Bahia Grass vs St. Augustine Grass – Which one is Better?


There is no doubting that both Bahia grass and St. Augustine are great choices for your garden; they are valued for their strength and durability as well as heat resistance.

Obviously, you’ll never find that one turf that suits all circumstances, and that goes for Bahia grass and St. Augustine alike.

However, these grasses are both pretty top-notch and depending on what you’re looking for in a grass these can both offer some great advantages.

If you struggle with picking a grass species perfect for your needs and wants, and you’re considering either Bahia grass or St. Augustine, read on to discover the main differences between the two as well as their pros and cons!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you shop through the links on YardThyme, we may earn an affiliate's commission from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. For more information, read full disclosure here.

Key Differences Between Bahia Grass and St. Augustine Grass

  • Bahia grass is more drought resistant than St. Augustine due to its deeper root system.
  • Augustine grass can require more maintenance than Bahia grass.
  • Augustine is known to be more aggressive in its growing behavior than Bahia grass.

Bahia Grass

Bahia grass can be found in warmer locations along the southern states of America as well as in Hawaii, too. Whilst predominantly limited in terms of popularity in these areas, this grass type offers great drought and heat resistance as well as a durability and low maintenance.

At a glance, Bahia grass is a tough cookie: it is a warm season perennial grass species that thrives in the summer. It’s great for gardens exposed to full sunlight and restricted water accessibility due to its extensive roots that grow deep into the soil. It is favorable along the Gulf Coast as well as deep south as it is unopposed to variating soil pH levels as well as nutrient content.

Bahia grass
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paspalum_notatum_habit3_%287391321372%29.jpg

Originally used as a pasture grass when first introduced to America, this species of lawn is now widely used in agriculture, conservation, and erosion control programs as it can sustain itself when grown in compromising conditions.

Alongside its most common uses, Bahia grass is accepted as a great lawn choice for those with acreage or large garden spaces in general.

This warm-season grass forms deep roots which allows it to sustain better in sandy or infertile soils. It generally requires low maintenance and little water to keep it happy and healthy as well as needing very infrequent fertilization – an all-around winner for busy homeowners!

Bahia grass grows low and outwardly from stolons and the blades contain unsightly seed-heads that aid it in reseeding itself when they drop, however, this can be reduced with regular mowing.

As this is a summer season grass, it ideally needs to be sown in the Springtime for it to flourish in the summer heat. Whilst it can survive mild winters, when faced with the winter frost, Bahia grass becomes dormant and can turn brown.

Pros of Bahia Grass

  • Well-adjusted to infertile soils.
  • Suppresses weeds once established.
  • Very little pest and disease issues.
  • Fair shade tolerance.

Cons of Bahia Grass

  • Near woody stolons can be an issue for lawn mowers as they can cause dull blades.
  • Not as thick and dark green as many other warm season grasses.
  • Slow rate of establishment.

Characteristics, Growing Conditions and Appearance

Bahia grass can be grown through seed or sod and is known to have a longer growth period than other grass types; this slow growth rate can sometimes cause weed issues in early establishment, however, is short lived once matured.

This species of grass creates a dense mat due to its stolons that allow it to grow low and close to the soil. The stems of this grass lay flush to the ground and held in place by its thick and fibrous roots.

house with green lawn frontyard

The blades of this grass start short when young, however, can reach a height of 30cm when fully grown. These blades contain seed-heads that drop and propagate themselves, causing this grass to have an invasive aspect if left unmaintained.

Whilst Bahia grass prefers to grow in nutrient rich soils which are well-drained as well as acidic, it can also thrive in sandy or clay soils that are less fertile. The only preference that this grass has is that it is not well adapted to alkaline soils.

Aggression and Invasiveness

Whilst this grass is not among the MOST invasive of the grasses, it does have some invasive attributes.

When grown in ideal environments, such as in fertile soils, Bahia grass can grow rapidly at a rate of 70cm per week and if left unmaintained, can become very invasive.

Quick tip: This plant is also a prolific seed producer which adds to its invasiveness as the seeds, once dropped, can propagate themselves and spread further.

Bahia grass can suffocate weeds due to its thick carpeted texture. This allows it to be aggressive in its environment as some plant species aren’t able to cultivate once Bahia grass has established itself.

Planting and Caring for Bahia Grass

Bahia grass can be grown through either sod or seed and requires little attention as it is usually very self-sufficient. The seeds can self-propagate when dropped onto the soil and although it is a slow process from there, the grass can easily sustain itself into maturity.

The best and most appealing part of this grass is its low management requirements!

Bahia grass is relatively low maintenance with the lowest rate of disease and pest issues compared to other warm season grasses. This grass does best when fertilized monthly and is not as needy as grasses such as Bermuda, which requires a heftier maintenance schedule.

Regular lawnmowing and care of Bahia grass, using the correct method, improves forage quality as well as stimulates growth, though it is known that mowing this grass can be difficult due to its woody stems.

Proper maintenance will aid in curbing its invasive behavior through proper watering techniques, to regular mowing.

St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine is a perennial warm season grass found natively in South and North America as well as in the Caribbean, too. This grass species makes for a great garden turf due to its heavy traffic threshold and weather-resistant qualities.

St. Augustine, or “Buffalo” grass, is known for its coarse texture and density which create a bounce when walked on. The strength of this grass is very much due to the thick carpet it creates which helps the plant to absorb and retain water better, allowing it to perform great as a heat and drought resistant option for many homeowners.

St augustine grass closeup
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Staugustinegrass.JPG#file

This grass finds hotter weather conditions favorable, therefore, is the definitive turf choice in Florida and central Texas where gardens are more likely to be exposed to full sunlight. Because of this preference, the location range of St. Augustine grass decreases as it reaches further north as it struggles to cope in cold weather.

As with many warm-season grasses, St. Augustine thrives due to its deep-root system which gives it its capability to survive with bouts of drought. This grass only grows through stolons – not rhizomes – which can grow to be several feet long and root at the nodes.

This growing behavior means this grass can become invasive if not maintained.

Pros of St. Augustine Grass

  • Grows well in basically any soils type across the south.
  • Really great shade tolerance when compared to Centipede grass or Bermuda grass.
  • Can stay green all year if the soil temperatures stay above 60℉, it has a higher threshold than most warm-season grasses when exposed to cold weather.

Cons of St. Augustine Grass

  • Coarse texture makes it unsuitable for golf courses and homeowners who prefer softer and finer grass types.
  • Has a high risk of experiencing lawn disease and insect issues.
  • Prone to thatch which can hinder the health of your lawn.

Characteristics, Growing Conditions and Appearance

St. Augustine has many variations; however, they all have similar characteristics in terms of behavior and maintenance requirements.

These grasses are a popular choice for a reason: they are definitely not fussy!

The soil in which St. Augustine thrives best is obviously preferred to be fertile, however, can actually also grow well in sandy soils as well as clay soils with a high range of pH levels ranging from 5 to 8.5, talk about versatility!

Another bonus of this grass is its high shade tolerance.

Quick tip: Unlike many warm season grasses such as Bermuda, St. Augustine can grow in areas of as little as 40% sunlight exposure, allowing it to survive in the cooler seasons.

Many grass types grow through stolons as well as rhizomes, however, St. Augustine can only be established through stolons. These stolons are thick as hardy which make it a great garden turn for those who want a grass that can sustain heavy foot traffic; however, the only downfall is that because it doesn’t have the rhizomes for extra support, this grass may take longer to repair itself after damage.

Propagation of St. Augustine is through stolons, plugs or sods and when in its early establishment – around 7 to 10 days after planting – it does require some help in terms of care and maintenance, however, once it have matured and created stability in the soil, it can spread and propagate via its stolons on its own.

St. Augustine is very popular due to its vibrant and fresh color that can last for months. Its unique blue-green shade is an attraction to those who want a fresh – and healthy – looking lawn for long periods of time, but in winter this grass does have the risk of running into a certain level of dormancy when growth slows down, and the grass color fades.

Aggression and Invasiveness

Compared to other grass species, such as Bermuda and Kikuyu grass, St. Augustine is in the “low-risk” category of invasive grasses.

This is mostly attributed due to the fact that it spreads from stolons only, where as majority of grasses are assisted through growing with rhizomes too.

modern house on green lawn

Whilst this grass is not aggressive by nature, it can block out weeds and also suffocate other plants that try to cultivate within it. This is down to its close and tight growth habit basically creates no room left for any other unwanted plants to sprout.

Planting and Caring for St. Augustine Grass

Sod, plugs, and stolons are the main ways in which this grass can be grown. When it is first laid, it is important that it is watered steadily for up to a week as this will create the foundation in which the roots can grow, after that this grass is pretty good in surviving with little water as it is great at retaining when it does get!

As I said above, the soil type is not a massive factor that dictates the health of this grass as it is really great in a variety of habitats, on top of this, this lawn is pretty much self-sustaining in that it is very low maintenance: needing mowing once a week or even two weeks with a rotary mower if possible (read more about the best lawn mowers for your needs), and fertilization is only needed once a month in spring and summer, its peak growing period.

St. Augustine grass, like Zoysia grass, can have a thatch issue due to its density. This can be solved through aeration using a garden fork or a rolling aerator. Other lawn care tools that can help prevent thatch problems include dethatching rakes and vertical mowers.

Other than that, caring for St. Augustine grass is pretty straight forward and doesn’t require a lot of effort.

Which One is Better – Bahia Grass or St. Augustine?

So, you’ve read up to here and you want to know which one is better?

I’ll tell you…

In my opinion, choosing which one is better depends on the type of grass you prefer; Bahia grass is known to be softer and lighter under the feet whereas St. Augustine can be rather coarse or rough.

If you’re choosing based on which one is cheaper – Bahia grass or St. Augustine – the average cost between them differs by around $115 per pallet of sod, with Bahia grass being cheaper.

They’re both so similar in terms of usefulness that deciding is definitely difficult, but you’ll have to consider the pros and cons of each to decide what you like best.

I have a particular liking towards Bahia grass as I find that it has all the great aspects of St. Augustine – and other warm-season grasses such as Zoysia – plus more! It is soft, dense and has that really great green color that shows health in a lawn. It out-grows weeds so you don’t really have to worry about that PLUS it has very few pest and disease problems!

Summary

St. Augustine and Bahia grass are both great lawn choices if you live in hotter climates and want a low maintenance yard, which, let’s be real, don’t we all?

St. Augustine is more commonly found in the south than Bahia grass but they both share some similarities in that they’re low maintenance, not fussy about their living arrangements and also relatively non-invasive so, really, they are both great choices for your garden!

Bahia and St. Augustine are great, but what do you think; which one is better?

I look forward to hearing your experience with these grass species as well as which one you thought won the debate!

Until next time…

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

Recent Content