Centipede grass is native to China and Southeast Asia. It was first introduced into the United States in 1916 from seed collected by Frank N. Meyer in South China. Centipede has since become widely grown in the southeastern United States.
Its popularity as a lawn grass stems from its adaptation to low fertility conditions and its low maintenance requirements. Where centipede is adapted and properly managed, it has few serious pest problems. It is particularly well adapted to the sandy, acid soils of the southeastern United States. Centipede is slightly more cold toleratant than St. Augustine grass, but extended periods of 5 degrees or less can kill centipede grass.
Centipede grass is a coarse-textured perennial grass that spreads by stolons. Stolons have a creeping growth habit with rather short upright stems that resemble a centipede-thus, its name. Centipede grass forms a dense turf and has a relatively slow rate of growth. It requires less mowing than Bermuda or St. Augustine and is often called lazy man’s grass.
Centipede grass is moderately shade tolerant but grows best in full sunlight. Centipede does not enter a true dormant state during winter months and is severely injured by intermittent cold and warm periods during spring. Hard freeze kill the leaves and young stolons of centipede grass, but the grass resumes growth as soon as the temperatures are favorable. When this cycle occurs several times during the winter months, the grass is depleted of energy reserves and is susceptible to extreme winter kill.
Centipede grass is used primarily for lawns, parks, golf course roughs, and utility turf. Like St. Augustine grass, centipede does not tolerate heavy traffic and is not suited for sports fields. Annual applications of nitrogen in the spring or early summer at a rate of 1 pound per 1,000 square feet are recommended. Water should be applied when centipede grass shows signs of water stress-wilted and discolored turf. Thoroughly wetting the soil 4 to 6 inches deep only when the grass shows sign of moisture stress is the proper procedure for watering centipede.