Centipede Grass Vs. Bermuda Grass

Grasses on lawns add ambiance to the outdoor space and make a home more welcoming. Despite their similar outdoor landscaping use, they give different touches depending on their color, densities, and maintenance level. That’s why you need to choose one that fits your aesthetic, satisfies your needs, and thrives in your location.

The choice between Centipede grass and Bermuda grass depends on how fast you want your lawn to grow. Both of them are hardy grasses suited for southern sunshine and tough weather conditions. However, Centipede grass is a slow grower while Bermuda will quickly grow and choke out Centipede grass if it’s left uncontrolled.  

We’ll get to the roots of these warm-season grasses to help you green out your lawn. 

Centipede grass

Centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiiuriides) is a slow-growing warm-season grass with a short upright stem that resembles a centipede. This grass is native to China and southern Asia. Centipedegrass is common in golf courses, lawns, and parks.

This grass has creeping stolons from which it spreads. Its leaf blades are 15 to 30mm long, coarse-textured and yellow-green. The leaves can be rounded, flat, or lanceolate at the base but pointed at the tips. The inflorescence is a  purple spikelets raceme.

Centipedegrass establishes as sods, sprigs, and seeds.

Centipedegrass thrives in sandy, acidic soil of pH 5.0 to 6.0. Its prime soil conditions are high in potassium and iron yet low in phosphorus. Its leaves will turn yellow if it grows in low-iron soil. 

Apply sulfur if soil tests confirm soil pH above 7.2 or add lime if the tests confirm soil pH lower than 5.0. This thrives in full sun. It would still do well in partial shade but 6 hours of full sunlight would bring the best out of it. 

Centipedegrass is often called the lazy man’s grass since it has low mowing, watering, and fertilizer requirements. However, it doesn’t recover quickly from injuries or high foot traffic. Set the mower to 1-1 ½ inches if the grass is stressed when mowing.

Centipedegrass requires more than 40 inches of rainfall annually. The grass should be watered deeply with 4 to 6 inches to prevent desiccation during winter. Suppose the grass discolors and wilts its leaves during summer, water it deeply to help it recover from the stress. Otherwise, irrigate it with 1 inch weekly when actively growing.

Centipedegrass requires little or no nitrogen fertilizer application. When necessary, apply less than 2 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 square feet of lawn annually in spring and fall. Thatch builds if you apply excess fertilizer.

In its early stages, centipedegrass becomes vulnerable to weeds. However, it resists them moderately after establishing. Insects such as ground pearl, mole crickets, spittlebugs, and white grubs are common to centipedegrass lawns. Large patches and spot diseases are also rampant. Centipedegrass is a poor cold-tolerant grass and hence suffers from winter injury in snowy conditions. Hard frost discolors it, and it can die. 

Bermuda grass

Bermuda grass is a fast-spreading sod-forming perennial grass native to Africa but widespread across the tropical and subtropical regions. Common bermudagrass ( Dactylon cynodon) is the most pervasive species.

Bermudagrass is common in sports fields, parks, golf courses, tennis courts, and lawns. This grass can be used as turf or forage. However, it’s considered an invasive weed in northern lawns. Bermudagrass establishes in sods, plugs, and seeds and spreads by rhizomes, seeds, and stolons.

This grass has hairy or sparsely hairy dark green leaf blades that form a dense turf. Its ligule has white hairs, while the seedhead produces finger-shaped spikelets of 3 to 6 spikes. Bermudagrass has above-ground runners(stolons), spreading fast on the lawn.

Bermudagrass thrives in well-drained fertile soils of pH 6.5 to 8.0. When the pH is lower, add lime to raise it. The optimum soil temperature for this grass is 80oF.

Bermudagrass needs full sun to thrive and doesn’t withstand shade. It tolerates heavy foot traffic and quickly recovers if injured. Because of its deep fibrous roots, it can tolerate scorching and dry conditions, thus the most drought tolerant warm-season grass.

Bermudagrass needs 25 to 100 inches of water annually. Where the rainfall is below 20inches, irrigation can be introduced to supplement it. The watering needs depend on the turf used and climatic conditions such as temperature, light intensity, humidity, and winds. Where these conditions are intense, more watering is needed. For high maintenance places like golf courses, the grass should be watered by 0.1 to 0.3 inches daily depending on environmental conditions.

The mowing height and frequency depend on the variety and maintenance level. Bermuda grass is high maintenance and it needs frequent mowing. When the grass is actively growing, it is cut at 3 to 4 inches tall.

Bermudagrass has high fertilizer requirements. You need 1 to 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet on high maintenance Bermudagrass lawns and 0.5 pounds per 1000 square feet on low maintenance Bermudagrass lawns.

Nematodes, dead spots, brown patches, dollar spots, and leaf spots diseases are common in Bermudagrass. Invasive weeds such as dandelion, chickweed, clovers, and henbit are common where Bermuda is the desired turf.

Bermuda Vs. Centipede Grass

Centipedegrass and Bermudagrass are excellent grasses for southern lawns. However, they have distinct leaf structures, tolerance to lawn problems, appearance, etc. Let’s look at these differences in detail.

Here is a summary table of the differences between centipedegrass and bermudagrass.

CentipedegrassBermudagrass
Yellow-green, broad, coarse-textured leavesDark green, thin, fine-textured leaves
Shallow root systemDeep root system
Spreads by stolonsSpreads by stolons, rhizomes, and seeds
Low maintenanceHigher maintenance
Tolerates moderate trafficTolerates heavy traffic
Tolerates partial shadeDoesn’t tolerate shade
The optimum soil temperature is 70oFThe optimum soil temperature is 80oF
Less durableMore durable
Vulnerable to weeds when youngResistant to weeds when young

The leaf morphology

Bermudagrass leaves are dark green, dense, and fine-textured, while centipedegrass leaves are wide, yellow-green, and coarse-textured. The leaf blades of Bermuda are dense, dark green, and fine-textured, forming a beautiful carpet-like appearance when grown on a lawn. Meanwhile, centipede leaf blades are light green, wide, and thinner than bermudagrass. 

The root structure

Centipedegrass has a shallow root system, while Bermudagrass has a deep root system. The roots of centipede grass are shallow, making it difficult for the plant to survive arid conditions with a limited water supply and low water tables.

On the other hand, Bermudagrass has deep fibrous roots that extend deeply into the soil to draw water from the water table when dry summers come. This makes the grass the most drought tolerant warm-season grass.

Cultivators / how they spread

Centipedegrass spreads by stolons, while bermudagrass spreads by rhizomes, stolons, and seeds. Centipede has a creeping stolon from which new roots and shoots develop, thus spreading.

Meanwhile, Bermuda has rhizomes that extend deep into the soil to spread it. The runners or stolons lie laterally close to the earth from the parent plant. New shoots and roots develop at their nodes to form daughter plants as the cycle continues. Also, common bermudagrass seedheads spread and germinate in favorable conditions.

The maintenance requirements

Centipede grass is a low-maintenance grass, while Bermuda needs minimal oversight. Centipedegrass grows slowly, therefore, doesn’t need frequent mowing. It can survive with little or no fertilizer application, reducing costs, time, and effort. It also doesn’t require daily watering. 

Meanwhile, bermudagrass requires high maintenance. The turf grows and spreads fast, needing mowing after 5-7days. It also needs high fertilizer application when it is actively growing. It needs daily watering to thrive. 

Foot traffic tolerance

Centipedegrass tolerates moderate traffic while Bermuda tolerates high foot traffic. A centipede lawn can only tolerate low or moderate foot traffic. It wears easily in heavy foot traffic areas. It wouldn’t survive on a sports pitch. 

You’d have to line a heavy foot traffic area with Bermudagrass. It can easily withstand the impact of a sports pitch. 

Shade tolerance.

Though centipedegrass needs full sun to survive, it still can thrive when grown in a partially shaded area. Conversely, bermudagrass requires full sun to survive. Growing it in shade is exposing it to premature plant death. 

Optimum temperatures

Centipedegrass thrives when the soil temperature is 70oF. It’s the perfect temperature to overseed its grass seeds. Meanwhile, Bermuda needs a soil temperature of 80oF to grow actively to produce a dense and lush lawn.

The durability

Centipedegrass is less durable, while bermudagrass is more durable. Centipedegrass can quickly wear if exposed to high foot traffic or has excess moisture. Because it easily breaks, it’s mostly decorative grass in low-traffic areas.

Meanwhile, Bermudagrass is robust and withstands heavy foot traffic without wearing. It recovers quickly from foot traffic, making it more durable.

Weeds invasion

Centipedegrass is prone to weeds when young, while bermudagrass resists weeds. Centipedegrass is slow-growing and doesn’t establish quickly in the lawn, thus allowing weeds to grow faster and set in the yard.

Meanwhile, bermudagrass establishes faster and spreads vigorously to cover bare spots, thus outcompeting weeds.

Pros of centipedegrass

  • Needs less maintenance
  • Tolerates shade

Cons of centipedegrass

  • Grows slowly
  • Wears on high traffic lawns
  • Prone to insect infestation

Pros of bermudagrass

  • Establishes quickly and spreads fast
  • Tolerates drought
  • Withstands high foot traffic

Cons of bermudagrass

  • It can be an invasive weed
  • Doesn’t tolerate shade
  • Poor cold tolerance

Is Bermuda or Centipede better?

Centipede and Bermuda are excellent turfs, but your choice depends on the appearance you want, maintenance level, and durability of the grass.

Bermudagrass is better if you want a thicker, dark green lawn that is more attractive. However, if you want a yard that needs less time, money, and effort to maintain, a centipede lawn would make an excellent choice.

Bermudagrass is suitable for kids, dogs, and people using the lawn frequently and exerts heavy traffic. Furthermore, the grass will serve you longer.

Can I mix Bermuda and Centipede grass?

You can’t mix Bermudagrass and centipedegrass on the same lawn. You can replace a centipede lawn with Bermuda grass, though.

These grasses have different water, fertilizer, and mowing needs. While you may want to mow, fertilize, or water, Bermuda often, Centipede doesn’t need the same maintenance practices. Mixing them negatively affects the overall health of the grass.

How do I know if I have Centipede or Bermuda grass?

If your grass is thick, the leaf blades are dark green and thin and have invasive runners, that could be Bermudagrass. Check to see if it is low growing too.

However, if the grass is light green, and the leaves are broad and arranged opposite each other in the stem, that could be centipedegrass.

Is Bermuda grass like Centipede grass?

Despite their numerous differences, bermudagrass and centipedegrass share similar features. Both don’t tolerate cold and go dormant when temperatures drop below 30oF. Centipedegrass undergoes winter injury. Also, centipedegrass and bermudagrass have stolons or runners.

References

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