search, you’ll likely see suggestions for buying specialized machines like the highly raved dethatcher below from Amazon.

But don’t worry, you can actually remove thatch from your gorgeous centipede grass lawn by simply using a thatch rake (here on Home Depot).

How to Dethatch Lawn Using a Thatching Rake

It’ll take you more time and effort to do so manually, but it’ll also provide you with the opportunity to get some exercise done while staying on budget!

Pro Tip: Thatch removal can also be done using a mower. Just swap the cutting blades with dethatching ones. Nevertheless, thatch buildup can be prevented by not fertilizing more than necessary.


Is centipede grass a warm season or cool season grass?

Centipede grass is a warm-season species best grown in the southeast region of America, including states such as Florida, North Carolina, and Texas. It prefers warm temperatures year-round, with mild winters. This grass is unable to withstand extended periods with temperatures under 5°F or -15°C. It is more tolerant of heat than cold.

How much sunlight should centipede grass lawns get?

Although centipede grass is moderately shade tolerant, growing well even with filtered sun, ensuring a minimum of 6 hours of exposure to direct sunlight is ideal. When given 12 hours or more of full sun exposure, centipede grass grows better, denser, and faster. Simply put, optimal light exposure can speed up lawn establishment.

What causes yellowing and dead spots in centipede grass lawns?

Yellowing blades (chlorosis) and/or dead patches in established centipede grass lawns, called centipede grass decline are caused by various factors. This includes soil pH over 6.5, excessive nitrogen feeding, uneven soil surface, thick thatch buildup, root dieback, overwatering, soil compaction, improper mowing, nematode infestation, and diseases.

Can you overseed a lawn with centipede grass?

Overseeding patchy and bare spots in centipede grass lawns can be done in May—when temperatures consistently rise above 60°F or about 15°C during the day. Plant 1/4–1/2 lbs (113–226 g) of seeds per 1,000 sq. ft. (304.8 sq m) as normal. Hand watering is necessary to prevent overwatering established grass while freshly sown seeds are still germinating.

Why is centipede grass seed so expensive?

Centipede grass seeds are expensive as they are tiny, slick, and fragile. A massive area of land is also required for their growth and harvest. Harvesting centipede grass seeds require a lot of resources, effort, and time, all contributing to their high price. But due to its high seeding rate and low growing cost, it’s still considered affordable.

Is it okay to use herbicides to prevent weeds in centipede grass lawns?

Application of herbicides (here on Amazon) for centipede grass lawn weed control is okay and recommended when weeds are actively growing. Preemergence herbicides can be applied in March, whereas postemergence ones are used from late spring to summer. Simazine or atrazine can be used in November or December for annual winter weed control.

Summary of How to Plant Centipede Grass From Seed

Regardless of the planting method used, centipede grass lawns require the same maintenance guidelines to retain their apple-green color throughout the year. If not followed or neglected, centipede grass can survive for some time until it dies out. It will only grow well once again once proper care is given.

Commonly, sulfur is added to centipede grass lawns to lower and maintain an acidic soil with a pH value of 4.5–6.5. Lime is seldom needed for raising the pH. Additionally, fertilizers should only be applied when deemed necessary by regular soil testing. Winter application is neither recommended nor necessary.

Ideally, centipede grass lawns should only receive 0.62 gals of water per 1 sq. ft. of land (2.36 L per 0.09 sq m) every week. Watering can be reduced or stopped entirely in winter. Once dry and over 2 inches in height, grass can be mowed—leaving at least 2/3 of its height. If thatch is thicker than 1/2 inch by the end of May, it must be removed.


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