How to Plant & Grow A Centipede Grass Lawn

This shade-friendly grass requires less mowing and feeding than most. Learn how to keep it looking great.

A Great Low-Maintenance Lawn

If you live in the Southeast, centipede grass is a good candidate for your lawn. It's a low-maintenance, heat-tolerant grass that prefers to grow in the acidic, sandy soils found throughout the Southeast from the Carolinas to the gulf coast of Texas. Outside of this area, the winters are too cold or the soil is too alkaline for centipede grass to survive. Centipede grass tolerates some shade and thrives in the shifting shade you find under pine trees. Also, it requires less mowing and fertilizer than other warm-season grasses. If you have a centipede grass lawn, here are a few tips to help you keep it looking great.

Planting Centipede Grass

New centipede grass lawns can be planted from seed or sod depending on your time and budget. The best time to start a centipedegrass lawn is late spring through early summer. Since centipede grass is a warm-season grass, the soil has to be good and warm (at least 70 degrees) before seeds will germinate. If you decide to start your lawn from seed, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a high-quality grass seed like 
    Scotts®Turf Builder®Grass Seed Centipede Grass Seed & Mulch
  2. Rake the planting area to loosen the top layer of soil and remove any dead grass and debris.
  3. Add a 1-inch layer of enriched soil like Scotts®Turf Builder®LawnSoil™ evenly over the area to help the seed settle in.
  4. Apply the grass seed using a spreader like the Scotts®Elite Spreader then gently rake the grass seed into the soil.
  5. For even better results, follow up with an application of Scotts®Turf Builder®Starter®Food for New Grass to give your new centipede grass seedlings the essential nutrients they need for fast growth.
  6. Watering is a critical step to seeding success. Be sure to keep the soil surface moist by lightly watering daily or as needed until the seedlings have reached at least 2 inches tall. For more information, check out our 
    in-depth watering article

Don't be alarmed if your centipede grass doesn't sprout right away. It can be a little slow to get started, taking anywhere from 10 to 28 days to germinate.

Maintaining A Centipede Grass Lawn

Mowing. Centipede grass should be maintained at 1½ to 2 inches tall -- any higher and you start to see excess thatch develop. Also, make sure your mower blade is nice and sharp for a good, clean cut and only remove the top ⅓ of the grass blades at any one time.

Avoid Excessive Foot Traffic. Centipede grass is not as durable as other lawn grass varieties. It can't handle a lot of wear and tear and recovers slowly when damaged.

Watering. Centipede grass tends to grow more of its roots in the upper soil level than some other grasses, and may turn brown sooner during prolonged periods of drought and extreme heat. Centipede grass should only be watered when you see wilting, rolling leaves or when the grass turns grayish-green. Then apply about an inch of water, which is enough to soak the soil 6 to 8 inches deep (where most turfgrass roots grow).

Feeding. Centipede grass lawns require very little nitrogen. In fact, too much fertilizer can harm them. Centipede grass should be fed once in mid-spring and again in mid-summer with a lawn food that releases its nutrients slowly over a 6 to 8 week period of time, like Scotts®Turf Builder®Southern Lawn Food.

Weed Control. If crabgrass is a common problem in your centipede grass lawn during the summer months, apply Scotts®Halts®Crabgrass & Grassy Weed Preventer in the early spring to prevent crabgrass for up to 4 months. If broadleaf weeds, like dollarweed and clover, are an issue, use Scotts®Turf Builder®Bonus®S Southern Weed & Feed

If you also have a problem with fire ants, use Scotts®Turf Builder®Southern Triple Action instead. When using a weed-and-feed product on a centipede grass lawn, make sure the lawn is completely out of its winter dormancy period and is actively growing before applying. A good rule of thumb is to wait until after your third mowing before applying a weed-and-feed product to centipede grass.

Bare Spot Repair. Too much wear and tear or prolonged drought can cause bare spots to form in your centipede grass lawn, creating a welcome mat for weeds to move in and take over. Fix bare areas in your lawn with Â®EZ Seed® Patch & Repair Centipede Grass. When properly cared for, it's guaranteed to grow grass in tough conditions, like those found in the Southeast.