There are five varieties of turf grass that are most commonly used in northwest Florida: centipede, St. Augustine, bahia, zoisia and bermuda. They all have different qualities and any one may be the best choice depending on your personal preferences and the area you intend to grow the grass. Here is a basic run down of the different types of grasses and the advantages and disadvantages I have noticed of each.
Advantages: This is a low maintenance grass. It requires very little fertilizer and is relatively drought tolerant. It has a fine leaf blade and a tight growing pattern that creates a nice even looking turf. A centipede lawn can be established by sod, plugs, sprigs and seed.
Disadvantages: Some people do not like the natural, pale green color that this grass has and it does not do well when fertilized frequently.It does not do well in shady areas and prefers direct sun. It can sometimes develop a condition called "centipede decline" that leaves large dead areas in the lawn. If you have a centipede lawn, leave it alone as much as possible, water it only when necessary and use very little nitrogen fertilizer.
Advantages: St. Augustine provides a lush, dark green turf. It is the most shade tolerant of all the turf grasses. It is a fast growing and spreading grass that can be established by sod, plugs or sprigs.
Disadvantages: St. Augustine is not drought tolerant and requires much water to stay healthy. It is also affected by chinch bugs, an insect pest that can severely damage the grass during the mid summer months. St. Augustine has a courser, thicker leaf blade than other grasses and requires a mowing height of at least 3 inches for optimum health.
Advantages: Bahaia is the least popular variety of grass for lawns. It does have a few advantages but these are usually out weighed by it's disadvantages. The good things about bahia are it is very drought tolerant. If you have a lawn or field that cannot be irrigated this grass may be a good choice. Also it can be easily established from seed which is inexpensive bahia is a very low maintenance grass requiring little fertilization.
Disadvantages: Bahia does not form a dense turf nor does it spread by runners as do the other varieties mentioned. It has a very open growth pattern that does not compete well with weeds. When watered it grows quickly and may require mowing more than once a week in hot wet weather. It does not have a dark green color but has more of a "dull" appearance. Bahia grass is best suited for large open fields or utility areas where appearance is not a primary concern.
Advantages: There are a number of vavarieties of bermuda grass all of which vary somewhat.Generally speaking, bermuda is a sturdy grass with a fine leaf blade that is drought tolerant and takes frequent fertilizations well so you can keep it a dark green through the growing season. Bermuda can be easily established from seed, sod or sprigs.
Disadvantages: One peculiar characteristic of bermuda is that the leaves of the grass are held up by the stems of the runners. The problem with this is if the ground is uneven a mower can take the green tops off the stems and leave patches of brown in the lawn until the green leaves are regenerated. Bermuda is not very shade tolerant but prefers direct sun.
Advantages: Zoysia forms a thick, lush lawn with fine leaf blades and has a dark green color. It can be established by sod or plugs. However, it spreads slowly, so if you use plugs it will take several seasons to fill in.
Disadvantages: Zoysia is a heavy feeder and requires frequent fertilizations. It is not shade tolerant. It grows fast and can require mowing more than once a week