Best Lawn Grass for the Tampa-St. Petersburg Area
Like most of Florida, Tampa is in climate zone 9, known for its warm, humid environment. Even in the coldest part of winter, the average low doesn’t even break 50° F. On the other hand, the average summer high routinely hits 90° F with high humidity. This means that warm season grasses are going to be the best grasses for lawns, since cool season grasses simply can’t survive the hot summers.
St. Augustine Grass
The king of Florida grasses has been St. Augustine for years. The grass is native to the coastal areas, and has even moved inland. Because it’s native to the Tampa-St. Petersburg, it can handle the local environment without trouble with a high salt tolerance and heat resistance. If properly maintained, St. Augustine can produce a beautiful dark green lawn with thick bladed grass. It grows best in full sunlight with only moderate shade, which shouldn’t be a problem in the Bay Area. It does need a lot of humidity and moisture to grow, so during dry seasons it might weaken the turf.
If there’s a grass to give St. Augustine a run for its money, it’s a bahiagrass. In fact, with the water restrictions in the recent years, many people have switched over to the Argentine bahiagrass variety. Like the name sounds, this variety of bahiagrass originally came from Argentina, but has adapted well to the warm Florida environment. Argentine has broad leaves with a darker green color, and does best with full sun. It doesn’t do well with cold, but that’s not a problem around Tampa.
Pensacola is also a popular bahiagrass variety, as well as its cousin Tifton 9. Both of these are more low maintenance varieties with a narrower leaf. However, they’re not as common in lawns because they’re a little tougher. Usually, they’re found on industrial lawns, commercial lawns, or roadsides. Tifton 9 was specifically developed from Pensacola for pastures, but also works well for erosion control.
Ryegrasses are cool season grasses, and normally aren’t used as far south as Florida, but there is an exception. While Bay Area winters are mild, the lower temperatures can thin out grasses that need a lot of heat to thrive. The thinned-out turf can open the door to weeds and pests, not to mention looking bad.
This is where ryegrasses come in. Whether it’s the annual or perennial variety, these cool season grasses can be over-seeded in the Fall. Ryegrasses are known for being fast-growing, so they’ll germinate quickly and start filling in the lawn within a matter of weeks. The ryegrass will keep the lawn green all winter long. It will die in the summer heat, so it will need to be over-seeded again during the Fall.