Carpetgrass is a creeping, warm season perennial grass that is native to the West Indies. Carpetgrass was introduced into the United States in the early 1800s and has become naturalized in the southeastern states, especially on poorly drained soils. Carpetgrass physically resembles centipede grass in terms of leaf density and shape.
Where to grow
Carpetgrass will grow in tropical and subtropical areas. It is best adapted to the coastal gulf states, including Florida, Louisiana, eastern Texas, Alabama, southern Georgia, South Carolina and coastal Virginia.
Carpetgrass grows on wet, low-pH soils where few other grasses persist, and has moderate shade tolerance. It is low growing and produces a dense turf with good color if moderate fertilization rates are applied. It is a low-maintenance grass that does not require excessive amounts of fertilizer. Carpetgrass also can be grown from seed.
Carpetgrass will not survive on very dry soils unless irrigated frequently. It has shallow roots that impart poor drought tolerance. During the summer, carpetgrass produces numerous tall, thin seedheads that require frequent mowing for removal. It has poor cold tolerance, turning brown with the first cold spell. It is also slow to green up in the spring. Carpetgrass has poor salt tolerance and a medium leaf texture. It is subject to insect, nematode, and disease problems. It does not grow well outside of acidic (pH: 5.0 to 5.5) soils. Carpetgrass is not recommended for a high-quality lawn; however, it can be used in wet, shady areas where ease of maintenance is more important than quality. Carpetgrass is not used for hay production.
Carpetgrass may be established from seeds or sprigs. Sod is not commonly available. Success with either propagation method is highly dependent on proper soil preparation. Germination of Carpetgrass will occur within 14-21 days if the conditions are all correct.
Carpetgrass thrives in wet soil and will require irrigation if grown on well-drained soils. Irrigating as needed is an excellent way to water any grass, provided the proper amount of water is applied when needed and not at a later or more convenient time. When using this approach, water at the first sign of wilt and apply 3/4 inch of water per application. During prolonged droughts, it may be necessary to water carpetgrass every other day. If carpetgrass is grown on naturally wet soils where it is best adapted, irrigation may not be necessary.
Carpetgrass is damaged by nematodes and several insects and diseases. Refer to pest control chapters of the Florida Lawn Handbook for control measures.
Lawn caterpillars, mole crickets and spittlebugs cause damage. Worms are especially damaging on well-fertilized carpetgrass.
The principal disease affecting carpetgrass is brown patch.
If carpetgrass is grown on poorly drained, wet soils, nematodes should not be a major problem. However, on well-drained soils, nematodes can cause very serious damage to carpetgrass. These soilborne, microscopic worms attack the grass roots and, if not controlled, can weaken or ultimately kill the entire lawn.
Seeding is easier and less expensive than sprigging. Use fresh, weed-free seed. Broadcast at the
rate of 4 - 5 pounds per 1000 square feet. Planting dates are April to July. It is advisable to kill any existing weeds with a nonselective herbicide such as glyphosate before planting.
Proper fertilization of carpet grass is an important practice in a good maintenance program. Carpetgrass does not tolerate excessive use of fertilizer, especially nitrogen. For a low-fertility regime, a complete fertilizer can be applied at 1 pound of N per 1000 square feet annually. For a slightly higher quality lawn, up to 2 pounds of N can be applied annually.
If fertilized as recommended, carpetgrass will require mowing every 10 to 14 days at a height of 1 to 2 inches. Weekly mowing with a rotary mower may be necessary during the summer to remove the unsightly seedheads.