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. 

A Hummingbird Garden with Native Florida Flowers

A hummingbird resting on the top of my honeysuckle. I never knew they stopped moving until I saw this. @jcleveland

Once upon a time we had a large honeysuckle bush that was planted on the corner of our slab back porch. It was over 12 feet tall and full of flowers. The odd thing is only one lone hummingbird ever seemed to find the bush. During a construction project, the bush came down, but there are still many winding honeysuckle tendrils along the edge of our property that do attract hummingbirds occasionally. I have seen one on that this year after many years of no hummingbirds. To be fair, the honeysuckle that is on the property is not native and probably considered invasive. 

I am planning my next project: A hummingbird hospitality center

I have tried the little hanging nectar tubes, but they were not interested, and being in Florida, I had to contend with ants and mold, so I gave that project up. My folks in Illinois are quite successful with their hanging feeder; I think they have my Dad trained to feed them when they perch on the window and look in. I prefer to do mine the natural way. The cardinals are already demanding enough.

This is something like what my folks have:

Firebush image by Louis R Nugent 

My plan is to plant a native hummingbird garden somewhere in the yard where I can see it and they won’t feel threatened by the house or the dog.

Here are some of the native Florida plants that I am considering:

  • Firebush, Hamelia patens – We have one plant in the yard, but I want to put more in a concentrated area. 
  • Coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens – These are vines, so I can’t pot them.
  • Coralbean, Erythrina herbacea – We have a couple of these scattered over the property, but I would like to put them in a concentrated area.
  • Tropical Sage, Salvia coccinea – I have blue Salvia that is great for butterflies, but if you haven’t noticed, hummingbirds seem to love red!
  • Cardinalflower, Lobelia cardinalis – These plants spike up to 6 feet, but they don’t vine, so they would be great in a pot.

Other plants that we already have include bottlebrush, cigar flower, red buckeye and more. They are not in one place, so it makes it hard to see if there are any hummingbirds on them since they are nested in with other plants and away from the house. 

The project for the summer is to build a hummingbird section in the yard, so I will be ready for them as they migrate back this way at the end of the year.

Interested in building your own hummingbird hospitality center? Here are some books that might get you started.

Here is the same book, but instead of paperback, it is in eformat in the Kindle section of Amazon. It is currently in the Kindle Unlimited section, which means you can read for free!

Here are some of my hummingbird handmade products for you to enjoy.

Not all Weeds are Weeds

By looking around at my yard, you would think that every plant in it is a weed, but I learned something really important when preparing this post: some of my weeds are butterfly host plants.

As you know, I have been courting monarchs for a year with lots of yummy milkweed plants, but my yard is also home to a large selection of other butterflies like the zebra butterfly, the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, four species of swallowtails, the cloudless Sulphur, painted lady butterfly, and the American lady butterfly.

I discovered that one of the weeds that I had been removing was a cudweed, also known as a Pennsylvania Everlasting. It is not from Pennsylvania nor is it a native plant, but it is the host plant to the American lady butterfly, which explains why I have so many of them in the yard.  As I read up further on the American lady butterfly, I realized that I have seen the caterpillars on the porch.

I thought I would dig a little deeper into my butterflies and find out what plant they used as hosts. Here is what I found:

Zebra longwing butterfly – These pretty little butterflies are the Florida State butterfly and love my jatropha bush in the backyard, but they lay their eggs on the purple passionflower. While I don’t have any passionflower in my yard, I know where I can get a plant or two. It just seems like these butterflies are so prevalent that they don’t need my help to procreate.

Gulf Fritillary – The Gulf Fritillary also enjoy the passionflower and passion vine as a host, but they are attracted to nectar plants like lantana, zinnias, asters, verbena, butterfly bushes, and thistle.

Swallowtails – I have black swallowtails, and they use carrots, parsley, dill, fennel, and Queen Anne’s lace as their host plants. I did plant some dill and parsley last year to give them a place to lay their eggs, but I have not seen a cat yet. The giant swallowtail likes wild lime and other citrus trees. The spicebush and pipevine swallowtail are both named for their host plants, and all of the swallowtails love nectar plants like pentas, zinnias, and lantana.

Cloudless Sulphur – This pretty yellow butterfly uses the Senna plant as its host. If they feed on the yellow flowers of a cassia plant, they will turn bright yellow. They enjoy coneflowers, too.

Painted Lady – The Painted Lady butterfly looks a lot like the American lady butterfly, but it has four eyes on each wing while the American lady has two. The American lady also has a white spot on their top wings in a sea of orange. The Painted Lady lay their eggs on thistles and mallow family plants. They munch on asters, as long as they are 3 or more feet tall.

Every year, a migration of white butterflies heads our way from South Florida, and this year, I will make sure that they have a lot of lantana and other nectar plants to enjoy. We do get them to stop over here, but I will do what I can to make it an even tastier stop this year.

Not all straggly-looking plants are weeds; some are a very important stopover for butterflies. 

Passionflower host plant.

Since butterflies are crucial to our world’s make up, it is never too late to teach children and adults about the butterflies in their world. Here are a couple of recommended books for the young at heart. 

Are Aphids Good for Your Garden?

Aphids! What the heck? 

Aphids come in a few colors, but the ones that have infested my milkweed are bright yellow. They can also be brown, black or red. Since they are a pest, I insisted on getting rid of them on sight when they first appeared as a yellow blanket all over my milkweed. I have changed my mind since then.  After a lot of reading, I have come to understand that the aphid is the base meal of other beneficial beasties in the garden. However, that doesn’t mean let them infest your garden!

These little creatures suck the sap out of your plants, so their ultimate goal is to kill your plant. The good thing about them is that they do attract the ladybugs, a type of beetle, who are pest eaters in their own right. A ladybug can eat over 5,000 insects in their little life according to experts. Lacewing flies also like to munch on aphids. Both of these insects act as natural pesticides.

If you’re growing milkweed like I am, then you don’t want to use pesticides on the plants to kill the aphids on it. I do use a soap and water mixture to destroy aphids when they get to be too bad, but you can also kill the monarch eggs if you’re not careful. A good dousing with the water hose will do the trick, too.

I find that the best way to get rid of an abundance of aphids is to wet a paper towel and gently wipe down the leaves and stalks of the plants. The aphids are very delicate, so it is very easy to kill them.

Or, you could just let nature take its course and the next thing you will see is an army of these lizard-like things marching across your plant in search of aphids. These are baby ladybugs that look like tiny alligators before they mature into the cute red and black beetles we know and love.

Did you know you could buy ladybugs? Your local nursery may have them for sale in little containers like the ones we got earthworms in when we were kids. Or, they may be in bags like these from Amazon.

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Lacewing flies are not quite as voracious as the ladybug, but they do their own housekeeping. I have noticed that they are inclined to be around my flowering plant aphids as opposed to the milkweed aphids. The aphids are a bit different, so that may be why the lacewing flies are more inclined to hang out by my potted flowers.

Are aphids, good or bad for your garden? If they are not hurting your plants, and there are only a few of them, why not wait for the ladybugs to show up and lay eggs? You can observe another cycle of life while knowing that your plants are safe.

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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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What’s Blooming in Florida?

Check out the latest plants and flowers blooming in Florida this month! I have lots of non-native flowers that are taking off, but I don’t have these plants. What I do have is these plants! And, now I have hummingbirds 🙂

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