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Will Zoysia Choke Out Centipede Grass?


Can Zoysia choke out centipede grass?

Zoysia is one of the most low-maintenance lawns of the south. However, other warm-season grasses, like centipede grass, can be aggressive pests under the right conditions. Removing centipede grass from your lawn can be a headache, but luckily, zoysia is a good competitor.

Both grasses are aggressive enough to choke out weeds and other grasses, but if one invades the other, who wins?

  • Zoysia can choke out centipede grass under most circumstances due to zoysia’s deep root system and superior drought tolerance.
  • You can remove stubborn sections of centipede grass through spot treatment, mowing at 1” to scalp centipede grass, and allowing the lawn to go dormant during dry periods.

Zoysia And Centipede Grasses Compared

Both zoysia and centipede grass have similar growing requirements, but zoysia has a wider range of climate and soil tolerances. Centipede grass is even more low-maintenance than zoysia, but it has a rough, coarse texture which some homeowners find unappealing.

Zoysia

Zoysia, like centipede grass, is a warm-season, drought-tolerant turf. While zoysia is intolerant of freezing winter temperatures, it can tolerate a light frost and cool (not cold) winters.

It has a deep, thick root system which helps it survive during drought conditions. However, zoysia will go dormant almost immediately during a dry spell, so it may require supplemental irrigation in the summer to stay green.

You can purchase Zoysia plugs and have them shipped to you that are are guaranteed to grow or replaced free (link to Zoysia Farms).

Zoysia grows throughout the southeast and on into the southern half of Texas through California. It is extremely tolerant of salty soils, which makes it a perfect candidate for coastal lawns.

Zoysia grows best in soils with a pH of 5.8-7.0, and it can tolerate a wide range of soil textures. It can take a few years to fill in, but once it is established, zoysia can choke out most weeds and other grasses.

Centipede Grass

Centipede grass is a low-maintenance favorite of the southeast. It is a warm-season grass, and although it is heat tolerant, it can struggle during drought conditions.

Most centipede grass lawns do not have a regular irrigation schedule. Instead, they are only watered when the grass shows signs of drought stress. It can bounce back to a lush, green lawn in a matter of hours.

Outside of its preferred growing conditions, centipede grass struggles. It does not need irrigation, fertilization, or even mowing as long as the soil conditions and average temperatures are within range.

However, centipede grass does not grow well in alkaline soils, compacted soils, salty soils, or dry climates. It never truly goes into a winter dormancy, which leaves it extremely vulnerable to frost damage.

Centipede’s greatest weakness is its root system. Centipede grass has a shallow, sparse root structure, which is why it needs a loose, sandy soil. It is also the slowest of the warm-season grasses to fill in and create a thick stand of turf.

Zoysia vs. Centipede Grass: Wet Summers

Zoysia and centipede grass each struggle for dominance depending on the soil, climate, and how wet or dry the area tends to be.

Zoysia and centipede grass overlap throughout the southeast, which tends to have acidic, sandy, soils and wet summers. This is the perfect climate for centipede grass, but it’s also perfectly adequate for zoysia.

In regions with hot, wet summers and mild winters, zoysia can choke out centipede grass, although it will need help. Zoysia struggles in humid climates, and it fills in bare spots only slightly faster than centipede grass.

Getting Zoysia To Choke Out Centipede In Wet Summer Climates:

  • Centipede grass never truly goes dormant, so it’s possible to spray a non-selective herbicide over the lawn if the centipede grass is green and the zoysia is dormant.
  • If large patches of centipede grass have invaded your zoysia lawn, you can spray the patches with RoundUp. However, RoundUp is non-selective, so it will kill everything you spray. This should leave a bare spot in your lawn where zoysia can quickly fill in and overtake the remaining centipede grass.
    Note: As an alternative to Roundup, Sunday Lawn Care makes a natural non-selective herbicide Weed Warrior that does not include toxic chemicals.
  • Mow zoysia 1”-1.5”. Centipede grass grows best around 2”, so a lower mowing height can slow its growth and give zoysia time to take over.
  • Raise the pH of acidic soils. Centipede grass can tolerate a pH as low as 4.5, but it can suffer iron deficiency as the pH rises. Zoysia can tolerate a pH as high as 7.0, so if your soil is acidic, consider incorporating lime.

Getting Centipede To Choke Out Zoysia In Wet Summer Climates

  • Spray large patches of zoysia with RoundUp or Weed Warrior, and keep the area clear to let centipede grass take over.
  • Mow centipede grass at 2”-2.5”. This may help to shade out small zoysia runners in the turf.
  • Irrigate enough to keep centipede grass actively growing. If you let it go dormant, zoysia may take over due to its deeper root system.
  • Aerate each spring and topdress with a loose, sandy compost. This will help build up ideal topsoil for centipede growth.

Zoysia vs. Centipede Grass: Dry Summers

Hot, dry summers are the perfect conditions for a healthy zoysia lawn. While centipede grass can thrive in these climates, it may require supplemental irrigation and soil modification to help support centipede’s delicate root system.

In regions with hot, dry summers and mild winters, zoysia should be able to choke out centipede grass without too much intervention.

If you’re trying to establish zoysia in an area with hot, dry summers, do the following:

  • In established lawns, allow zoysia to go dormant during drought conditions. Zoysia goes dormant after a few days of dry weather, but it can survive in its dormant state for weeks without moisture. Centipede grass, however, does not tolerate drought as easily, and allowing the lawn to go dry for a few weeks may kill off weaker plants.
  • Spray large patches of centipede grass before zoysia breaks dormancy in the spring. You can continue to spray patches of centipede grass during the summer, but you may kill off some zoysia in the process. You must irrigate after spraying to encourage zoysia to fill in bare spots.
  • Aerate and topdress with a high-quality compost each spring. Zoysia has a strong root system, and improving the topsoil in your lawn will help the grass grow deep, thick roots. This will help it to fill in bare patches and overtake weeds.

If you’re trying to establish a centipede lawn in a climate with a hot, dry summer, prepare for a large water bill:

  • Centipede grass needs to have consistent moisture to maintain active growth, otherwise, it will not be able to compete with zoysia during dry periods of the summer.
    Water as soon as the grass shows signs of drought stress, like a deep blue color or wilting. Apply .5”-1” the following morning.
  • Zoysia will go dormant quickly, which makes it difficult to spray without damaging centipede grass. Spray large patches of zoysia with RoundUp or Weed Warrior, and irrigate the lawn well to encourage the centipede grass to fill in.
  • Avoid fertilizing an established centipede grass lawn if you are trying to get it to choke out zoysia. Centipede grass is more tolerant of poor soils than zoysia, so this may give centipede grass a leg up.
    However, this is not a long-term solution. Once you have the zoysia under control, resume whatever fertilization schedule you need according to your soil test.
  • Mow centipede grass 2”-3”, or don’t mow at all. Zoysia can tolerate light shade, but you can shade it out by allowing the centipede grass to grow tall.
    Centipede naturally stays around 5”, so if you can let it stay long, it can shade out zoysia in time. This also allows centipede grass to reseed itself, which can help it overtake zoysia.

Both zoysia and centipede grass are great options for lawns in the southeast, which can make them difficult to remove if they’re not wanted.

The best way to keep out unwanted grasses is to create a maintenance plan that is specific to the grass you want to encourage. A healthy lawn is the best weapon to fight off pests, diseases, and weeds.

Learn every step in growing and maintaining a healthy zoysia lawn with our comprehensive step-by-step guide.

Related Reading:

Sydney Bosque

Sydney has over 15 years of experience in lawn maintenance, landscape design, and organic gardening. She has an A.A.S. in Landscape Design/Organic Produce Production from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

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