People in Florida and other St. Augustine grass places may be surprised to see Palmetto growing next to their lawns. These two types of grasses are different in many ways. Today we are discussing the differences between St Augustine versus Palmetto Grass.
Both types of grass have different qualities that make them better or worse for specific purposes. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have chosen which is best for you!
St Augustine versus Palmetto Grass: Color
St. Augustine grass is known for being a dark green color. This allows it to absorb the sun’s energy better than other types of grass, like Palmetto. In addition, St. Augustine is the only type of turfgrass that produces a red color, which can be seen especially in the late summer months.
The trade-off for this dark green color of St. Augustine grass is that it also tends to accumulate heat during hot summer days. This can lead to increased water loss via evaporation compared to Palmetto Grass.
Palmetto has a lighter green color that reflects sunlight instead of absorbing it as St. Augustine Grass does.
This reduces the water needs associated with direct absorption by the plant tissue and allows the grass blades to cool down more efficiently on hot summer days through increased airflow at the blade’s surface and reduced wind speeds near the grass blades.
The trade-off for Palmetto’s lighter shade of green is that it reflects less sunlight on the surface. This means photosynthesis will occur more profoundly within the leaf tissue than near its top surface. As a result, there is a limit to the potential for solar conversion of light energy into new plant biomass.
St. Augustine grasses grow more quickly and need to be mowed more often than a Palmetto Grass would to keep them from taking over your lawn area.
Mowing height also affects how much sunlight can reach lower portions of a blade, changing the composition at different levels of a single blade unit and across multiple plants forming dense turfgrass communities.
St. Augustine grasses are shorter and need to be mowed down to 1 inch. Palmetto Grass can be mowed down to 2 inches. This is a good thing because it makes the St. Augustine grass look more aggressive, but it also means that less sunlight will reach the plant’s lower leaves, which might not be desirable in some cases.
Palmetto Grass can have a more controllable vertical growth habit if sunlight goes through the leaves. This will let all the different levels of the leaf get photosynthesis.
St. Augustine grass blades are typically twice as wide as Palmetto grass blades. This means that one blade of St. Augustine Grass will cover twice the area as a single Palmetto blade would at the same height without spreading itself out into an unmanageable clump.
St. Augustine and Palmetto grasses have similar leaf area densities. This means around 4-5 leaves for every inch of turfgrass. However, St. Augustine grass has a wider horizontal width, so you need fewer plants to cover the same area as Palmetto grass.
The blades of Palmetto grass are flatter than the blades of St. Augustine grass because of the differences in the cell structure and the angle at which light hits them. Palmetto blades reflect more radiant energy, making them look lighter in color.
The blades of St. Augustine grass are also more glossy, which gives them a wet appearance, particularly after irrigation during dry periods.
Density and Texture
The leaves of a Palmetto Grass are usually more refined and have wavier tips than the leaves of a St. Augustine. This makes the Palmetto Grass look taller, while a St. Augustine looks more coarse with straighter leaves.
Many people who are new to Florida landscaping practices choose Palmetto over St Augustine for this reason, mistakenly thinking they can control vertical growth by mowing blade height rather than overall plant width profile within their landscape plan.
Palmetto Grasses are denser than St. Augustine Grass blades. This can help them keep their turfgrass cover when other plants might not do well in the same conditions because there is less light available at ground level.
Palmetto grass is a good choice for shady lawn apps. Most people might think that fescue or zoysia would grow better in a shaded area, but palmetto grass is a cheaper option, and it also requires less mowing. The only downside is that the soil pH should be below seven, or there may be some nutrient deficiencies compared to other grass types.
Palmetto’s have a more drought-tolerant root system on average than other types of grass. This can benefit regions with highly sandy soil or extremely high water table levels. Palmetto’s are also more resistant to damage from lawn care mistakes, such as improper fertilization, over-irrigation, mowing too low, etc.
Injury Recovery and Wear Tolerance
There are different types of grass, and some are more wear tolerant than others. It also depends on what you plan to use the grass for and on your personal preference for how short it should be before you need to cut it.
In general, if you want the grass to be taller (more than 0.5″), it will be more difficult to keep clean, and there will be an increased risk of disease for both types of grasses. However, St Augustine grasses are more cold tolerant than Palmetto Grass.
On average, Palmetto grass is more resistant to lawnmower damage than St. Augustine grass. This is because the dead leaf matter at the base of a Palmetto blade is not present with a St. Augustine blade. When you run over them while mowing, you will get a tearing sound instead of the sound you get when you run over a St. Augustine blade.
Some people might think there is something wrong with your lawn care when they see that two types of grass are growing there. This can happen when the kinds of grass are different, even if you take good care of your lawn.
St. Augustine grass is more shade tolerant than Palmetto. St Augustine does not produce as many stolons (runners). You should choose St. Augustine over Palmetto if you have a yard with trees and plants. The soil pH should be above 5.5 for Palmetto to grow well.
Palmetto grows better in open areas with fewer trees. It can tolerate the sun better, so you do not need to worry about other plants crowding it. It also means you can mow it slightly before it becomes hay quality because the blades will not be in the shade as much.
Palmetto’s are less likely to get a fungal disease. This is why they have a 5.5 upper limit for pH, while St Augustine Grass has a seven pH limit. If your soil type has a significantly higher pH than this, then both kinds of turfgrass may be negatively affected.
Palmetto’s are also more drought resistant, which means that the fungus cannot grow or spread very effectively under those conditions. So there is usually less presence from damaging fungus overall on these grasses, even though it might be present within the environment if soil conditions were more favorable.
St Augustine grasses can tolerate colder temperatures better than Palmetto Grass. This means that you can mow them a little lower, and they will stay green for a more extended time in the winter season.
However, this is not true if the average dew point temperature in your region falls below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, as both types of grass will go dormant under those conditions.
This also applies to areas with high elevation, such as mountain regions. But frost tolerance is more closely related to snow levels than temperature per se because the colder air typically flows downhill into lower elevations and freezes vegetation within its path.
If you have a pest problem, you might want to choose Palmetto grass instead of St Augustine. Keep in mind that ants will tunnel under both types of grass, but other insects such as mole crickets might be less problematic on Palmetto because the dead leaf matter at their base does not get turned into tunnels as it can with St. Augustines.
St Augustine versus Palmetto Grass: Conclusion
What type of grass is best for you? The answer depends on your specific needs and location. Palmetto grass is a good choice if you live in a warm climate and need a tough turfgrass that can stand up to high traffic. If you’re looking for versatile grass that can be used in both sun and shade, St. Augustine may be a better fit for you.
No matter which type of grass you choose, remember to keep up with regular maintenance to ensure your lawn looks its best year-round.