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Can Centipede Grass Be Planted in the Fall?

Can Centipede Grass Be Planted in the Fall?

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Paul Brown

Centipede grass, or eremochloa ophiuroides, is a common grass choice for low-maintenance lawn owners, especially here in the south where I live. I’ve seeded it, I’m laid centipede sod, and I have always been satisfied with the turf it produces. But can you plant centipede grass in the fall?

You can plant centipede grass in the fall, but it’s not advisable as it requires warm soil for germination. The ideal time to plant centipede grass is in the late spring or early summer.

In this article, I’ll further discuss the best time of year to plant centipede grass, dive a little deeper into what centipede grass is, and cover the basics of growing it.

What Is the Best Time of Year To Plant Centipede Grass?

Centipede grass thrives in warm and humid areas and has difficulty withstanding extended periods of extreme cold.

The best time of year to plant centipede grass is in the late spring or early summer when there’s no threat of temperatures dropping below 70°F for an extended period.

Centipede grass requires heat and humidity for the seeds to germinate, making the warmer months the ideal time to plant the grass seed (source).

While early summer is still an appropriate time to plant centipede grass, it’s best not to plant the grass seeds after August, as it runs the risk of dying off in the winter months before it reaches full maturation.

Centipede grass is a relatively slow-growing grass and can take anywhere between 10 and 28 days for the seeds to germinate. 

In order to survive the winter, centipede grass needs to germinate and reach full maturity.

It’s Best To Avoid Planting Centipede Grass During Fall or Winter

As previously stated, centipede grass needs to reach full maturity to withstand the winter. 

Because of this, fall isn’t an ideal time to plant the grass seed, as it allows enough time for the seeds to germinate but not enough time for the plant to fully mature.

That said, some people elect to do “winter dormant seeding” with centipede grass.

Winter dormant seeding occurs when you plant the grass seed in winter and allow the seeds to sit in the soil until spring when they germinate on their own.

While winter dormant seeding may seem like a low-maintenance germination option, it can potentially leave grass seed vulnerable, and thus, isn’t recommended. 

The ideal conditions for centipede grass plantings are warmth and humidity, past the threat of frost. 

If you plant your grass seed in winter, your seeds may germinate during a warm period but die off again during a cold snap, disallowing growth during the spring.

The seeds may also succumb to rot if left in moist, cold soil for an extended period without germination.

Does Centipede Grass Grow in Winter?

Although winter isn’t an ideal time to plant centipede grass, it doesn’t completely die off during the winter months.

Centipede grass doesn’t grow during the winter. Rather, it enters a state of semi-dormancy that stunts growth during the winter months. But the grass can stay alive, and under the right conditions, can even remain green.

We have had winters here in Texas that were so mild that my centipede grass never really turn brown. It’s unusual but it happens.

Centipede grass grows best in mild climates that don’t experience extreme cold during the winter months.

Suppose temperatures fall to single digits for an extended period. In that case, centipede grass can pass the point of dormancy and die off completely, meaning it won’t begin growing again in the spring.

The nice thing about the state of semi-dormancy that centipede grass enters in winter is that it requires very little maintenance.

Your lawn won’t need to be mowed for the entirety of the winter due to the lack of growth and will only need to be watered if there are extended periods with very little rainfall.

Although relatively drought resistant, if you experience prolonged drought, give your lawn a light watering about once a week to keep it alive.

Plant Centipede Grass During the Late Spring or Early Summer

Centipede grass is a relatively low-maintenance lawn choice. When cared for properly, it gives your lawn a vibrant green color and dense growth.

To get the best results, you’ll want to plant your grass seed in the late spring or early summer to ensure you’ve passed all threats of frost, but allow your lawn enough time for maturation before the temperature falls again.

While the grass seed is germinating, you’ll want to water frequently, making sure the soil is damp but not wet. 

Centipede grass has a shallower root system than many other types of grass, so your watering only needs to reach the first 6 to 8 inches of soil.

Once your lawn reaches maturity, it’ll require significantly less water. You’ll only want to water once you notice that your yard is starting to wilt; this method of watering encourages root growth.

Requiring very little nitrogen, be careful not to over-fertilize your centipede grass. A great natural way of ensuring your lawn has the needed nutrients is by leaving trimmings on the grass after mowing. 

See Centipede Grass Fertilizer: What to Use and When

The ideal time to fertilize your lawn is once in mid-spring and again mid-summer. Make sure to use a slow-release fertilizer to avoid over-fertilizing.

If you notice bald patches, an easy way to fix this is by collecting cuttings after you edge your lawn.

Allow Stolons To Fill Out Your Lawn

Centipede grass grows through stolons, sometimes called “runners.” The stolons are stocks that extend across the top of your soil and take root along the way, allowing your lawn to grow so densely (source).

By collecting stolons when you edge your lawn, you can then lay them over the bald patches and cover them loosely with dirt so that the grass still has access to sunlight.

The new stolons will take root and fill in the empty parts of your lawn.

Note: Centipede grass is relatively sensitive. Be careful not to overwater or lawn with the blade too low as this could adversely affect its growth (source).

Final Thoughts

Centipede grass is a favorite for those living in temperate climates that want a vibrant, low-maintenance lawn.

The ideal season to plant centipede grass is in the late spring or early summer, giving it plenty of time to mature before winter.

If you’re looking for slow-growing grass to add some color to your yard, centipede grass may be the right fit!

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