Centipede Grass Care: When to Apply Fertilizer

The concept of fertilizing Centipede grass may be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be! When and how to fertilize Centipede grass is what this piece is all about. Make sure your lawn stays lush and green.

The grass known as centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) grows slowly and has coarse, apple-green leaves. It doesn’t need much fertilizer, doesn’t need to be mowed very often, and can handle some shade.

But centipedegrass needs at least 6 hours of full sun every day to grow well. It can’t stand being walked on, packed down, having high phosphorus or high pH soils, low potassium or high pH soils, too much thatch, drought, or heavy shade.

Fertilizing Centipede grass can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! This article will guide you through the essentials of when and how to fertilize Centipede grass, ensuring your lawn stays lush and green. We’ll break down the process step-by-step, from understanding your grass to choosing the right fertilizer and applying it correctly.

Understanding Centipede Grass

When To Fertilize Centipede Grass

Characteristics of Centipede Grass

Centipede grass, known for its low maintenance and vibrant green color, is a favorite among homeowners in the southeastern United States. This grass thrives in acidic soils with a pH between 4.5 and 6.0 and prefers full sunlight to partial shade. One of its standout features is its ability to grow in poor soil conditions, making it an ideal choice for less fertile areas.

Ideal Growing Conditions

For Centipede grass to flourish, it requires a balance of sunlight, water, and nutrients. It grows best in warm climates and is particularly suited to regions with mild winters and hot summers. While it tolerates some drought, regular watering is essential to maintain its lush appearance.

The Importance of Proper Fertilization

Benefits of Fertilization

Fertilizing your Centipede grass provides it with the essential nutrients it needs to grow strong and healthy. Proper fertilization encourages deep root growth, improves drought tolerance, and enhances the overall color and density of your lawn.

Consequences of Over-Fertilization

However, over-fertilizing can be just as detrimental as not fertilizing at all. Excess nutrients can lead to rapid growth that the grass cannot sustain, making it more susceptible to diseases and pests. Moreover, too much fertilizer can burn the grass, causing unsightly yellow patches.

When to Fertilize Centipede Grass

Seasonal Fertilization Guide

The key to successful fertilization lies in timing. Centipede grass should be fertilized primarily during its growing season, which spans from late spring to early fall. Understanding the growth cycle of your grass will help you apply fertilizers at the most effective times.

Timing Based on Soil Testing

Before applying any fertilizer, it’s crucial to test your soil. Soil tests provide valuable information about nutrient deficiencies and help you tailor your fertilization schedule to the specific needs of your lawn.

Spring Fertilization

Early Spring Applications

In early spring, as the grass begins to green up, a light application of fertilizer can help kickstart growth. Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to provide a steady supply of nutrients as the grass wakes up from winter dormancy.

Late Spring Adjustments

By late spring, the grass is in full growth mode. A second application of fertilizer can support continued growth and prepare the lawn for the heat of summer. This is the time to address any specific nutrient deficiencies identified in your soil test.

Summer Fertilization

Mid-Summer Fertilization Needs

Centipede grass tends to slow its growth in the peak of summer. A light feeding during mid-summer can help maintain its vigor without promoting excessive growth that could stress the grass in the heat.

Heat Stress Considerations

During the hottest months, it’s essential to avoid heavy fertilization. High temperatures can exacerbate the risk of fertilizer burn, so opt for a mild application or even skip fertilizing if the temperatures soar.

Fall Fertilization

Preparing for Dormancy

As temperatures cool in the fall, Centipede grass begins to prepare for dormancy. A final application of fertilizer, high in potassium, can help strengthen the grass’s root system, ensuring it survives the winter.

Soil Amendments for Winter

Fall is also an excellent time to add soil amendments like lime if your soil test indicates a need to adjust pH levels. This ensures that your grass will have an optimal growing environment come spring.

Winter Fertilization

Dormant Feeding Practices

Centipede grass goes dormant in winter, so it’s best to avoid fertilizing during this period. However, applying a light feeding just before dormancy can sometimes help the grass store nutrients for spring.

Avoiding Over-Fertilization

During winter, the risk of over-fertilization increases as the grass is not actively growing. Over-fertilizing at this time can harm the grass and leach nutrients into the groundwater.

Choosing the Right Fertilizer

Guide to Fertilize Centipede Grass

Types of Fertilizers for Centipede Grass

Selecting the right fertilizer is crucial. Look for fertilizers specifically formulated for Centipede grass, which often contain the ideal nutrient ratios. Typically, a fertilizer with a low nitrogen content and higher potassium is recommended.

Organic vs. Synthetic Fertilizers

Both organic and synthetic fertilizers have their advantages. Organic fertilizers improve soil structure and add beneficial microorganisms, while synthetic options provide nutrients more quickly. Your choice will depend on your lawn’s immediate needs and your long-term soil health goals.

How to Apply Fertilizer

Granular vs. Liquid Fertilizers

Granular fertilizers are easy to apply and provide a slow release of nutrients, while liquid fertilizers offer a quick nutrient boost but require more frequent applications. Both can be effective, but consistency is key.

Proper Application Techniques

Spread granular fertilizers evenly using a broadcast spreader, and ensure the grass is dry to avoid burning. For liquid fertilizers, use a hose-end sprayer for even coverage. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

Fertilization Tips and Tricks

Avoiding Common Mistakes

Common mistakes include over-fertilizing, applying fertilizer at the wrong time, and not watering adequately after application. Remember to stick to your soil test recommendations and avoid heavy applications during extreme weather conditions.

Best Practices for Healthy Growth

Water your lawn thoroughly after fertilizing to help the nutrients penetrate the soil. Mow regularly, keeping the grass height between 1.5 to 2 inches, and aerate the soil annually to promote root growth.

Signs of Nutrient Deficiency

Identifying Nutrient Deficiencies

Yellowing grass, stunted growth, and thin patches can indicate nutrient deficiencies. A soil test will confirm what nutrients are lacking, allowing you to adjust your fertilization plan accordingly.

Corrective Measures

Apply a targeted fertilizer that addresses the specific deficiencies. For example, iron supplements can help with yellowing due to iron deficiency, while a balanced fertilizer can correct multiple nutrient shortages.

Environmental Considerations

Eco-Friendly Fertilization Practices

To minimize environmental impact, use slow-release fertilizers and avoid fertilizing before heavy rain to prevent runoff. Consider incorporating organic fertilizers and compost to enrich your soil naturally.

Impact on Local Ecosystem

Excess fertilizer can leach into waterways, causing algae blooms and harming aquatic life. By following best practices and applying only what your lawn needs, you can maintain a beautiful lawn while protecting the environment.

Maintenance Beyond Fertilization

Mowing Practices

Mowing your Centipede grass correctly is crucial. Keep your mower blades sharp and cut no more than one-third of the grass height at a time to prevent stress and encourage healthy growth.

Watering Strategies

Water deeply but infrequently to promote deep root growth. Early morning watering reduces evaporation and disease risk, keeping your lawn hydrated and resilient.


Fertilizing Centipede grass at the right times with the right products is key to maintaining a lush, green lawn. By understanding your grass’s needs, following a seasonal fertilization schedule, and using the proper techniques, you can enjoy a beautiful, healthy lawn year-round.


How often should I fertilize my Centipede grass?

Typically, you should fertilize Centipede grass 2-3 times a year, focusing on late spring, mid-summer, and early fall.

Can I use the same fertilizer year-round?

It’s best to adjust your fertilizer based on the season and soil test results to meet the grass’s changing needs.

What are the signs of over-fertilization?

Signs include yellowing grass, excessive thatch, and increased susceptibility to diseases and pests.

Is organic fertilizer better for Centipede grass?

Organic fertilizers improve soil health over time, but synthetic fertilizers provide quicker results. Both have their place depending on your goals.

How can I test my soil’s nutrient levels?

Soil testing kits are available at garden centers, or you can send a sample to a local extension service for a detailed analysis.