So you’re looking for a fair-weather grass…
Aka: a grass that likes warm weather.
And when it comes to choosing which grass is best, you stumble upon the St Augustine vs Zoysia grass debate:
Which grass is better and why?
Trying to figure this out can put most people in a bit of a pickle.
Well, no need to fret friends.
I have compiled an all-inclusive guide on the differences between Zoysia and St Augustine grass and explained which is best in different scenarios. After taking a good look at the pros and cons of each, you’ll be well on your way to making a decision.
So let’s get started…
- What is The Difference Between Zoysia and St Augustine Grass?
- St Augustine Grass
- Zoysia Grass
- St Augustine Grass or Zoysia Grass – Which is Better?
- Will Zoysia Take Over St Augustine?
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What is The Difference Between Zoysia and St Augustine Grass?
Here’s a summary of the main differences:
- Zoysia grass is greyish-green and has a finer texture, while St. Augustine grass is blue-green with a coarser texture.
- While both kinds of grass tolerate light shade, St Augustine is better at tolerating higher levels of shade.
- Zoysia can withstand higher traffic and injury, and St Augustine tends to take longer to recover from wear and tear.
- Zoysia grass requires less maintenance than St Augustine grass, although this does change depending on the region.
Now let’s unpack some of these differences between Zoysia and St Augustine grass and see which grass comes out on top?
Starting with our first contestant:
St Augustine Grass
St Augustine is a warm-season grass that goes dormant in colder conditions and will start to turn green in early spring.
Also known as Buffalo Turf, Carpetgrass, or Charleston grass, this grass originated from the shores of the Atlantic ocean. It occurs throughout tropical to subtropical regions, found along the seashores of Africa, Australia, and south-east Asia.
While it’s a seasoned traveler, St Augustine also ranks high on aesthetic appeal! It is a low-lying grass with broad blades, that starts to resemble a thick, green carpet.
Coming in a range of different colors, from emerald-green and blue-green to medium green.
St Augustine is also a popular lawn for growing in the warmer Southern states, as well as along the coastal areas of the United States.
There are 11 common varieties of St Augustine, with some new cultivars available. Each variety differs in terms of its cold, disease, and insect resistance.
Pros of St Augustine Grass
- More shade tolerant.
- Higher pH and salt tolerance.
- Less mowing is required.
- Doesn’t need dethatching.
Cons of St Augustine Grass
- More vulnerable to drought.
- Requires more fertilization.
- Less resistant to heavy traffic, taking a long time to recover.
- More susceptible to diseases and pests.
Growing Conditions and Characteristics
St. Augustine doesn’t produce many seeds and so it spreads vegetatively, mainly through long, arching stolons. This growth pattern enables it to keep weeds out of the lawn.
You can easily identify St Augustine grass, as it consists of broad blades, with circular tips and large, thick stems.
It’s also not a fussy grass:
As it tolerates high heat and is not picky when it comes to soil types. It does however prefer sandy and loamy soils, with good drainage. Due to its common occurrence on the coast, it can also handle high salt concentrations.
St Augustine grass is very drought-resistant.
It stays green longer in colder weather and is the most shade tolerant out of all the warm-season grasses.
Wondering about other shade-tolerant grasses?
Then check out this article on one of the best shade-tolerant grasses for cold climates: Zoysia vs Fescue Grass.
Treatment and Planting Care
St. Augustine grass requires moderate levels of maintenance.
In terms of mowing, you can often leave it for up to two weeks without mowing. To get the best out of your St Augustine lawn, aim to keep it at 2-4 inches.
It doesn’t mind too much about soil pH and tends to grow in soils between 5.0 to 8.5. St Augustine does however require higher nitrogen inputs.
If you’re planting a new St Augustine lawn, it is common to plant using plugs, sods, or sprigs in early spring or late summer. But, planting from seed is also possible.
If you want St Augustine to thrive, it will need regular fertilizing and watering within the first three months of planting. After that, it should get on and do its thing!
However in very dry areas, with sandy soils, it will need regular watering throughout its growth.
Then it doesn’t like getting cold!
Each fall it will start dying and will turn a brown color by winter. During fall you’ll need to fertilize and deal with any common pests, fungus, or weeds that might affect your lawn.
When applying fertilizers, it’s best to check with a local expert on which one should be applied for your region.
A common fungus to look out for in your St Augustine lawn is Grey-leaf Spot and Large Patch.
This leads us to the next thing:
Depending on your location, St Augustine can be highly susceptible to different types of pests and diseases.
Now weeds are not always an issue for St Augustine grass, but broad-leaf weeds and common lawn weeds can sometimes rear their ugly heads. When they do, you can apply either a commercial weed killers or pet-friendly weed killer.
Here’s a clip on all you need to know about fall maintenance for St Augustine grass:
Should you dethatch a St Augustine lawn?
Dethatching St Augustine is not so common and can cause damage to the lawn.
It doesn’t usually need dethatching due to its high concentration of stolons that allow it to push through the thatch. However, if there is a build of thatch, you can look at vertical mowing.
A build of thatch in could be a sign of not enough mowing or that it’s receiving too much nitrogen.
Aggressiveness and Invasiveness
St Augustine can be invasive and aggressive, depending on the location.
Give it warm, salty, and poor quality soil and it will take off!
St Augustine is classified as a pioneer grass in warmer regions of the globe and typically grows into a dense sward. This growth pattern will often prohibit other plants from growing.
In Australia and New Zealand, it’s considered an environmental weed and is known for invading roadsides, grasslands, gardens, swamps, riverbanks, and coastal regions.
St Augustine is cheaper when it comes to installing grass sods or seeds. It usually costs between$0.35 to $0.75 per square foot or $160 to $340 per pallet.
When installing sods you won’t need to apply any fancy extras, besides a basic soil mix.
To help it grow, you will need to fertilize from spring to fall, with 1 pound of nitrogen every 30 to 60 days.
Right, onto our next contestant:
Zoysia took a long boat ride to be with us today:
Coming from the Far East, way back in the early 1900s, from countries such as China, Japan, and the Philippines. It was first brought over by a botanist who found it growing in abundance on the seashores.
What a great idea, and to think of all the varieties we have today!
Zoysia grass is a much finer textured grass than St Augustine grass and has a greyish-green tinge to the blades.
There is also a wide range of Zoysia colors available on the market today, from dark green, emerald green to light green.
It’s a warm-season grass, meaning that it doesn’t tolerate cold weather very well. Zoysia will remain green in warm, wet, and dry weather and starts to turn brown and enter dormancy in fall.
This grass is slightly slower at growing after being dormant, and will only turn green in late spring.
Zoysia is also highly drought-tolerant. If you experience a prolonged dry spell, it will go dormant and then start growing again after some rainfall.
Pros of Zoysia Grass
- Highly drought tolerant.
- Tolerates a wider range of soils.
- More tolerant to heavy traffic.
- Less fertilizer is needed.
- Chokes out more weeds.
Cons of Zoysia Grass
- Slow to spread and cover soil.
- Lower tolerance to shade.
- Requires more mowing.
- Requires dethatching.
Growing Conditions and Characteristics
Zoysia has a medium-thick grass blade that grows into a soft, green carpet. It spreads by both stolons and rhizomes and will create a soft, spongy feeling throughout the lawn.
I know what you’re thinking:
Very inviting to roll in and practice those angel-wings, if you ask me!
Having both stolons and rhizomes, makes Zoysia highly drought-resistant, more so than St Augustine Grass. This is also because of its deeper root system.
Due to its particular growth pattern, Zoysia ranks higher on injury recovery and tolerance to foot traffic. You will also notice that it’s slightly better at keeping the weeds out of the lawn, in comparison to St Augustine grass.
Zoysia isn’t very fussy when it comes to soil preferences. It can grow in clay, loamy, and sandy soils, including soils with high salt concentrations.
Then Zoysia adores the sun and can tolerate a light amount of shade.
This might sound similar to St Augustine grass, however, Zoysia will not tolerate higher levels of shade as much as St Augustine.
You can also see the differences between Zoysia vs Bermuda Grass.
Treatment and Planting Care
If you’re planting from scratch, it’s best to plant Zoysia in late spring or early spring, once the days are warmer and the threat of frost is out of the way.
Zoysia is a slower growing grass and therefore it’s common to grow it from sod, sprig, or plug. You can however grow from seed as well.
A Zoysia lawn will require less maintenance than St Augustine grass. But, this may differ depending on your unique climate and location.
In some cases, Zoysia will need more maintenance.
Zoysia won’t need as much nitrogen or fertilizer. This should be applied in spring when the grass starts to turn green. But make sure to check with a local professional about when and how to fertilize in your particular area.
Zoysia likes staying shorter and so will naturally require more mowing overall. Aim to keep it cut at 0.5 to 2 inches. During the growing season, this means you’ll likely cut it once a week.
Zoysia grows in a broader pH range, ranging from 5.8 to 7.0.
It can also survive without water for long periods but will require at least 1 inch of water per week. Make sure you water deeply and infrequently.
Related reading: How to Water Your Lawn: A Step-By-Step Guide.
What are some common pests and diseases for Zoysia lawn?
Keep a lookout for the following pests: Chinch Bugs and Billbugs. While Brown Spot, Rust, and Leaf Spot are some of the common diseases.
For these, you’ll need to apply an insecticide and a fungicide.
Then thatch is known for building up in Zoysia lawns. So every year in early spring, you will need to aerate and dethatch your lawn. Due to its thick growth, Zoysia grass can survive regular dethatching.
After dethatching, you will need to keep an eye on sections of bare soil- water these regularly and give it ample time to recover.
Aggressiveness and Invasiveness
It all depends on the particular variety of Zoysia grass.
The finer Zoysias are less invasive. Due to their slow growth habit, they are less likely to outcompete other grasses.
However other varieties, such as your Palisade Zoysia are more aggressive and will invade garden beds.
These faster-growing Zoysias often occur in areas where other plants and grasses struggle to grow.
Zoysia grass will cost more than St Augustine grass.
This is due to the higher input required when preparing the soil. To encourage the healthy growth of Zoysia grass, you will need to incorporate a mix of silica sand and Canadian peat.
You can expect Zoysia to cost between $180 to $270 per pallet or $0.40 to $0.60 per square foot.
St Augustine Grass or Zoysia Grass – Which is Better?
Up to now, we’ve looked at the main differences between Zoysia and St Augustine grass.
So which do you think is better for your lawn?
Both grass contestants are similar in some ways and vastly different in others. I think it all comes down to your preferences and which type of grass will suit your yard and climate the best.
If you’re starting a new lawn, here it is in a nutshell:
Plant St. Augustine Grass if:
- You have well-drained, more fertile soils, with consistent rainfall and more shade.
- This means you’ll need to factor in a regular fertilization program, and more management over pests and diseases.
Plant Zoysia Grass if:
- You have lower-quality soils, with lower moisture, and higher levels of traffic, that tend to become compacted.
- This means you’ll need to mow and dethatch more regularly. Fertilizing, including pest and disease management, will be necessary, but not as frequent.
I found Zoysia to be the best type of grass for my lawn.
This is mainly due to its wider versatility and higher tolerance to pests and disease.
Even though it means a bit more mowing, if kept in good condition, Zoysia grass has never let me down.
In some regions, however, St Augustine grass is the better option.
Will Zoysia Take Over St Augustine?
It all depends on the particular cultivar of grass. Some Zoysia varieties are more aggressive and will push St Augustine out, especially in low-quality soils with poor drainage.
However, in shadier areas, St Augustine can also push Zoysia grass out.
Some finer Zoysias are slower growing and will generally not push other grasses out like St Augustine.
Drum roll, please!
St Augustine vs Zoysia. Which do YOU prefer?
Figuring this out may be easy or it may take some time.
The first step is to do a soil test and to go from there. It might be worth getting a professional in to show you whether St Augustine grass or Zoysia grass is the best for your yard.
Either way, the ‘yard is your oyster!
Just get out there and see what works as there are so many types of grass seed to choose from overall, not just these two.
If you have anything to share on the different experiences you’ve had with St Augustine or Zoysia grass, let us know in the comments section below.
Until next time, happy gardening.