Centipede Grass vs Bermuda Grass: Which One Should You Use?


The main question of homeowners that are planning to have a lawn: What grass should I use?

Because it’s so hard to choose!

The grass is such a vital part of the lawn because it dictates whether the lawn looks beautiful or not, or if the owner takes care of the lawn properly.

There’s a lot of choices out there. All of them can give off that lush beautiful lawn, just with the right condition, attitude, and even the right lawn care tools to help you.

You might have seen some of your neighbours use Bermuda grass on their lawn and got mesmerized.

But THEN you walk past by another nice yard with Centipede grass and said, “Wait for a second…”

I know. The struggle is real.

That’s why we’re here to help you. We narrowed your choices into two really good types and we will let you decide which is better.

Let the battle of Bermuda grass vs Centipede grass begin!

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Main Differences Between Bermuda Grass and Centipede Grass

  • Bermuda grass can tolerate high foot traffic while Centipede grass can’t.
  • Centipede grass can experience an iron deficiency in alkaline soil while Bermuda can tolerate growing in extreme soil conditions such as high pH and salinity.
  • Centipede grass, being coined as the “lazy man’s grass”, requires less mowing than Bermuda grass.

Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass is a go-to choice for homeowners because of its popularity. It’s a perennial grass that is commonly found in the warm regions, i.e., the southern parts of America. It is invasive in nature but presents a dense, lush lawn that’s very appealing to the eye.

You want that, right?

Thus, if you choose this one, it should be maintained properly.

Bermuda grass can be planted through seeds, unlike others that are commonly planted via sods. This is one slightly distinct characteristic of Bermuda grass. Meanwhile, it propagates through its stolons and rhizomes that are continuously creeping on and beneath the ground.

Bermuda Grass lawn

These typically grow in warm regions and are most active in hot climates. That being said, they are heat resistant and can thrive in full sunlight. They are very water-efficient because they can withstand tropical and subtropical climates without being watered often. A way to save the water bill!

It’s actually labeled as “supergrass” because of its resilience with regards to varying humidity, moisture, and soil properties. It is not only perfect for aesthetics, but also for raising animals. It has a deep root system and high tolerance to foot traffic, making it fun to do activities on. It’s also capable of recovering quickly in case of damage.

But here’s the thing…

Being used to the hot weather, Bermuda grass doesn’t show promise in colder areas. Its performance drops in colder climates and goes dormant in extremely low temperatures like during winter. This dormancy is its way of protecting itself and it causes the grass to change color from green to greyish-green.

Pros of Bermuda Grass

  • Resistance to heat and dryness.
  • Low water usage.
  • High tolerance of variated soil pH levels.
  • Tolerant to heavy foot traffic.
  • Recovers quickly from damage.
  • Can be mowed very short.

Cons of Bermuda Grass

  • Less tolerant of cold weather.
  • Goes dormant in cold weather.
  • Aggressive.
  • Not shade tolerant.

Characteristics, Growing Conditions, and Appearance

Bermuda grass grows dense and thick through summer or late spring. During this time, one distinct feature it has is the seed-head sitting at the top of the leaf which looks like a bird foot. It causes the grass to look fuzzy and it can be one concern if you want finer-looking grass!

Another feature of this type is its rough stolons that creep on the surface. As described earlier, Bermuda grass naturally has a green (darkish to be specific) color but when exposed to cool climates, it adds a greyish tint to the leaves.

In optimal growing conditions, Bermuda grass spread through its stolons and rhizomes. Stolons grow parallel to the surface and that’s where the leaves start to grow. Meanwhile, its rhizomes spread from under the surface and basically spreads out roots for the grass. The joint growth of these two allows the grass to quickly spread and cover patches on the lawn.

Another advantage of using Bermuda grass is its adaptability to soil conditions. Being a warm-season grass, it has thick and sturdy roots which can withstand varying soil pH. It grows with just the right amount of watering. The only way you can go wrong on this one is if you’ll give it too much water.

green front yard lawn of white house

But plants love water, don’t they?

Yes, that is correct, Bermuda grassroots are designed to absorb retain water for a long time. This is why they are perfect for dry seasons. Thus, controlled watering should be implemented. Read our article about proper lawn watering for more tips!

Aggression and Invasiveness of Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass is very aggressive in nature. They can spread quickly across and beyond the yard.

So, if not monitored and maintained properly, it could be chaotic!

The thick rhizomes, which are also present in other invasive grass species, allow them to propagate and seed easily through the soil while its stolons help it creep on the ground.

Its invasiveness becomes a problem when it grows in places where it’s not supposed to be such as walkways and garden beds. It can overrun other plants on the lawn which is why it is important to keep an eye on it.

Planting and Caring for Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass is fast to cultivate because it can be planted via seeds. You can broadcast or throw a bunch of them on different portions of the soon-to-be lawn, or you can use seed spreaders.

If you’re in a state that has extreme cold or wet seasons, you should remember to not sow during those times. Again, Bermuda grass is a warm-season type of grass. It needs the sun and the heat, so you should plant them during the optimal seasons of spring and summer.

To keep your turf looking lush and healthy, you should water it properly and apply lawn care techniques. Yes, it can withstand heat and dryness, but it doesn’t mean that if you don’t need to water it. During summer, you should provide 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week to keep it from drying.

One advantage of Bermuda grass is that it can be cut short. You can keep it as short as 1 inch not only to give off that clean look but to also prevent the grass from over-spreading.

But by mowing it regularly, you can cut off the seed heads that help its propagation (This is of course helpful if you’ve already covered the lawn and don’t want the grass to spread anymore). We also have other mowing tips for you to try.

Centipede Grass

Centipede grass is also one of the homeowners’ favorites mainly because of low maintenance. This grass originated in China and Southeast Asia. Since it can also propagate through seeds, it found its way to the US as early as 1916.

Compared to other species, Centipede grass requires far less attention and input. This makes it perfect for people with tight schedules. It also tolerates heat and sunlight effectively, thus, it is very suitable for warm and sunny regions.

Centipede Grass Closeup
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Centipede_Grass.JPG

However…

It requires more specific climate and soil requirements. Well, it has no problem at all being in hot climates, that’s for sure. Bermuda grass just couldn’t handle extremely cold climates. It loses its productivity and eventually doesn’t survive. This is why it is not a choice for people living in the northern regions of America.

Also, it favors sandy and acidic soils. Putting them in basic soil just impedes their growth or worse, if pH is much higher, it can be toxic to the plant.

Regarding water requirements, the grass being tolerant to heat does not equate to being drought resistant. Centipede grass’s roots grow thin and shallow, making it unable to retain much water for long periods. In times when there is little to no rainfall, it’s best to provide the amount that it needs.

Nevertheless, given the right conditions, Centipede grass is still a low-maintenance grass you can rely on.

Pros of Centipede Grass

  • Low maintenance and nutrient requirements.
  • Heat tolerance.
  • Aggressively outcompetes weeds.
  • Doesn’t require cutting as frequent as other grasses.
  • Thrives in full sun.
  • Relatively shallow root system.
  • Recovers from stress rapidly.

Cons of Centipede Grass

  • Sensitive to alkaline soil.
  • Does not tolerate high traffic.
  • Does not tolerate shade.
  • Does not tolerate standing water.

Characteristics, Growing Conditions, and Appearance

Centipede grass thrives in sandy soils with acidic pH ranging from 4.5 to 6.0. It is susceptible to iron deficiency if grown in soils of higher pH. This makes the leaves turn light yellow.

That’s not good, is it?

As a remedy, you can either treat the existing iron deficiency by supplying iron supplements or you can mitigate it through the source. This is by applying soil pH-lowering additives. Soil pH kits are widely available in the market if you need to test the pH of your lawn.

Warm-season grasses generally have a specific period of dormancy, i.e., during the winter. But that’s not the case with centipede grass because it doesn’t have a period of dormancy.

What does this mean?

It remains active and throughout the year. However, this is only favorable for regions with mild changes in climate. This lack of dormancy is dangerous to the plant if exposed to a cold winter climate. Long periods in 5°F or less are fatal for the grass.

Yes, it can endure damage and can recover after the compromising condition but frequent or recurrent damage can also kill the plant.

grass lawn in sunlight closeup

Aggression and Invasiveness of Centipede Grass

Centipede may be a slow grower, but it is aggressive to surrounding plants. It is actually listed as an invasive grass in Puerto Rico! It spreads easily via seeds and stolons and forms a thick mat of grass across the lawn.

However!

One advantage of this feature is that it can outcompete the weeds growing in the lawn.

Just like with other invasive grasses, proper monitoring is required for it to not wreak havoc on your lawn.

Planting and Caring for Centipede Grass

Seeding should be done in spring because it’s the season when it actively grows. Centipede grass can be planted in various ways: via seed, sod, or plugs. Whichever you choose, what you need to do first is to till the soil. If there’s existing grass on the land, you can either remove them with the help of a sod cutter or apply herbicide.

Isn’t this too much work?

Well, relatively, yes. Planting centipede grass involved a fair amount of labor but once it’s already established, it then only needs little maintenance. Common maintenance practices like watering and fertilizing can be done seldomly.

You can water your grass only if it shows signs of water stress, especially during drought. These signs of water stress can show as the fading of the color of grass or it appearing wilted.

Meanwhile, fertilizing can be done once every spring and once every fall. Apply nitrogen-rich fertilizer during these times and those times only! Fertilizing more than the recommended times would only compromise the health of centipede grass.

Centipede Grass vs Bermuda Grass Comparison Chart

ParameterCentipedeBermuda
Sunlight6-7 hrsAt least 6 hrs
Shade TolerantNoNo
TemperatureWarmWarm
Water1 – 1.25″/week1″/week
Soil pH5.0 – 6.05.8 – 7.0
Soil QualityLoose/SandySandy/Clay
Fertilization1 – 2 lbs/1,000SF/Yr2 – 4 lbs/1,000SF/Y
Fertilizer Mix15-0-1530-0-5
Traffic ToleranceVery LittleHigh
Safe HerbicidesSethoxydim2,4-D & Trimec
Salt ToleranceModerateModerate

FAQ

Will Bermuda grass take over Centipede grass?

Both types of grass are invasive in nature, so mixing the two will not be efficient. One will always outcompete the other.

Is it Bermuda grass or Centipede grass that will takeover?

Hypothetically, if you mix them in your lawn and leave them unmaintained, Bermuda grass will definitely overtake the lawn. It will outcompete the centipede grass in nutrient uptake and eventually kill the Centipede grass. This is aside from the fact that Bermuda grass grows faster than Centipede grass.

Which is the better grass?

Now that you already know a lot about Bermuda and Centipede grass, I bet you’ve already decided which one you prefer between the two.

Still not sure?

To declare a champion in the match of Bermuda Grass vs Centipede Grass, we must look at some important factors.

Both Bermuda grass and Centipede grass can be considered durable since they can withstand high temperatures. However, there are some notable differences between the two:

Bermuda grass can withstand drought, unlike Centipede grass. This is due to the difference in their root system, Bermuda’s is thick and deep which allows it to store more water over time while Centipede is shallow and thin.

Once established in the lawn, Bermuda grass can endure heavy foot traffic while Centipede can only take lighter as it can be harmed easily.

These two require full sunlight for active growth but in cases where shade is inevitable, Centipede grass is more tolerant.

Summary

So, the moment you’ve been waiting for. The winner of the battle between Bermuda grass and Centipede grass is…

Up to you!

Both types of grass can be suitable for your lawn but choose the one that is more suitable for your time, energy, and resources. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that may or may not be applicable to your situation.

But now knowing that you have plenty of knowledge of the two, I believe you can make the right decision.

Wanna learn about more types of grass? Read our articles about Zoysia vs Bermuda, Centipede vs St Augustine, and Centipede vs Zoysia.

Let us know what you chose and why! Happy gardening!

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.

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