When you’re buying grass seed in Florida, there’s no simple list of which seeds are best for the entire state. The problem is that Florida has a wide range of temperature conditions, particularly in winter.
Thankfully, we don’t have to go through every single climate zone to determine the best grass seed for Florida. Instead, we can look at two basic types of conditions: “cool season” and “warm season”.
Some Florida grasses are better for cool season growing, while others are better for warm season growing.
So, before we start, we need to understand the difference between warm season and cool season grasses. Let’s take a closer look!
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In This Article:
Warm and Cool Season Grasses
Seed manufacturers are well aware of growing conditions in Florida, so most of them already conveniently offer cool season and warm season varieties of seeds. But what does this actually mean?
To begin with, let’s dispel a major myth: cool season grasses won’t die off in the heat, and warm season grasses won’t die off in the cold. In fact, both varieties can thrive throughout the year. The difference is in their main growing season.
Warm season grasses do most of their growing when the temperature is between 80 and 95 degrees. They don’t die off when the temperature is in the 60s. They just don’t grow very quickly.
Cool season grasses do most of their growing between 60 and 75 degrees. When the mercury rises above 80 degrees, they’ll start to go dormant.
Your goal here should be to maximize the amount of time your grass spends in its growing season. In other words, look at average daily temperatures throughout the spring and fall. This way, your grass will be at its optimum growing temperature twice a year.
Warm Season Grasses
Warm season grasses are the most popular seed type in the South and Southwest. The main reason for this is obvious: it gets hot in this part of the country.
The drought and high heat performance of these types of grass are another major factor. Depending on your local humidity, you might go with a humidity-resistant Centipede Grass or a dryer Bermudagrass.
Warm season grass will stay active most of the year in most of Florida. That said, if the temperature drops below about 65 degrees, warm season grass will turn brown and go dormant.
Cool Season Grasses
Cool season grasses are less popular than warm season grasses in Florida. They’re more popular in the Midwest and Northeast, where temperatures tend to be lower. The reason for this disparity is that cool season grasses don’t grow very quickly in high temperatures.
That said, cool season grass is still useful for overseeding in much of Florida. Overseeding is a technique where you sow one type of grass seed on top of another type.
When you put cool season grass seed on top of warm season grass, you get a secondary grass that will remain green when the temperatures drop below 65.
Best Warm Season Grass For Florida
- Shade tolerance: Requires full sun
- Water requirements: Moderate
- Drought tolerance: Very high
- Cold tolerance: Minimal
- Mowing frequency: Moderate
For many in Florida, Bermuda grass is the gold standard. The reason is that it can withstand just about anything that Florida can throw at you.
For one thing, it’s salinity-resistant. This is ideal if you live in a marshy area with lots of saltwater nearby.
For another thing, Bermuda grass is also draught-resistant. If it doesn’t get wet for a few weeks, it can make do with a weekly watering.
That said, Bermuda grass will grow better if you water it more frequently. It’s mostly known for being a fast-spreading seed, which makes it a great choice when you need to patch your lawn. Lay it down, keep it watered, and it will fill in within a single growing season.
This fast spread also makes it a great choice for high-traffic lawns. Even if you play backyard football every weekend, Bermudagrass will grow back much faster than most grass species.
Most tough grasses trend towards the coarser end of the spectrum, but Bermuda grass has a finer texture. It’s a great compromise species if you want a tough grass but your significant other wants to go barefoot.
One major weakness of Bermuda grass is that it must be grown in full sun. If it gets shade for more than an hour or two per day, it’s not going to grow in as thickly as you’d like.
Finally, Bermuda grass works best at a lower than average mowing height. It’s very lush, so letting it grow too tall can cause it to become thatched. As long as you mow it about every week to 10 days, this won’t be a serious concern.
- Shade tolerance: Good
- Water requirements: Low
- Drought tolerance: High
- Cold tolerance: Moderate
- Mowing frequency: Less frequent
Centipede Grass is, in many ways, the opposite of Bermudagrass. Where Bermudagrass prefers a sunny environment, Centipede Grass is better for partially-shaded areas.
This makes it ideal if you have a field or a lawn that’s bordered by a woodland, or has a large tree overhanging it. It’s still grass, though. It’s going to need at least a few hours of sunlight a day to stay healthy.
On the other hand, Centipede Grass has a much slower rate of spread. If you’re using it for patching, you’re going to have to be meticulous about weeds while you wait for it to fill in. But once Centipede Grass has grown in, it’s very tough and weed-resistant.
It can also withstand a variety of soil conditions, but it loves sandy, acidic soils that much of Florida is known for.
The grass itself is broad-bladed, but it’s not coarse. It’s still comfortable enough to walk on barefooted.
Centipede Grass has less drought resistance than Bermudagrass. It needs to be watered twice a week if there’s no rain, or it will start to turn brown and go dormant for the season. Then again, getting plenty of rain is not a problem for most Floridians.
Centipede Grass is healthiest with a medium to high cutting length. If you want a shaggy, four-inch lawn, it’s a great choice. And since it grows in so slowly, you can limit your mowing to once a week or less.
Read more: Best grass varieties for sandy soil.
Best Cool Season Grass For Florida
- Shade tolerance: Needs full sun
- Water requirements: Higher than average
- Drought tolerance: Good
- Cold tolerance: High
- Mowing frequency: Average
Kentucky Bluegrass is prized in Northern states, both for its durability as well as for its lush, dense coverage. It’s also one of the few cool season grasses that will grow in Florida.
Now, we should point out that as with any cool season grass, it’s not going to grow much in a Florida summer. In fact, if it’s not watered regularly, it’s going to turn a toasty shade of brown. On the other hand, it’s tough enough that it will bounce right back after a drought.
The main benefit of Kentucky Bluegrass is for overseeding or including in a custom seed blend. It will provide a bit more life and richness while the temperatures are in the 60s. It will even stay green when the temperatures are just above freezing, which is perfect for the winter months.
One thing Kentucky Bluegrass requires is a lot of sunshine. Avoid planting it in areas that receive partial shade. It won’t fill in all the way, and will ultimately fail without sufficient sun.
The feel of the grass is smooth and rich, not coarse like most other durable grasses. At peak growth, it needs to be cut about once a week. In parts of Florida, this may extend your mowing season, but it will also keep your lawn green year-round.
- Shade tolerance: High
- Water requirements: Less than average
- Drought tolerance: Good
- Cold tolerance: Good
- Mowing frequency: Average
Tall Fescue is a cool season grass that will thrive in shadier areas. This makes it great for overseeding and blends where Kentucky Bluegrass won’t grow in. It can also grow in a sunny area, but not as successfully as in partial shade.
When planted in a suitable area, Tall Fescue requires minimal maintenance. Even in a total drought, it only needs to be watered about once a week to stay green. Under ordinary conditions, no dedicated watering should be necessary.
The color of Tall Fescue is a light green, and it’s very durable. Once it’s grown in, it can withstand constant foot traffic, making it a great choice for paths as well as for shadier areas.
A Tall Fescue lawn should only need mowing about once a week. It’s healthiest at an average length, which makes it suitable for a wide variety of mixes.
One area to avoid using Tall Fescue is where you have high salinity. It prefers low-salinity soil, and won’t fill in well in salty soil.
Caring For a New Lawn
When Should I Plant My Grass Seed?
The best time to plant your grass seed right at the beginning of growing season. This will give it the longest possible opportunity to grow and thrive in ideal conditions.
As we mentioned earlier, you should choose a seed that’s going to grow throughout the spring and the fall. As a result, your ideal planting season is either the beginning of spring or the beginning of fall. Plant your seeds at these times, and your lawn will have the best possible chance of thriving.
When Should I Mow and Water?
Mowing and watering times will vary based on your conditions and the type of grass you chose. That said, very young seeds and light green “baby” grass should be watered enough that the top of the soil remains moist. But remember: water should not pool up on the surface when you’re watering.
Once your grass has fully taken root, you can reduce watering to about once a week. Water in the early morning, to avoid evaporating. Avoid watering in the evening; if water does pool up, it will stagnate overnight, and possibly even cause mold.
Your mowing schedule will vary widely based on a number of conditions. Depending on your grass type, conditions, and preferred length, you may need to mow your lawn more or less often.
Follow the recommended length guidelines for your grass type, though. If you cut it too short, the grass could fail to thrive.
If your mowing schedule is frequent, be sure to invest in a good quality battery lawn mower to make the job easier.
What About Aerating and Fertilizing?
The best time to fertilize your lawn is in the spring and the fall. The reason for this is that spring and fall are stressful times for your grass, and a little fertilizer can help them weather the transition.
Presumably, you followed our advice and planted in the spring or the fall. If your grass seed did not include a fertilizer, this is a great time to fertilize. If your grass came with a fertilizer, then you can hold off for half a year.
The purpose of aeration is to loosen the soil and allow for easier water penetration. Similarly, easy water penetration means easier fertilizer penetration. So if you aerate right before you fertilize, you’ll be getting the maximum benefit.
Check out our article on lawn aerators here.
If you aerate and fertilize twice a year, once in the spring, and once in the fall, you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful lawn.
Consider a Lawn Care Expert
If after absorbing all this info, it still sounds like too big a job to choose and look after a lawn – then it might be time to consider getting an expert in.
Fill out the form below for a free quote from an expert in your area.
The Wrap Up
As you can see, there are many good grasses for Florida lawns. The main difference is whether you live in a warm season or a cool season zone. Once you know that, choosing your ideal grass is much easier.
Other considerations include shade tolerance, cold tolerance, and how often you’ll need to mow. Do you get joy out of firing up your mower twice a week? Or is mowing every two weeks more your style?
Don’t forget to think about how you want the grass to feel, either. A broad leaf can be a bit scratchier on bare feet, but is also more durable at withstanding everyday wear and tear.