How to Spread Your Centipede Grass

Close up photo of centipede grass
Discovering how to make centipede grass spread in a healthy manner depends on several factors, including soil pH and proper fertilization and watering. | Shutterstock, © Craig Russell

Centipede grass is a popular choice for many homeowners’ lawns because it is low maintenance. Able to tolerate drought, high heat and infrequent mowing, centipede grass is especially popular in the coastal plains, where these kinds of soil and lawn conditions are prevalent. 

Once this warm-season grass has been established in your yard, it requires very little attention. Until then, using a professional lawn care service to fertilize your centipede grass is the best way to keep it healthy and growing. The reviews team has conducted extensive research, evaluating service plans, costs, customer reviews and more to help you find the best professional lawn care company. 

The reviews team’s recommendation for the best professional lawn care service is TruGreen. To receive a free estimate for fertilization and other lawn care services, call TruGreen at 877-820-0392 or fill out an easy form.

In This Article

Today’s Homeowner works with an independent reviews team to create evidence-based research that helps our readers make informed decisions. The reviews are always independent. For transparency, we may be compensated if you purchase through a link.

Centipede Grass Basics

Similar in appearance to St. Augustine grass, centipede grass is a coarse, light-green grass that spreads across your lawn via stems referred to as “runners.” The runners sprout new grass blades and roots that anchor the grass to the ground. As the centipede grass spreads, the lawn thickens, until you have a nice, green, low-maintenance lawn.

Pros and Cons of Centipede Grass

Centipede grass is a favorite of lawn owners in the Southeast because it has a high heat tolerance and low maintenance requirements.

Here are some interesting facts about centipede grass: 

  • Prefers low-phosphorus, sandy soils
  • Grows slowly, so it does not require frequent mowing
  • Can grow in areas of light shade
  • Is drought-resistant and heat-resistant

Centipede grass does have very specific soil and climate requirements that limit its application in other areas of the country.

  • It is sensitive to alkaline soil
  • It doesn’t do well in colder climates
  • Heavy foot traffic can cause a great deal of damage to the lawn
  • Allowing it to grow too high can harm your lawn

Due to its soil and climate requirements, centipede grass thrives in the Southern Coastal Plains, the Carolinas, the Texas Gulf Coast and areas with similar climates that typically experience warm winters. The soil in these areas is also conducive to the growth of centipede grass, whereas the soil in the Southwest is too alkaline to support the health of centipede grass lawns.

Spreading Your Centipede Grass

Low maintenance does not equal no maintenance, especially when you’re trying to figure out how to make centipede grass spread. There are several lawn maintenance tasks you must undertake when first attempting to grow a healthy centipede grass lawn:  

Mowing — Although centipede grass grows rather slowly, it still requires mowing at times. Keep the grass level at 1 to 1.5 inches. If the grass is allowed to grow taller than that, it can suffer deterioration. Be sure the lawnmower blades are sharp or they will tear the grass rather than cut it cleanly.

Weeding Weeding may be needed if the lawn hasn’t received proper lawn care for a while. Apply an herbicide in early spring to prevent new weed growth, and then again as needed to control and prevent weeds. There are herbicides designed especially for centipede grass. 

Watering — Many areas of the coastal plains receive enough rainfall during the spring and summer to keep centipede grass healthy, but watering may be needed during dry winter months. The lawn should also be watered if you begin to notice signs of dehydration, such as the grass blades starting to curl and change color.

Thatching — Centipede grass produces thatch, which is a combination of shed stems, roots and other lawn debris. There can be excessive thatch if the lawn is over-fertilized or watered too much, or if the centipede grass is allowed to grow too tall.

Thatch is harmful to your lawn because it can create a barrier between the grass and the soil. The grassroots grow into the thatch instead of the soil, and because thatch dries out much quicker than soil does, it can affect the health of the lawn. Additionally, thatch can prevent fertilizers and pesticides from reaching the soil.

To prevent and reduce the accumulation of thatch on your lawn, you can apply a top dressing composed of a thin layer of organic matter that helps to break down thatch. A dethatching rake can be used on small lawns. For large lawns, dethatching machines are available, though dethatching and top dressings are lawn maintenance tasks better suited to professional lawn care companies.

Aerating — Core aeration is also a strong preventive measure to control thatch. Aeration allows water and air to reach the roots and maintain the health of your lawn. A large core aeration machine typically requires some training to use it properly, so it’s also better left to the professionals. 

Fertilizing — Proper fertilization is important for the healthy growth of centipede grass. You should conduct a soil test before you apply fertilizer so that you can be sure you purchase and apply the right kind. Once centipede grass is established, it only requires a light application of fertilizer once a year. A slow-release fertilizer is also recommended because it will reduce the chances of over-fertilization.

The ideal soil pH for centipede grass is 5.5. A soil pH of 6.0 or higher can be detrimental to centipede grass and needs to be corrected before the centipede grass can grow and spread. You can apply sulfur to lower alkalinity and provide better soil conditions for centipede grass. It can take some time for soil changes to occur, so you may have to be patient if you need a large adjustment. 

Fertilizer calculations are especially important during the early stages of centipede grass growth. The size of your lawn and the current soil pH are also important factors in these calculations. It can be a difficult task to achieve the proper balance without ample experience in lawn care.

Seeing Results

Growing a centipede grass lawn takes time. The grass will grow slowly over the first year or two, but if you remain patient and ensure that the soil maintains the proper pH for centipede grass, the grass will spread quickly by the third year.

Seeding should be done during the months of April to July when the weather is warm enough for the seeds to germinate. Germination can take two to four weeks under ideal conditions.

Using Professional Lawn Care Services 

There can be some difficulty establishing a centipede grass lawn, but the results are well worth it. Many homeowners opt for the services of a professional lawn care company because of the initial preparation of the soil and maintenance required to encourage the healthy growth of centipede grass.

With a professional lawn care company handling your lawn maintenance, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you are applying the right amount of fertilizer, or if you’ve even purchased the right kind. Lawn care specialists will make sure that your soil and lawn receive the proper treatments and care throughout the seasons, saving you a great deal of time, effort and money.

Purchasing all the fertilizer, lawn care products and equipment yourself can quickly add up to a significant cost, whereas these materials are often included in the cost of a lawn care service plan. 

Professional Lawn Care Services Cost

There are several factors that will contribute to the cost of professional lawn care services. These include:

  • Types of services — Some companies offer comprehensive service plans; others offer a la carte services based on the individual needs of your lawn.
  • Company you choose — Some companies may be more expensive than others, but opting for a cheaper company may mean sacrificing experience and professionalism.
  • Area you live in — Prices vary according to the region due to climate conditions that could cause your lawn to require more maintenance.
  • Size of your lawn — Larger lawns require more maintenance and treatments.
  • Health of your lawn — A lawn in bad shape will require extra services and treatment to restore its health.

Top Pick: TruGreen

The reviews team has conducted thorough research of professional lawn care companies to determine the best option for homeowners. Based on service plan offerings, lawn care and maintenance costs, customer reviews and more, the team has selected TruGreen as the top choice.

TruGreen’s Offerings

TruGreen offers five service plans that include lawn treatments such as lawn fertilizing, soil aeration, weed control and more:

TruSignature TruComplete TruHealth TruMaintenance TruNatural
• 8 visits per year
• Fertilizer
• Aeration
• Weed control
• Lime amendment
• Tree and shrub care
• 8 visits per year
• Fertilizer
• Aeration
• Weed control
• Lime amendment
• 8 visits per year
• Weed control
• Lime amendment
• 7 visits per year
• Fertilizer
• Aeration
• Weed control
• 8 visits per year
• Organic fertilizer
• Non-chemical weed control
• Broadleaf weed control available upon request

TruGreen also has the TruGreen Healthy Lawn Guarantee®, promising that its lawn care specialists will return to your property as often as needed to ensure all treatments are effective.

The company will adjust the pH level of your soil using lime, sulfur and other micronutrients. The goal is to achieve the perfect balance for centipede grass as well as maximize the effectiveness of other treatments.

TruGreen uses a slow-release formula to apply just the right amount of nutrients to encourage healthy lawn growth and maintain your soil pH. The lawn care company provides services at various points throughout the year. Fertilizer is adjusted according to the seasons to maintain optimal grass growth conditions.

TruGreen Locations

TruGreen has locations nationwide, with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. There are multiple locations in each of the other 48 states, making it easy to find a TruGreen service location near you.

To schedule an appointment or request a free estimate for TruGreen lawn care services, contact a lawn care specialist at 877-820-0392 or fill out the easy form.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for centipede grass to grow?

Seed germination should take two to four weeks, and then, depending upon the size of your lawn, it can take several years for centipede grass to spread. Centipede grass grows slowly, especially during the first year or two. Then it will spread rather quickly as it becomes more established.

How do you revive centipede grass?

It depends on what has damaged the centipede grass. Cold, disease, lawn pests, foot traffic, thatch, high soil pH and overwatering are all culprits that could damage your lawn. Consult with a lawn care professional to determine the problem and the best solution.

How do you encourage centipede grass to spread?

Encouraging centipede grass to spread requires proper maintenance. This includes mowing, dethatching, maintaining an optimal soil pH of 5.5 and proper fertilizing and watering. The right type and amount of fertilizer are especially important to maintain centipede grass health and encourage growth and spreading.

Can you walk on centipede grass?

Centipede grass can thrive in conditions that are detrimental to other grasses but cannot stand up to medium and heavy foot traffic. Avoid walking on centipede grass lawns when possible. Heavy riding mowers can also damage centipede grass.

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