Close up of blue sprinkler marker in Floratam brand St. Augustine grass developed in the 1970’s by the University of Florida.

St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is a water-efficient turf grass used in many warm-season lawns. Several types of St. Augustine are available for lawns, but one of the most popular is ‘Floratam’ (Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘Floratam’). Since its introduction by the University of Florida and Texas A & M University in 1973, this variety has become one of the most produced and prevalent St. Augustine grasses used in warm-season lawns.

St. Augustine grass is a warm-season grass that is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10. This broad-bladed, medium-green turf grass thrives in sunny locations, but unlike some sun-loving grasses, it also has a high shade tolerance. Common St. Augustine grass grows quickly during summer, but more slowly in fall and spring. It is a salt- and drought-tolerant grass that requires moderate maintenance.

Like most St. Augustine grasses, Floratam is coarse-textured grass, but a distinguishing feature of Floratam is its longer and wider leaf blades. This dark-green cultivar grows rapidly in both spring and summer. It is less cold and shade tolerant than other St. Augustine grass cultivars and can suffer from freeze damage when temperatures stay below freezing for an extended period of time; it is hardy only in USDA zones 9 and 10. Floratam needs plenty of sunshine and will perform poorly if it receives less than six hours of sunlight a day.

Floratam can be established by sod, sprigs or plugs. For the first seven to 10 days after planting, water grass several times a day for five to 10 minutes. Established Floratam should be cut to a height of 3 1/2 to 4 inches, watered 1 inch weekly and fertilized every four to eight weeks with 1/2 to 1 pound nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Do not over-water or overfeed – use less than 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet annually – as this leads to thatch buildup. When mowing, be careful not to scalp the grass, cutting it low enough to expose the dirt, because weeds can establish in the damaged area.

When Floratam was first introduced, it was chinch bug resistant – the most common pest problem that plagues St. Augustine grasses. Over time, though, this attribute lessened. You will know if your lawn is afflicted with chinch bugs if yellow-to-brown patches exist in the turf. It normally appears first in water-stressed areas of the lawn or near sidewalks. If chinch bugs are a significant problem, your lawn may need to be treated with an insecticide.