Looking for easy-to-maintain grass for a perfectly manicured lawn? Then you’ve probably been told about centipede grass, especially if you live in the south. Don’t let its surprising name fool you though. Centipede grass is a beautiful choice when you want a no-fuss warm-season turfgrass!
Grow a centipede grass lawn from seed in spring by 1) measuring the area coverage, 2) selecting the appropriate seed variety, 3) preparing the soil before planting, 4) distributing the seeds evenly, and 5) caring for the seeded lawn to ensure growth. Centipede grass is best suited for southern yards with sandy, acidic, and nutrient-poor soil.
One of the cheapest ways to establish a lush apple-green-colored yard is by planting centipede grass from seed. However, some people think that it’s better to make it greener by applying lots of fertilizer. The question is, should you do that? Read on to find out the answers!
1. Measure the Lawn Area
When planting centipede grass from seed, it is important to measure the area of land that will be seeded and maintained in the long run.
Unless you want a patchy centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) lawn, you have to figure out exactly how big of an area you have to fill. Once you know this, you’ll also know how much seed you’ll need for full coverage—but more on that in the next section!
Though it won’t really cause you much of a problem, you won’t be able to get the green grassy yard of your dream with just guesswork.
Now, it’ll be tough to do this manually—especially if you have an irregularly shaped lot. But don’t worry!
You can find free and paid tools online to help you with this. They generally work using satellite imaging and data available on Google Maps.
So after you input your address, you can outline your yard. Just by doing that, you’ll get a pretty accurate measure of your entire lawn area. This will also help you determine how much seed you’ll need to fully cover your entire lawn.
A good example of what I’m talking about is this lawn size calculator from Sod Solutions. It’s pretty straightforward to use once you get the hang of it. Plus, it gives you the area of your lawn in different units of measurement so you don’t have to convert it or anything.
2. Select the Seed Variety
Depending on the local climate and soil quality, the recommended variety of centipede grass will differ. For example, TifBlair has improved frost tolerance while AU Centennial better handles alkaline soils. Nevertheless, 1–2 pounds of seed with at least an 85% germination rate is needed to cover 1,000 square feet of lawn.
The variety you’ll most likely easily find is the Common centipede grass seeds. From this ordinary species, a bunch of different varieties have been established. So you can consider this as the most basic centipede grass variety.
But when you’re planning to grow your centipede lawn from seed, try to see what choices are available in your area. Keep in mind that not all varieties and cultivars of this grass can be propagated by seed.
Homeowners can choose centipede grass varieties with seeds such as:
- TifBlair (here on Amazon)
- AU Centennial
- Tennessee Hardy
Try to see if you can get the variety you want shipped into your state as well.
More importantly, look for high-purity grass seeds with high germination rates. That’s a minimum of 90% and 85%, respectively.
If you go for lower-quality seeds, you might just end up wasting money in the end. Also, if you can only find coated seeds, you will need about twice the amount for full yard coverage.
Although it may sound like such a great deal to have seeds coated with compounds that promote germination, they aren’t necessary. Such chemicals may even do more harm than good especially if you plant them without having your soil tested first. But more on this later!
3. Prepare the Soil
A new centipede grass lawn can be grown from seed by removing existing grass, weeds, and big rocks first. Then, prepare the soil by tilling 2–6 inches of the lawn. Afterward, rake through the soil to level out low and high spots in the seed bed.
Nothing much really goes into preparing the soil for your centipede grass seeds. If you’ve got a weed problem a simple glyphosate herbicide like this one on Amazon will work great. Other than that, you don’t need expensive special pieces of equipment or tools for it.
Though you’d typically be advised to use a rototiller to finish such a task fast, you shouldn’t buy one if you have a small lawn to till and you’re not going to use it regularly.
For such cases, you can just work with a hand-held rotary cultivator like the one below from Amazon.
Heck, you can opt to just use a regular old rake. Simply put, you have to put in a lot of elbow grease if you want to save as much money as possible in preparing your seed bed.
Also, before you buy tons of fertilizers, soil conditioners, and other such products to improve the seedbed for your centipede grass seeds, get a soil test done first. Look for and get in touch with your local Cooperative Extension Office here for such services.
You may have to pay for each soil test or you could have it done for free. It all depends on where you live and what month it is.
In North Carolina, for instance, soil testing is free from April to November. But from December to March you’ll be charged 4 bucks per soil sample.
Discover the importance of testing in our article on soil analysis!
Once done, you’ll know what type of fertilizer—or amendment—and how much you need for your new lawn!
4. Distribute the Seeds
To prepare the centipede grass for spreading mix 1 part centipede grass seeds with 10 parts dry sand that can be evenly and quickly distributed using a handheld spreader. This is ideally done during the warm months between April and July to allow for full growth before winter.
Before seeding a brand new centipede grass lawn, blend it with some sand first. This is an important step for even seed distribution since centipede grass seeds, on their own, are super small, lightweight, and slippery.
Ideally, 1–2 pounds (0.45–0.90 kg) of centipede grass seeds should be combined with 10–20 pounds (4.5–9.0 kg) of sand (here on Amazon) per 1,000 square feet (92 sq m) of lawn. So if you have a 3,000 square feet lawn, you’ll need 3 pounds of grass seed and 30 pounds of sand—at the very least.
Get yourself a simple hand-cranked spreader like this affordable but sturdy one from Walmart. This will help you make sure that all the centipede grass seeds mixed with sand will be uniformly dispersed throughout your lawn.
For a low-cost distribution, fashion an old jar into a simple seed spreader. A clean mason jar with a handle would be great for this. Just punch holes into the lid of the jar.
Prevent patchy grass growth by distributing your grass seeds in a tight criss-cross pattern. Spread half of the sand and seed mixture from north to south in an alternating pattern. Then use the other half while going in an alternating east-to-west pattern.
5. Care for the Lawn
Level the soil and ensure proper coverage of the centipede grass seeds using a lawn roller. Lightly water the area for the first 3 weeks to keep the soil moist. Doing so will ensure germination within 2–4 weeks.
Centipede grass is slow-growing, so it can be hard to tell whether or not you did a good job with growing straight from the seed—especially if this is the first time you’re planting a lawn.
Get more familiar with other options in our article on slow-growing grasses!
But by taking good care of your newly seeded centipede grass lawn, you can ensure speedy germination. Don’t worry, it doesn’t really take much to care for a yard with this kind of grass!
After distributing all the seeds, you will need to lightly pack down the soil. This will help make sure that all the centipede grass seeds are sufficiently covered with soil, providing proper contact between the two. Below is a good-quality lawn roller from Amazon that’s designed for such a task.
If you don’t have the budget for that, you can opt to just walk over your seeded lawn. I’ve also seen other people use the back of their rakes for this in smaller yards. Then, for larger areas of land, you can drive your car over the soil.
After that’s done, all you really need to do is keep the soil moist while the centipede grass seeds are still germinating. With sandier soil, you may need to water it several times a day.
Once there is visible grass growth—as early as 2 weeks after seeding—watering frequency should be decreased.
In total, it will take 2–4 months for centipede grass grown from seed to fully cover a lawn. However, it ay take a year or so for some people to fully establish a lush and thick centipede grass lawn.
Why Is It Named Centipede Grass?
The centipede grass, interchangeably referred to as China grass, is named after its centipede-like look and the place it is native to.
Just to be clear though, China and Chinese grass don’t refer to cultivars or varieties of centipede grass. They are simply other names often used to refer to this species of grass since it originates from the country.
However, its most familiar nickname—centipede grass—comes from its physical appearance. Centipedes are long insects and have multiple legs.
In comparison, the grass has stolons, or ground-spreading stems closely, which grow new leaves. As a result, it resembles centipedes. Unlike the insects though, centipede grass can’t move and isn’t normally brown.
Where Should You Grow Centipede Grass?
In the United States of America, centipede grass is best grown in states with warm climates, sandy acidic soils, and annual rainfall of over 40 inches. Centipede grass thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 7–10.
It’s necessary to remember that centipede grass originates from southern parts of China and is widely found in Southeast Asia as well. So if you want to grow a flourishing apple-green lawn, first consider if the climate in your area is anything similar to those regions.
Moreover, centipede grass will die when exposed to temperatures lower than 5°F or -15°C. This is why they never grow well when planted in yards of people residing in northern areas, especially ones with really harsh and cold winters.
Cross-checking this with the USDA plant hardiness zone map, such extreme temperature is to be expected in zones 1–6. In those zones, temperatures typically drop into the negatives.
Simply put, centipede grass is a great choice for lawns in southern states like North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Texas. The soil in these areas is also typically sandy and acidic.
Southeastern states generally have much higher precipitation than the national average annual rainfall rate of 30.48 inches. This is perfect for centipede grass since it prefers sufficiently moist soil, ideally receiving 40 or more inches of rainwater every year.
Can you seed centipede grass lawns in the fall?
Though it is possible to plant centipede grass from seed in the fall, it is not advisable as cold winter weather will slow down and hinder germination. Centipede grass seeds are best grown in warm months—spring and summer—when temperatures are at least 70°F or 21 °C. This will allow the grass to grow enough to survive cold injuries in winter.
Is using centipede grass plugs different from planting sprigs?
Centipede grass plugging and sprigging are different methods of establishing lawns. Sprigging involves planting individual stolons or runners into the soil, whereas plugging requires 2 or 4-inch sod squares. However, they are commonly discussed since they are similar. Both sprigs and plugs can be planted 1 foot apart in rows and columns.
How to plant centipede grass with sod?
Sodding centipede grass is done by laying enough sod pieces tightly side by side until the entire lawn is covered. They are then rolled over and watered thoroughly after installment. Using sods is the fastest but most expensive way to establish centipede grass lawns. This option, however, ensures weed, pest, and disease-free yards.
Summary of How to Plant Centipede Grass From Seed
Centipede grass lawns are established from seed by first measuring the whole area and selecting the right variety. Then the soil is tilled and prepared. Afterward, the seeds are mixed with sand for even distribution using a spreader. Once seeded, the lawn is then cared for by leveling it out and watering it.
This grass is named after the centipede, a multi-legged insect, because its stolon and blades resemble the arthropod. It is best grown in southeastern states in America as this region provides the ideal growing conditions for it: warm temperatures, mild winters, sandy acidic soil, and 40 inches of annual rainfall.
- “Centipedegrass” by Richard L. Duble in Texas Cooperative Extension
- “Centipedegrass Lawn Maintenance Calendar” by Grady Miller, Matt Martin, Jim Kerns, Fred Yelverton, Rick Brandenburg, and Terri Billeisen in N.C. State Extension Publications
- “Centipedegrass” by J. T. Brosnan and J. Deputy in Cooperative Extension Service
- “Annual 2020 National Climate Report” by n/a in National Centers for Environmental Information