Turf Grasses for Attractive Lawn-Scapes

A beautiful lawn can be a welcoming feature and an “icing on the cake” focal point at the entrance to your home.

By Jan Brick
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Grasses that can both grow well during the extreme temperatures of coastal summers and tolerate the salt spray and cool to cold winter months can be a challenge but not necessarily an impossible task. A number of turf varieties do survive and thrive in our coastal zone.

Learning more about the types of turfgrass that can flourish in Galveston’s zone nine will aid in selecting the best type that will fit in your environment as well as the amount of time and effort that you are willing to put forth on its upkeep.

The goal is to find a grass type that will grow well year-round - in the cool winter months as well as the hot summer months. Two types of lawn grass are recommended for zone nine: warm season grass and cool season grass, categories that refer to their active periods of growth.

Grasses categorized as warm season cannot survive cool winters, while cool season sorts cannot endure the extremely hot summers of the south, and then arises the added tolerance problem of salt spray in our coastal landscape. However, choices can be made to accommodate these conditions.

Zone nine consists of two areas: warm humid areas and warm arid areas. In warm arid areas, more irrigation is required so often homeowners opt for using less turf and the use of xeriscape garden beds. Warm humid areas such as Galveston are less complicated since there is not a need of persistent watering.

St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is the most popular lawn grass for the Texas Gulf Coast and other warm humid areas in zone nine. It grows quickly, forms a dense, carpet like turf that tends to crowd out weeds and other grasses, and it is salt tolerant. The downside is that it is requires a rather intense maintenance schedule.

Native to the Gulf of Mexico region, West Indies, and Western Africa, St. Augustine has been planted widely throughout the state of Florida since the 1800s. It can also be found along the eastern coast of the United States from the Carolinas to Florida, along the Gulf Coast, and then again the length of the west coast of Southern and Central California where it is known as “Carpet Grass.” It has a coarse texture and dark green color with broad flat blades.

St. Augustine is accepting of high summer temperatures, is quite shade tolerant, and thrives in salty soil that has suitable irrigation and good drainage.

A healthy lawn shows dedication and pride, but it does involve hard work and diligence. Make the grass greener on your side and your neighbors will be green with envy.

Caring for a St. Augustine Lawn - Maintenance

Mow your St. Augustine grass to a height of two to four inches, slightly higher in fall and winter months to encourage deeper root gPlaceholder imagerowth. Optimum water amount should consist of one inch per week including rainfall.

Fertilizer Nutrients are especially beneficial for a healthy, vigorous carpet of St. Augustine grass. The first application of fertilizer should be after the “greening-up” when there is no chance of a late frost. Use a soluble nitrogen every eight weeks.

Disease and Insect Control St. Augustine is a magnet for chinch bugs and white grub worms. Treat with a broad-spectrum insecticide if you notice insect damage. The use of a fungicide at a preventative rate is helpful in the control of fungal diseases that may occur in shady areas as soil temperatures change. Read container labels as a guide for application.

Managing Weeds The application of a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring and fall can be effective and useful in controlling weeds that may sprout up.

Pros & Cons of St. Augustine Grass


  • Performs well in shade
  • Tolerates coastal salt soils
  • Holds color well in dry or drought conditions
  • Full dense growth pattern and recovers quickly from damage
  • Tolerates foot traffic
  • Greens up swiftly when warm weather commences
  • Performs well in hot, tropical climates


  • Poor performance in cold weather
  • Vulnerable to pests and diseases
  • Creates thatch when over-fertilized

Placeholder imageOther Popular Grasses for Zone Nine

If St. Augustine does not suit your landscape, try one of these other widely used grass varieties. Fertilize these grasses with slow or quick-release fertilizer lightly in early spring and heavily in the fall. Some lawn grasses will lose their green color or turn brown in winter. Over-seeding with rye grass in the autumn is a popular solution, but the rye will die out as temperatures rise making this a temporary fix.

  • Bahia- Coarse texture, thrives in heat, resistant to pests and disease
  • Bermuda- Fine texture, thick, dense growth, turns brown at 40 degrees
  • Carpet- Low growing, tolerates salt
  • Centipede- Low, slow growth (less mowing), resistant to weeds, tolerates poor soil
  • Zoysia- Slow-growing, little to no weeds, fine to medium texture, salt tolerant