5 Best Grass Types for Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola, Florida, view, looking out on a wooden walkway to the beach and ocean.

Choosing one of the best grass types for your Pensacola lawn doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Opt for a warm-season grass, which will grow best in Florida’s climate, and then consider how much time and energy you can spend on maintaining your lawn.

Some grass types need more maintenance than others.

You’ll also need to take into account the amount of foot traffic your lawn will experience. Will your lawn be a place for group activities like volleyball games and badminton, or will it be for relaxing at home with the family? Every grass type has a different tolerance for foot traffic.

The University of Florida recommends five grass types for the best looking and easiest-to-maintain lawns in the Sunshine State. Keep in mind, each of these turfs requires a different level of care.

1. Centipedegrass

This turf is one of the most common grass types in the Florida Panhandle. Centipedegrass is lighter in color than other lawn grasses and has low fertilizer requirements. It thrives well in the soils and climate of Central and Northern Florida.

Centipedegrass is more sensitive to cold temperatures than many other warm-season grasses. It is prone to iron deficiency, which can lead the grass to turn light yellow.

Classification: Warm-season grass.

Spreads by: Stolons (above-ground stems).

Shade tolerance: Moderate shade tolerance, but grows best in full sunlight.

Drought tolerance: Has good drought tolerance. It recovers well from severe drought conditions soon after rain or irrigation. Overwatering will weaken the turf and lead to invading weeds.

Foot traffic tolerance: Low.

Maintenance needs: Centipedegrass is a low-maintenance turf that does not respond well to the unnecessary use of fertilizer. Avoid overfertilizing centipedegrass with nitrogen, which will reduce the turf’s cold tolerance, lead to maintenance problems, and make it vulnerable to disease. Centipedegrass is susceptible to pests such as nematodes and ground pearls.

Recommended mowing height: This turf needs mowing every 7 to 14 days to a height of 1.5 to 2.5 inches. Do not remove more than a third of the height with any mowing.

2. Bermudagrass

This grass grows best in full sun and will thrive in Pensacola’s warm climate. Despite its low tolerance for cool temperatures, it does well against drought conditions. Bermudagrass creates a densely compacted ground cover and has a high salt tolerance.

Classification: Warm-season grass.

Spreads by: Bermudagrass spreads rapidly through stolons and rhizomes (underground stems) and will invade any nearby flower beds.

Shade tolerance: Poor. Thrives in full sun.

Drought tolerance: High. Will persist during drought conditions.

Foot traffic tolerance: High foot and vehicle tolerance, but can be damaged from traffic during the winter months.

Maintenance needs: Because of its rapid growth, this grass builds up thatch that will need removing. It can stand up to drought conditions, but not to diseases and pests. You will need to spend some time maintaining this grass.

Recommended mowing height: Bermudagrass should be cut at a height of 1 to 2 inches and requires mowing one to two times per week.

3. Zoysiagrass

Zoysiagrass has a high salt tolerance and can be used in a variety of soil types. It varies in texture and works great in residential and commercial landscapes as well as athletic fields. This grass also has a higher tolerance for cooler temperatures than most warm-season grasses.

Classification: Warm-season grass.

Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes.

Shade tolerance: High.

Drought tolerance: Will go dormant within a week of typical drought conditions. Will require more irrigation than most warm-season grasses.

Foot traffic tolerance: High foot traffic tolerance.

Maintenance needs: Zoysia requires fertilizer to thrive. The grass responds best to small amounts of fertilizer at frequent intervals rather than a heavy application once a year. It does need frequent watering in drought conditions.

Zoysia will begin to develop heavy thatch buildup and will need core aeration every one or two years. Due to its thick growth pattern, the grass can defend itself against invading weeds. Zoysia is vulnerable to harmful insects that feed on the grass’s roots. Zoysia grass is also susceptible to large patch disease. The disease becomes active when soil temperatures are between 65 and 75 degrees.

Recommended mowing height: Mow Zoysia once a week or when the height has reached 3 to 4 inches. The grass should be mowed to an optimal height of 2 to 2.5 inches.

4. Bahiagrass

Bahiagrass is a great option for sandy soils, pastures, large lawns, or areas receiving little water. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance grass, Bahiagrass does well with limited water and fertilizer, forms low levels of thatch, and is adaptable to many soil types. It’s also pest and disease-resistant and thrives in Florida’s warm climate.

Bahiagrass is also less aggressive than other types, so it’s less likely to invade your flower bed.

Classification: Warm-season grass.

Spreads by: Stolons and rhizomes. Its deep roots make it easy for it to spread underground as well as above.

Shade tolerance: Prefers full sun but can endure limited shade.

Drought tolerance: This grass can handle long periods without water. In long-term drought conditions, the grass will eventually go dormant and turn brown.

Foot traffic tolerance: High tolerance to foot traffic, so it’s great for kids and pets.

Maintenance needs: Low. Although this turf is not vulnerable to pests, it is susceptible to mole cricket. These insects will burrow through the soil causing root damage that leads to rapid wilting.

Recommended mowing height: Needs mowing every 7 to 14 days to a height of 3 to 4 inches during late spring and summer.

5. St. Augustine grass

St. Augustine grass originated from the coastal regions of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea. This turf is a popular lawn choice for many homeowners in the deep South. St. Augustine has a good tolerance for salt and shade. It does need a lot of water to remain healthy and will need extra irrigation during periods of drought. With its coarse, wide leaves and stems, the grass does not grow quite as dense as some other species.

Classification: Warm-season grass.

Spreads by: Stolons. This grass spreads aggressively and can invade your flower beds.

Shade tolerance: Good.

Drought tolerance: Low to moderate. Needs additional irrigation during times of drought.

Foot traffic tolerance: Low foot traffic tolerance.

Maintenance needs: St. Augustine grass produces thatch when over-fertilized or over-watered. The grass is vulnerable to weeds and disease. A major insect threat is the southern chinch bug. The pest causes wilting and brownish patches to appear in the grass. Watch out for large patch and gray leaf spot diseases.

Recommended mowing height: Mow St. Augustine grass at a height of 3.5 to 4 inches. Mowing the grass at lower heights will stress the lawn and limit any deep root development.

Life in Pensacola, with its beautiful beaches and mild winters, can be wonderful and relaxing. Stressing over which grass type is right for your lawn and how you’ll care for it are not the best ways to take it easy on evenings and weekends. Unless, of course, yard work is your relaxation therapy.

Need help preparing your lawn? Visit our Pensacola lawn care page to get in touch with a professional. In addition to Pensacola, LawnStarter provides lawn care services in other Florida cities, including Tallahassee and Destin.

Main image credit: Santa Rosa Island, Pensacola, Florida / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.