St. Augustine Grass Types
If a homeowner plans to grow St. Augustine grass for their lawn, they may be surprised to know that St. Augustine grass comes in various types.
St. Augustine grass is a popular turfgrass with dense leaf blades and blue-green color. But it’s still good that homeowners can be specific about their lawn grass choice and get the exact right choice for the environment they live in.
Published: October 21, 2022.
What is St. Augustine Grass?
The botanical name of St. Augustine grass is Stenotaphrum secundatum. It’s a robust and dense perennial warm-season grass that does well in warmer climates but can tolerate shade. It needs well-draining soils.
Its blades are textured with unique deep green to blue-green colors, thanks to the hardiness zones 8 through 10. The blades of St. Augustine are coarse and thick with rounded tops. The blade is more compact as it goes down to the stalks.
Unlike Bermuda grass, St. Augustine is not rhizomatic. It spreads by long, above-ground stolons or runners and roots via nodes. Unlike other warm-season grasses, it cannot be grown from seeds but can be grown vegetatively, i.e., by sod, plugs, or sprigs.
As per most agronomists, St. Augustine grass is the grass that is the easiest to take care of, and unlike Zoysia and Bermuda grasses, it doesn’t go dormant right with the start of the winter.
St. Augustine grass is very popular as turfgrass in the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Australia, and the US, especially in warmer, subtropical climates like Florida and Hawaii.
Since it’s a popular turfgrass, St. Augustine is continuously researched and developed, and currently, it has three species (Palmetto, Floratam, and Raleigh) and more than fifteen cultivars.
The common strain has a white stigma color and belongs to the Gulf-Caribbean-W. African region. Other strains are believed to have crossed with this common strain and are distinguished from it by their purple stigma color.
The more common standard St. Augustine cultivars are Palmetto, Bitterblue, Raleigh, Floratam, Jade, and Mercedes, while more common dwarf cultivars are Sapphire, Delmar, Captiva, and Seville.
St. Augustine has certain characteristics that act differently in different environments.
Although it doesn’t produce its seeds and any seed not available in the market that one can buy, the demand remains high due to its unique and beneficial characteristics.
For example, if a homeowner’s lawn has a lot of shade, they can choose to have CitraBlue or Palmetto St. Augustine grass which is suitable for such a condition. It’s interesting to learn about various types of St. Augustine grass so that the right one can be chosen for one’s lawn.
Palmetto St. Augustine
Palmetto St. Augustine grass was released in the mid-1990s by Sod Solutions Inc. in central Florida and is a relatively new type of St. Augustine variety.
It was then studied and found to be safe for the lawns of regular homeowners, and then in 1994, it was released for sale to the public. This semi-dwarf grass with a plush look is the most popular turfgrass in the world. It’s chosen for its finer texture and brilliant color. It also stays green for longer than any other St. Augustine variety.
Moreover, it has superior tolerance for heat, cold, drought, and frost since it has a deep root system. Its shade tolerance is the best of all the warm season turfgrasses available today, even better than CitraBlue.
Therefore, if a homeowner has shade in their garden, their best options are Palmetto St. Augustine or CitraBlue. It develops less thatch than other St. Augustine grass varieties even upon full sun exposure.
It has blades of medium width as compared to other St. Augustine grasses. They are shorter too and have shorter internodes than other standard cultivars.
Since they have a rounded tapering end, they feel soft. Therefore, one can walk on the lawn barefoot without hurting their feet.
This St. Augustine grass is found from coast to coast throughout the United States as it’s versatile enough to grow in a wide range of climates and soils. Palmetto St. Augustine grass goes dormant if there are many touches of frost in a row.
However, if there are only one or two frosts, it will stay green even in below-freezing temperatures. One can know if it’s going dormant when the top of its blades becomes brown.
Palmetto St. Augustine’s resistance to drought is second only to Seville St. Augustine. If it starts to wilt due to drought, which normally doesn’t happen until a month or two of drought, it recovers again when watered.
Floratam St. Augustine
Floratam St. Augustine was launched in 1972 by the Florida and Texas Agricultural Experiment Stations as a chinch bug and St. Augustine Decline (SAD) virus (which was aggressive in Florida then) resistant selection and occurs most commonly in home lawns of entire Florida.
However, the resistance was lost in the 1980s as the bugs adapted. This low-maintenance variety comes with purple stigma color, large, purplish red stolons, around 3-inch-long internodes, and a long, thick, and wide blade.
Actually, it has the longest and thickest blades of all St. Augustine varieties. Although the blades are coarse, the lawn looks overall healthy and plush. The more shade it receives, the thinner it will become.
Not only it’s one of the most widely used lawn grasses in Florida and used as pasture grass in rural areas. It does best in hot and humid climates, so it’s perfect for South and Central Florida lawns.
Floratam St. Augustine grows well in a range of conditions. But it needs a lot of sun, unlike Palmetto and Seville. It also needs frequent mowing, at least every other week. It should be kept at the height of at least 3 inches for optimal health.
Like other varieties of St. Augustine grass, Floratam is highly resistant to drought and needs to be watered only when it’s markedly wilting. It retains its color well, even in severe weather conditions. Even if it loses color due to drought or frosts, it retains its color back quickly once the conditions become normal.
Raleigh St. Augustine
Raleigh St. Augustine was developed in 1980 in Raleigh, North Carolina, by the North Carolina State University, hence the name. It’s a cold-hardy variety with a coarse texture and medium green color.
It adapts well to organic, heavier clay soils with medium to low soil pH. This variety is proven to be winter hardy and more shade and disease tolerant than common St. Augustine. It can tolerate up to 10 degrees of temperature.
Although it’s known for being cold, shade, and drought tolerant, it’s also known to get yellow and have stunted growth at very high temperatures, although it’s believed to be a cultivar that needs constant full sun exposure. Supplemental iron applications are required to reduce this yellowing tendency, particularly on soils with a high, i.e., alkaline pH.
Like all other St. Augustine varieties, Raleigh too is susceptible to chinch bug infestation and brown patch disease.
CitraBlue St. Augustine
CitraBlue St. Augustine was developed under the Turfgrass Breeding Program by the University of Florida under a sponsored Research Service Agreement with the Turfgrass Producers of Florida Inc. (TPF).
This variety is known for its blue-green color, after which it has been named. CitraBlue needs less nitrogen fertilizer than other St. Augustine varieties, which means that it needs less fertilizer but performs better. Its shade tolerance is comparable only to Palmetto St. Augustine. Overall, St. Augustine is prone to diseases like gray leaf spots.
However, CitraBlue shows improved resistance to diseases and also incurs less damage from gray leaf spots compared to other varieties of St. Augustine. It has also been proved by studies that CitraBlue is as resistant to large patch as Floratam St. Augustine and more resistant to gray leaf spot and take all root rot than Floratam.
The thick lateral growing habit of CitraBlue reduces the need for mowing almost as much as compared to Floratam as it grows in a horizontal direction rather than growing in height.
CitraBlue St. Augustine shows less vertical growth than most varieties of St. Augustine and thus needs minimal mowing and maintenance. It also has excellent resistance to chinch bugs. Since it has a deep root system, it can tolerate environmental stressors well like shade, heat, drought, and traffic if the homeowner has kids and/or pets.
Seville St. Augustine
Seville St. Augustine is a dwarf St. Augustine variety with a low growth habit. It has fine leaves and dark green color.
It performs best in full sun but can do well in shady landscapes and saline soils. If properly watered, Seville St. Augustine thrives in high temperatures. It can also grow in a wide range of soil types, which is great for growing in coastal and inland regions.
It’s easy to grow and is known for its good fall color retention and spring green-up. However, it doesn’t tolerate high traffic very well. It’s also more prone to thatch than other St. Augustine varieties. It’s also not very cold tolerant. Chinch bugs love to munch on this grass type.
Floratine was released in 1959 by the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station for its somewhat finer texture and its color, which is a darker green than the common St. Augustine grass found in Florida during that time.
This is a purple stigma color variety. It also retains its dark green color long into the fall and was found to tolerate closer mowing than other St. Augustine varieties.
Texas Common St. Augustine
Texas Common St. Augustine is a variety grown and produced commercially in Texas since 1920.
It’s a typical white stigma type reported to be originating from the Gulf-Caribbean-West African region. This strain has been propagated vegetatively for more than a century.
ProVista St. Augustine
This is a newly developed Floratam variety designed for weed control and reduced mowing frequency as it has slow growth.
Although it grows slowly, it also grows dense and so is excellent for areas with foot traffic and households with kids and pets. It has an attractive rich, green color.
One of its main features is that it’s the first glyphosate-tolerant turfgrass available. This means that the homeowner can kill weeds like torpedo grass and Bermuda grass without damaging their ProVista lawn.
Mercedes St. Augustine
This cultivar of St. Augustine was developed in the 1980s by the University of Florida and looks quite similar to the Raleigh. It grows roots through stolon and in a rhizomatic way.
It’s tolerant to shade, drought, and moderate to high traffic. Its wear strength and recuperative potential are high.
Since it retains its blue-green color even when the temperatures become quite low, it’s popular among residential and commercial growers alike. However, one should remember that it’s very susceptible to chinch bugs.
Sapphire St. Augustine
Sapphire St. Augustine is known for its fastest lateral growth, which gives this grass a great recuperative potential and offers it the capability to revive blank spots and wear quicker than others.
This cultivar is also known for the best blue-green color of all the varieties.
Sapphire St. Augustine does well in subtropical climates and is extremely drought tolerant.
Bitter-Blue St. Augustine
Bitter-Blue is one of the earliest improved cultivars of St. Augustine grass.
It is finer, denser, and blue-greener. Although it’s quite resistant to cold and drought, it’s not as superior as Palmetto and Seville.
However, it’s salt tolerant and also can tolerate moderate foot traffic.
But it comes with a few drawbacks. It’s not resistant to chinch bugs and gray leaf spots. Therefore, although it’s a very good lawn cover, it needs high maintenance, including pest control.
Evergreen St. Augustine
Evergreen is a semi-dwarf variety of St. Augustine grass and is known for its shorter and narrower blades and plusher dark-green color.
As such, Evergreen is considered to be the most shade-tolerant St. Augustine, but it also thrives in full sun.
It’s also popular due to its good color retention. It could retain its green color quicker than other varieties after the winter cold. It’s also one of the few grass types that could turn to its color through fall. However, it cannot tolerate high foot traffic.
Delmar St. Augustine
Delmar St. Augustine has a distinct emerald green color and medium coarse texture. It has a fair shade tolerance and moderate drought tolerance.
When it goes dormant in the winter, it will become golden brown. However, it’s still the top St. Augustine cultivar regarding cold tolerance.
Once this grass establishes, it becomes low-maintenance. It has relatively fair wear and disease resistance. Overall, it’s a great choice for homeowners and commercial users.
Jade St. Augustine
Jade is a semi-dwarf variety of St. Augustine grass and has dark green color and good shade tolerance. But it’s susceptible to sod webworms, chinch bugs, brown patch disease, and is not very cold tolerant.
Captiva St. Augustine
Captiva too is a relatively new St. Augustine cultivar developed in 2007 by the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station.
It’s one of the slow-growing cultivars of St. Augustine grass and has short, narrow leaf blades and dark green color. It shows better resistance to the Southern chinch bugs than other cultivars.
Like many dwarf varieties, Captiva does better in the shade than standard varieties. It’s somewhat vulnerable to diseases like large patch and take-all root rot, especially if it’s provided excess fertilization or watering.
Although it has not been reportedly evaluated for shade tolerance, being a dwarf St. Augustine variety, it has better shade tolerance than standard cultivars. This cultivar needs to be mowed to a height of 2 – 2 ½ inches.
Harmony St. Augustine
Harmony St. Augustine grass varieties are grown by certified sod growers throughout the United States. Many of them are multi-generational farms with years of industry experience and farming knowledge and produce high-quality grasses.
This cultivar comes with a pale green color and dense growth habit. It has good heat and shade tolerance. It can also tolerate humidity and partial shade.
Moreover, its varieties are custom-matched according to the regional environment and style of use. Harmony St. Augustine is easy to maintain and retains its color year-round in frost-free climates.
Due to its vigorous growth habit, it’s great for high-traffic spaces. Once established, its water requirements are medium; however, it needs at least 4-6 hours of sunlight daily.
DeltaShade St. Augustine
DeltaShade is a standard St. Augustine cultivar with better shade tolerance than other standard St. Augustine cultivars, but not as good as the dwarf or the new semi-dwarf varieties.
It’s also known to withstand colder temperatures better than other cultivars. This is a proprietary cultivar released by Environmental Turf Inc. It needs regular mowing at heights of 3 ½ - 4 inches.
Floralawn St. Augustine
Floralawn St. Augustine was released in the mid-1980s by the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station. Its texture is coarse, and shade tolerance is poor. Although it’s not widely used today, it’s one of the few certified varieties available.
Amerishade St. Augustine
Amerishade St. Augustine is a semi-dwarf variety that can be maintained at a lower height of mowing than other St. Augustine cultivars (1 ½ - 2 inches). It produces a deep green lawn with good shade tolerance.
It has a slower growth rate than that of other varieties. Research says that it needs only two mowings per growing month. This cultivar is very susceptible to diseases and faces difficulty in recuperating from injury.
Which One is the Best St. Augustine Variety?
The best St. Augustine grass variety changes for every homeowner depending on their soil and climatic conditions.
If the homeowner lives in the south, Sapphire can be the best variety for them because it’s heat and drought tolerant, whereas, for a homeowner living in the north, where temperatures can drop to extreme levels, Raleigh can be the best variety. After all, it’s cold tolerant.
Fortunately, St. Augustine grass, no matter which type it is, grows into a dense, beautiful, and healthy lawn if the homeowner fulfills the maintenance needs of that particular cultivar.
These may include regular watering, fertilization, mowing, lawn aeration, and weed control to prevent water and soil nutrients competition.