Mad About Berries

Everything About Bahia Grass

If a homeowner living in a warm region is looking for lawn grass for their garden, they may look for highly drought-tolerant and heat tolerant lawn grass. In that case, Bahia grass may be a great option.

Bahia grass is also a great option for those who have sandy, acidic soil or soil with poor drainage. If one is struggling with not-so-good soil and hot environment, and/or unable to offer a lot of time and resources for lawn maintenance, but still dreaming of a lush green, dense lawn, Bahia grass can form such a lovely turf for them.

Published: October 21, 2022.

bahia grass

What is Bahia Grass?

Bahia is a warm-season perennial grass that occurs in a very limited region of the southern United States.

Its botanical name is Paspalum notatum. It’s native to South America, mainly Brazil, and was first used in the United States in 1914 as pasture grass.

It’s suitable for Deep South and Gulf Coast lawns. In this region, it produces a relatively durable, low-growing, and low-maintenance lawn. It prefers full sun and has excellent heat and drought tolerance. Its requirements for water and nutrients are also low.

Being a warm-season grass, Bahia grass grows most actively from late spring through the hot summer months. Being perennial, it keeps coming year after year if it gets a suitable climate.

Bahia grass has a naturally deep root system that makes it very drought tolerant even in the sandy soils that are commonly found in the Southeast.

Only a few other warm-season types of grass can compete with Bahia on this aspect, except Bermuda grass which has a higher drought tolerance in sandy soils. But Bahia is more tolerant to a limited shade than Bermuda. It is also more tolerant to poorly drained soils.

Bahia is a slow-growing grass and a reason for its slow but steady growth is the short, above-ground stems called stolons which root at very short intervals and ultimately form a dense and durable lawn. Plus, Bahia grass is not an aggressive spreader and thus, is easy to keep out of garden beds.

Just like most warm-season grasses, Bahia also stays green only during its active growth period. Periods of prolonged drought cause dormancy and a strange dark or tan coloration. However, Bahia survives these stresses better than other grasses. Once stresses subside, Bahia grass lawns revive quickly.

With the arrival of winter, Bahia enters its annual dormancy period and turns brownish tan. Even at this stage, it stays green longer than Bermuda grass and greens up again earlier than Bermuda in spring.

Homeowners with Bahia grass lawns wishing to have green lawns in any season can overseed the lawn with cool-season ryegrass in the fall.

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Uses of Bahia Grass

Bahia grass is most commonly used as a pasture grass, but can also be used for erosion control, hay production, and wildlife habitat. It can even be used in ‘sod-based rotation’ sequences that have been proved to suppress pest issues (nematode and disease problems) in crops like peanuts.

Growing Zones

Bahia grass is used for lawns in areas from Florida through the southern Coast Planes to Texas Gulf Coast.

These areas are challenging for turfs and in such conditions, Bahia varieties show several benefits over other warm-season grasses.

Bahia grass is hardy to USDA Plant hardiness zones 7 through 11.

Bahia Grass Varieties

Some popular varieties of Bahia grass are:

Tifton-9 Bahia grass: This cultivar comes with fine blades and high cold tolerance. It establishes seeds fast and grows quickly. It’s commonly used in more northern regions as erosion control along roadways and due to its high forge percentage, it’s used in pastures too.

'Argentine' Bahia grass: This variety features darker green leaves than other varieties. This variety is often selected for aesthetic purposes.

‘Pensacola' Bahia grass: This variety of Bahia grass features thin leaves and an extensive, deep root system that offers the grass added heat and cold tolerance. This variety is more winter hardy than other varieties.

'Sand Mountain' Bahia grass: This variety has narrow blades. It’s cold hardy due to which it grows better than other varieties in the northernmost regions of its accepted growing zones.

Common Bahia grass: This is the original Brazilian cultivar that grows in the form of unevenly spaced clumps of light-colored, coarse-textured blades.

If mowed closely, bare spots of soil are exposed between grass patches. It can withstand moderate grazing stress. This variety is now seen in old pastures, whereas over time, modern cultivars are replacing it fast.

Out of these varieties, Argentine and Pensacola are popular as lawn grasses.

When to Plant Bahia Grass?

The best time to sow Bahia grass seeds is spring and early summer.

As such, one can also sow in the fall, but the seeds won’t germinate until the spring and growth will be retarded. Most importantly, the soil should be warm as Bahia grass won’t germinate in cold soil.

How to Grow Bahia Grass?

The seed of Bahia grass germinates slowly but establishes well, so, a homeowner can benefit from starting a lawn from seed.

Grow Bahia Grass With Seeds

Bahia grass has a long and variable sprouting time. But once established, Bahia is durable and hardy. Spring is the best time for seeding but fall seeding is also possible in hot climates.


Bahia is fine with soil that several other lawn types of grass have to struggle with. It’s a great choice for poor, sandy soils that are low in nutrients.

Regarding acidity, acidic soil is a requirement for Bahia grass. Neutral or alkaline soil can cause problems like iron deficiency.

Firstly, the gardener should get the soil tested to determine its acidity level and to know what nutrients are needed.

They should then remove any existing weeds and grasses if they’re planting a new lawn. They should also till the soil in order to break large clumps and remove rocks and other debris. If they’re overseeding with Bahia grass seed, they should mow the existing grass closely and pull all the weeds.

The soil should be amended as recommended by the soil test, adding sulfur, lime, phosphorus, or potassium, and bringing the soil pH to 5.5 to 6.5. If adding nitrogen is recommended, the gardener should wait till the seeds germinate.

They should then rake the area smooth and form a gentle slope away from the home. A level yard or a slope towards the house causes water to stand or flow towards the house’s foundation.


As mentioned earlier, Bahia is suited to the southern climate and hence thrives in full sun.


The gardener should sow the Bahia seeds with a broadcast spreader or by hand. They should spread 1 lb. of seeds evenly over 100 sq. feet of lawn. If they’re overseeding, they should spread ½ lb. of seed per 100 sq. feet only on thin or bare spots. Now they should rake the soil again, covering the seeds with a light layer of soil.

While using a spreader, the gardener should use the setting recommended on the product label. Putting down too many seeds can form weak seedlings that usually die since they cannot get the resources needed to grow into strong plants.


Now they should water the soil with a fine mist sprayer. They should take care not to let the soil and seeds get washed away. They should water every day and keep the soil moist.

If the weather is hot and dry, they may even need to water twice daily. Bahia seeds may take up to 3 weeks to sprout. The gardener should slowly increase the gap between waterings to once or twice a week, once the seeds germinate. But they should continue watering weekly all through the first season.

Grow Bahia Grass With Plugs or Sods

Since Bahia grass seeds germinate slowly, gardeners often prefer starting Bahia grass lawn with sods.

Preparing the Soil

Preparing the soil properly can make Bahia grass lawn successful. For this, the gardener should till compost into the upper 6 inches of soil. This will add nutrients to the soil, improve its texture and promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms that enhance soil health.

They should also measure the soil pH with a pH meter or test kit and make sure the pH is between 5.5 and 6.5. They should add lime to the soil if its pH is too low or amend it with sulfur if the pH is too high.

When to Plant

Since Bahia needs warm weather and ample sun, it’s best to lay the sod in late spring or early summer. Although sod establishes sooner than seed, the Bahia grass still requires time to develop its roots before the winter dormancy period arrives.

Laying the Sod

Just before laying the sod, the gardener should level the area with a rake so that their Bahia lawn will be even. Then they should moisten the soil surface and then should lay the fresh sod over the ground.

They should make sure each edge adheres to the edges of other pieces of sod for a uniform appearance. They can sprinkle soil between the edges of the sod pieces to join the pieces together.

After laying all the sod pieces, they should roll a lawn roller across the area to remove any air trapped and to press the roots firmly into the topsoil for proper growth.


Watering the newly installed Bahia grass sod is necessary for its quick establishment. The gardener can mist the grass three times a week to wet the grass and the soil underneath.

However, over-watering should be avoided as standing water can cause roots to rot. If the gardener keeps the area moist, they can enjoy a lush lawn in around a month.

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How to Take Care of Bahia Grass


Bahia is tolerant to several stresses including heat.


If the gardener wants their lawn to look dense and attractive, they should make sure they don’t overwater. Excessive watering can actually weaken the grass. The grower should water only as per the requirement so as to maintain its color bright and healthy.

Bahia has deep, wide-spreading roots that make the grass very drought tolerant. Therefore, Bahia grass lawns have low water requirements and don’t need frequent irrigation.

However, it will turn bluish grey and wilt from which the gardener can know that rainfall is coming up short and the lawn needs to be watered. In that case, the gardener should give up to 1 inch of water, wetting the soil to a depth of 8 inches.


Although it doesn’t need a lot of water, it needs high humidity to thrive. Therefore, the deep South and Gulf Coast areas perfectly match the ideal growing conditions for Bahia.


The gardener should mow their Bahia lawns mowed to a height of around 2 to 3 inches because Bahia tends to produce straggly Y-shaped seedheads that many people find unsightly.

The blade of the mower should be sharp enough to protect the grass from tearing. Thus, gardeners have to sharpen their mower blades every month during the growing season. Bahia grass generally needs mowing every one to two weeks from spring to fall with an aim to keep its height to 2 to 3 inches.


Its low maintenance requirements are endorsed by the low fertilizer needs of the Bahia grass. The gardener should do a soil test before adding any fertilizer to their Bahia grass lawn.

If any needs are discovered by the test, they should fertilize the lawn based on the test results.

Fertilizing excessively or unnecessarily can do more harm than good to the grass.

Weed Control

The naturally open growth habit of Bahia grass makes it prone to weeds at a young age.

Weeds like crowfoot grass, sandbur, goosegrass and crabgrass commonly invade Bahia grass lawns. But applying a pre-emergent herbicide will effectively deal with these common weeds.

On the other hand, applying a post-emergent herbicide will rid the gardener of broadleaf weeds like spurge, lespedeza, and knotweed that may be already present.

These weed controls should be used only when the Bahia grass lawn is otherwise healthy and temperatures are in the range of 60 to 85 degrees.

Pests and Diseases

Bahia grass is resistant to most pests and diseases.

However, it’s troubled by a pest and it’s mole cricket.


Mole Cricket

Mole cricket burrows through the soil and damages roots. They also feed on the grass shoots. To ensure mole cricket presence, the gardener can look for their tunnels and mounds. They can even apply 2 gallons of water with 1-2 ounces of lemon-scented detergent per 2 square feet of turf in suspected damaged areas. If they are present, they will come out in a few minutes.

A great solution is to introduce mole cricket predators like the wasp Larra or the nematode Steinernema scapterisci. Or by using an approved bait or insecticide, one can solve the mole cricket problem quickly.


Nematodes are generally not as damaging to Bahia grass as they are to other lawn grasses. Due to the deep, extensive root system of Bahia, nematode damage is rarely noticed.

However, if the lawn becomes thin, grows less vigorously and its roots are weakened, one can see that nematodes are present. It can also be confirmed by testing the soil.

Proper cultural practices can promote Bahia grass root growth and reduce nematode stress. These include watering less often but more deeply, applying ample soil potassium, and reducing nitrogen rates.


The most common disease that attacks Bahia is dollar spot.

Dollar Spot

Dollar spot leaves spots several inches in diameter scattered all through the lawn. A light application of nitrogen (1/2-pound nitrogen per 1,000 sure feet) should help encourage the grass to diminish these symptoms.

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Growing a Bahia grass lawn is an excellent option for homeowners with frequent droughts, poor-quality, sandy, alkaline soil, and not much time for lawn maintenance. Despite having all these problems, Bahia can offer homeowners dense, lush lawns.

They just have to fulfill a few requirements and the grass will reciprocate in the form of a pleasant, dependable, and healthy lawn.

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