St. Augustine Grass vs Bermuda Grass: Differences, Pictures, Comparison

Both St. Augustine grass and Bermuda grass are great warm-season lawn grasses. You’d pick them if you live in warm areas and would like to grow a great lawn. Some people mix the two turfgrasses, others choose to seed or sod with just one. Should you choose Bermuda grass or St. Augustine grass?

In summary, Bermuda grass is highly drought-resistant and can tolerate hot weather in summer without water while St. Augustine grass will require a lot of water to do well. Another major difference is that St. Augustine is shade-resistant while Bermuda grass does not do well in shady areas.

Quick Picks:

If you just want my recommendations then these are good choices. For Bermuda seed go with…

Pennington Smart Sun and Shade Grass Seed, 7 Pounds, Old Version
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Pennington Smart Sun and Shade Grass Seed, 7 Pounds, Old Version
  • Uses up to 30% less water versus ordinary grass seed
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  • Contains grass seed varieties that thrive in both sun and shade

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…and for St. Augustine, go with these plugs: (note there is no such thing at St. Augustine seed, use plugs instead).

Whether you live in Texas, Florida or areas where the climate is a bit warmer than the rest of the states, you really want to consider the differences, pros and cons of these two kinds of grass before growing them in your lawn.

Let’s delve deeper and compare these two great turfgrasses, their similarities, and differences.

St. Augustine Grass vs Bermuda Grass – Differences

Both grasses are great at choking out weeds such as dandelions, crabgrass, and even quackgrass. This is because both St. Augustine grass and Bermuda grass can grow thick and full, leaving no room for weeds to grow and compete with your turfgrass.

St. Augustine GrassBermuda Grass
It requires at least 5 hours of direct sunlight to grow and thrive really well. However, St. Augustine grass can do better than Bermuda in low light conditions.Bermuda grass requires full sunlight all day long to grow optimally. Less sunlight will retard its growth due to reduced photosynthesis.
St. Augustine requires twice as much water as Bermuda grass - ¾ inch to 1 ½ inches of water per week. This may be up-to 4 times of watering per week in summer.Bermuda lawns require watering three times a week during summer and can go without watering in winter because of dormancy.
St. Augustine grass is a fertilizer-intensive grass, needing to be fertilized every two months or with a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer every 10 weeks.It is recommended that you fertilize overseeded Bermuda grass, and do so twice - in December and February.
The easiest way to establish a St. Augustine lawn is using sod.A Bermuda lawn is best established from grass seed.
Saint Augustine grass has a higher tolerance for shade.Bermuda grass does not tolerate shade at all.
Mainly used for lawns.Bermuda grass can be grown for hay, on golf courses, and as a lawn grass.
Does not do well with foot traffic stress.Highly tolerant to foot traffic and stress.
St. Augustine lawns are expensive to maintain because they require frequent fertilization, mowing and watering.A Bermuda lawn is less expensive and easier to establish a thicker turf with frequent mowing.

St. Augustine Grass vs Bermuda Grass - Differences, Comparison, which one to choose

Appearance

St. Augustine has large flat stems and broad coarse leaves while Bermuda grass has short flat leaves. Bermuda grass is usually identified by its spikelets that are borne in four or five slender spikes at the tips of the upright stems.

Weed Tolerance

Both St. Augustine and Bermuda grass have great weed tolerance. They grow and spread fast, forming a thick, full lawn. As such, they’re able to crowd out and kill weeds on their own so that you won’t use much lawn weed killers.

If your lawn gets easily infested by weeds such as crabgrass, planting either Bermuda or St. Augustine will help you control them easily because these two will easily compete with the weeds and overcome them with ease.

St. Augustine Grass Identification (Pictures)

St. Augustine grass Identification

St. Agustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is best suited for tropical and sub-tropical climates. Coastal regions are great because of the warmth, as the grass will thrive well in heat and do poorly in cool regions.

It is often described as a dark green lawn grass with broad, flat leaves. It grows fast, crowding and choking out weeds. Like Bermuda grass, it spreads above-the-ground runners (also called stolons) and develops into a thick, dense turf rather easily.

Various St. Augustine grass cultivars have been developed, including Floratam, Palmetto, Floratine, St. Augustine decline, Captiva, Raleigh, and Texas common.

Here’s are pictures to help you identify St. Augustine grass:

st. augustine grass

Floratam Sod

floratam sod

Seville Sod

Seville Sod

Bermuda Grass Identification (with Pictures)

Also referred to as, Cynodon dactylon, Bermuda grass has fairly short blades that measure 2 to 15 cm. The leaves appear to have a grey-green. The root system is deep while the stems are a bit flat and can grow as tall as 30 cm when erect.

Mowing often activates lateral growth, making your lawn thick and full. When nodes touch the ground, the grass will grow and spread laterally on the surface, sprouting new leaves and shoots. Stolons, rhizomes, and seeds are the main ways this grass spreads.

Here’s a photo of Bermuda grass to help you with identification:

Bermuda Sod

Long Bermuda Grass

long bermuda grass

Bermuda Sod on Rolls

bermuda sod on rolls

Which One to Choose

The type of grass you’ll choose for your lawn depends on your preferences and the setup of your lawn.

Is your lawn covered with shade?

I would strongly recommend going planting St. Augustine grass if your yard is surrounded by trees and buildings that block sunlight for the most part of the day.

However, if your lawn receives a full day of direct sunlight, choose Bermuda grass as it thrives better under full-light conditions.

How much traffic will there be on your lawn?

Another factor to consider is traffic. Some grass species do well under foot traffic stress while others don’t. For example, Bermuda grass is great for heavy foot traffic while St. Augustine grass does not tolerate foot traffic so well.

What’s the overall climate like?

Both Bermuda and St. Augustine are warm-season grasses and will thrive a lot better in warm conditions. You can choose either of the two or mix the seeds and sod when planting your lawn. If you do, note that Bermuda grass can easily outgrow St. Augustine grass especially with frequent mowings.

References

Cals Arizona: Phoenix Lawn Watering Guide

13 thoughts on “St. Augustine Grass vs Bermuda Grass: Differences, Pictures, Comparison”

  1. I live in N.E. Texas. What would the best grass seed for my location and when should I seed it?
    I have seen videos where I should maybe spray Tenacity for the weeds then use an aerator before seeding, is that right?

    Reply
    • Tenacity can kill certain types of warm-season grass so I’d figure out what kind of turf it is before spraying.
      But otherwise, Tenacity is great at getting rid of just about everything, Q4 is another great post-emergent that also tackles nutsedge but unnecessary otherwise.

      Reply
  2. Alex K., Thanks for an insightful article. I noticed a couple of discrepancies that, when corrected, will make it even better. You said in the blue table that bermuda required up to “3 times of watering in the summer”, but earlier you correctly said 3 times A WEEK during the summer. Along the same lines, you said at the beginning (in the aqua-colored call out box) “In summary, Bermuda grass is highly drought-resistant and can tolerate hot weather in summer WITHOUT WATER . . .) Both of these miscues could be very misleading if not corrected. Also, you correctly made the point of bermuda’s need for full sunlight, but said this later: “However, if your lawn receives a full day of direct sunlight, choose Bermuda grass as it thrives better under LOW-LIGHT conditions.” I think you meant “thrives better under FULL-light conditions”. With those things corrected, this is a very useful article – thanks!!

    Reply
    • Hi Steve,
      Thank you very much for pointing out those discrepancies. Quite a mix-up I ended up with there when editing the final copy. I have corrected the errors to do with water and sunlight requirements for Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass.

      Really appreciated.

      Reply
  3. Hello Alex,

    We have some new St. Augustine sod that was just laid to build out the flower beds a little more. Located in South Florida and there are still some spots that are a little bare with some weeds. Can we add seed to fill in these spots? We had a full backyard of new sod put down 2 years ago and under the trees as time went on weeds just grew, so that’s why we filled in this year. Any suggestions so that this doesn’t happen again. Note we had all the trees and palms completely pruned so more sunlight reaches these spots.
    Thank you.
    Cynthia

    Reply
  4. Is it too late in the season for me to throw some Bermuda seed. Have a semi-large area of StAug that died I believe due to lack of water over the summer. I live in St Augustine area(no pun intended

    Reply
    • Hi Craig, sorry for the late reply. Yes probably too late now to get the best benefit. Best to wait until mid Feb/March in your area to put down new bermuda seed.

      Reply
  5. Hey Alex! Nice article! I live in central Texas and have full sun in the front (coastal Bermuda) and lots of shade in the back (St Augustine). I also have chickens who have really done a disservice to my St Augustine In the back yard. Just curious if there is a grass that will survive the chickens?

    Reply
  6. I live in zone 10a in a San Diego suburb. Do both Bermuda and St Augustine grasses go dormant in winter when night temperature can reach 25 degrees F? Will they recover in the spring and completely grow back? And during the summer, does Bermuda grass need 1/2 to 1/3 the water of Saint Augustine grass? Thanks In advance for your answers!

    Reply
    • Bermuda will go dormant in winter but will come back once temps are normally above 70 degrees at night. St Augustine won’t go dormant but will grow slower in winter. Yes typically Bermuda will need less water.

      Reply
  7. Hi Alex,
    I just had St Augustine sod laid in So Cal. Our summers get hot and dry and was told that I should overseed the sod with Bermuda before summer, and then overseed with St Augustine again in the winter. Your thoughts?

    Judi F

    Reply
    • I don’t think I would overseed St Augustine with Bermuda. Those are two different looking grasses and you may not like the end result. Plus there are no St. Augustine seeds to overseed with, you would just purchase plugs to fill in bare spots of St. Augustine.

      Reply

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