How to Choose the Best Grass for Florida Lawns

Do you know what the difference is between a Yankee and a Damn Yankee? The Damn Yankee never goes back home after they come to Florida. I am a Damn Yankee. From Illinois, so …​

Besides sun and surf, do you know what else is different between Florida and Illinois, or any other civilized state in the union? They have grass; Florida does not.

I don’t know what that stuff is in the yard, but it is not grass. Grass is long and tickles your feet when you’re barefoot. It is lush and green, and while it may have some dandelions and weeds, it does not have cockroaches living in it.

Florida has native grasses. The difference is that Florida grasses grow in clumps like Elliott’s Lovegrass, but does not cover any turf. The closest wild grass that covered Florida’s turf before the development of the state is arstidia stricta or wiregrass as it is commonly called. It thrives in hot, sandy, pinelands and adores poorly drained soils like those on the Florida prairies, but it also clumps. It does not do well in the coastal areas where it is subject to salt air.

Craig Huegel wrote a report on using native grasses for lawns in The Understory in 1998 reprinted in the Pinellas Chapter FNPS that still rings true today. That Florida does not want native grasses. They want grasses that look pretty.

Pros and Cons of Florida Grass


  • Heat and drought tolerant
  • Low maintenance with minimal watering, fertilizing, and mowing
  • Versatile selections for most landscape needs


  • Susceptible to disease and pests
  • Limited shade tolerance
  • Costly choices

Here are some of the most common grasses used in landscaping and on lawns today:

  1. St. Augustine grass: A warm-season grass that is widely used in Florida due to its tolerance to heat and humidity. It has a dense, lush appearance and is well-suited to low-traffic areas.
  2. Bermuda grass: Another warm-season grass, Bermuda grass is known for its high heat and drought tolerance. It is often used in sports fields and golf courses in Florida. We got some golf courses!
  3. Zoysia grass: Zoysia is a warm-season grass that is known for its fine texture and ability to grow in a variety of soils. It is also relatively low maintenance.
  4. Centipedegrass: Centipedegrass is a slow-growing warm-season grass that is well-suited to areas with limited maintenance resources. It is commonly used in parks and other public spaces.
  5. Bahia grass: Bahia grass is a warm-season grass that is commonly used in pastures and for erosion control. It is a low-maintenance grass that is tolerant to heat and drought.
  6. Seashore Paspalum: A warm-season grass, Seashore Paspalum is known for its salt tolerance, making it a popular choice for landscaping near saltwater.
  7. Buffalo grass: A warm-season grass, Buffalo grass is known for its low-maintenance requirements and ability to thrive in a wide range of soils. It is commonly used in parks and other public spaces.

What is the easiest grass to maintain in Florida?

Taking into consideration climate, soil type, and lawn use, the easiest grass with the lowest maintenance will always be a winner. Here are some of the easiest grasses to maintain in Florida:

  1. Zoysia grass
  2. Centipedegrass
  3. Seashore Paspalum
  4. Buffalo grass

What is the difference between growing grass on the coast as opposed to inland Florida? 

When choosing your grass, you have to consider your location in the state. Here are some breakdowns on the differences between coastal and inland grass based on the needs of the area like salt tolerance.

Coastal Florida Grass Needs:

  1. Salt tolerance: Coastal areas are often exposed to salt spray from the ocean, which can be harmful to some grass types. Seashore Paspalum and Bermuda grass are two examples of grass varieties that are highly salt-tolerant and well-suited to coastal areas.
  2. Moisture: Coastal areas tend to have higher humidity and more rainfall, which can make it easier to maintain a healthy lawn.
  3. Soil: Coastal soils are often sandy and well-drained, which can affect the type of grass that can be grown in these areas.

Inland Florida Grass Needs:

  1. Heat and drought tolerance: Inland areas are subject to hotter temperatures and less rainfall, making it important to choose a drought-tolerant grass type. Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass are well-suited to these conditions.
  2. Soil: Inland soils can vary greatly, with some areas having clay or heavy soils that can make it more challenging to grow a healthy lawn.
  3. Shaded areas: Inland areas are often subject to more shade due to the presence of trees, making it important to choose a shade-tolerant grass type. St. Augustine grass is relatively shade-tolerant.

What types of bugs and grass diseases are there in Florida grass?

If you’ve been to Florida, you know that we grow our bugs BIG. Did you know they live under your feet, too? Yay for us.

Florida Lawn Bugs:

  1. Chinch bugs: Chinch bugs are small, red, and black insects that can cause significant damage to lawns. They feed on the sap of grass plants and can cause yellow patches in lawns.
  2. Armyworms: Armyworms are caterpillar-like insects that can cause damage to grass by feeding on the blades. They can cause large, irregularly shaped holes in lawns.
  3. Mole crickets: Mole crickets are insects that can cause significant damage to lawns by burrowing in the soil and feeding on the roots of grass plants. The first time I saw one of these, I was sure it was a mutant of some sort.
  4. Sod webworms: Sod webworms are caterpillar-like insects that feed on grass blades, causing small, irregularly shaped brown patches in lawns.

Florida Lawn Diseases:

  1. Brown patch: Brown patch is a fungal disease that affects warm-season grasses and can cause circular patches of brown, dead grass in lawns.
  2. Dollar spot: Dollar spot is a fungal disease that affects warm-season grasses and can cause small, circular patches of tan or brown grass in lawns.
  3. Gray leaf spot: Gray leaf spot is a fungal disease that affects St. Augustine grass and can cause gray or brown patches on the leaves of grass plants.
  4. Fairy ring: Fairy ring is a fungal disease that affects lawns and can cause circular patches of dark green or yellow grass surrounded by brown grass.

To prevent or control these pests and diseases, it is important to practice good lawn care techniques, such as mowing at the recommended height, watering deeply and infrequently, and fertilizing appropriately. It is also helpful to consult with a local landscaping professional or horticulturist if you suspect a pest or disease problem. Florida is hot and humid, so fungus lives everywhere.

Should I hire a landscaper to care for my Florida grass? As I look out onto my lawn of sand and dirt, I would go with a big “yes” to that question. As to whether you want to hire someone to take care of your lawn depends on whether or not you want to take care of it and your level of expertise in lawn maintenance and landscaping.

Here are some benefits of hiring a professional landscaper:

  1. Expertise: Landscapers have the expertise and experience to care for your lawn properly, including identifying and treating any pests or diseases that may arise.
  2. Time-saving: Hiring a landscaper to care for your lawn can save you time and effort. It also cuts down on your frustration level when it seems like a losing battle.
  3. High-quality results: A professional landscaper can provide high-quality results, helping to ensure that your lawn is healthy and attractive.
  4. Equipment: Landscapers typically have access to professional-grade equipment, such as mowers, edgers, and fertilization equipment, that can make lawn care easier and more efficient.
  5. Consistency: Hiring a landscaper can ensure that your lawn is consistently cared for, helping to avoid issues such as over- or under-fertilization, irregular mowing, or improper watering.

There is nothing more beautiful than a green yard with lots of budding flowers in it, and Florida is the perfect place to grow some of the most colorful flowers all year round, but grass? Not so much. It is doable, but you have to spend a lot of time and money to get the lawn you want.

One thing for certain, a beautiful lawn helps to raise the resale value of your home, and that’s always a good thing. 

Poisonous Plants to Avoid in Florida Landscaping

Like animals and bugs, the plants in Florida serve only one purpose; that is to kill you. Not just you, but your pets, too. Yet, we plant them in our gardens and use them in the city parks.

blooming oleander growing in green garden
Photo by Alfin Auzikri on

Oleanders – deadly poisonous native of the Mediterranean;
Castor Bean – a native of Africa that produces ricin;
Rosary Pea – a native from the Old World (wherever THAT is) that produces abrin;
Gloriosa Lily – a native of Africa that produces several toxic compounds like alkaloid colchicine;
King Sago – a poisonous cycad from Japan that produces BMAA and cycasin;
Spotted Water Hemlock – a member of the carrot family that produces nerve poisons

When you create your garden, use native plants for a more balanced yard that attracts pollinators and birds.

Here are some that are in my yard:

  • American Beautyberry
  • Azalea
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Blazing Star
  • Coral Honeysuckle
  • Elliott’s Aster
  • Scarlet Salvia
  • Tickseed

If you want to read more on setting up a native landscape, here are some books that I suggest:

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