How to Fertilize Centipede Grass

How to Fertilize Centipede Grass
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Centipede grass is a common grass that grows in the south east in late spring and lasts through the summer. It goes dormant in the winter, and then it starts back up again in late April following the last frost. It is considered to be a warm season turf grass that is popular on many lawns. During the spring growing season, it is very fragile, so you need to be cautious when you fertilize it. You want to make sure that the cold weather is past, but you should fertilize it before the warm weather comes.

Continue reading to learn how to fertilize centipede grass.

When to Fertilize Centipede Grass

Because centipede grass is a warm weather turf grass, you want to fertilize it in the spring. It will start growing after the last frost, usually around the end of April. You will see the green growth begin to come up at this time.

It is very sensitive when it is growing, and you need to make sure that you are careful because some fertilizers can damage it, especially if there is more cold weather that follows.

The best time to fertilize your centipede grass is a few weeks after “green up,” which is when you begin to see the new growth popping up out of the ground. This is normally around the middle of May, but if you watch your lawn, you will know because the new growth will appear.

Tips for Fertilizing Centipede Grass

The first thing to note is that centipede grass doesn’t need a lot of fertilizer. If you feed it too much nitrogen, it will cause growth that is susceptible to disease.

In addition, phosphorus will deplete the iron levels which prevents the grass from being able to obtain the lush green look.

You should use a fertilizer that is phosphorus-free, and it should only have about two pounds of nitrogen for every 1000 square feet. You can use a 15-0-15 fertilizer for this type of grass. Typically, the only place you would be able to find a 15-0-15 is in a specialty shop.

Make sure that you wait until any possibility of a frost has passed before you fertilize your grass. This is very important because the frost will kill your grass if you have fertilized it.

You should also remember that general purpose weed and feed fertilizers are deadly to this kind of grass. You want a product that is made specifically for centipede grass, and it will be labeled this way.

The problem with weed and feed fertilizers is that it needs to be applied too early for centipede grass so that it is effective for the weeds. This can cause the centipede grass to become diseased. If you use proper fertilizer that is labeled for use in centipede grass, you will see it green up within 24 hours.

Organic Lawn Foods

An organic lawn food may be another option for you to feed your centipede. It’s certainly possible to have great success with an organic lawn food even though it doesn’t have any iron it. The organic product is very healthy for your soil, it works to feed the microbes in the high temperatures of summer and it also has a low nitrogen content which centipede grass prefers.

Other advantages of organic fertilizers vs synthetic fertilizers for centipede grass include:

  • They don’t have to be watered in immediately
  • You don’t have to worry about burning your centipede grass

Caring for Centipede Grass

Once your centipede grass is fertilized and starts to green up, it needs one inch of water each week. If you aren’t getting enough rain, you need to water it yourself with a sprinkler.

When you make sure that your centipede grass is watered correctly as it grows in the spring, it will be healthier and stronger to last through the summer.

You will also want to control weed growth, but it is important to remember that centipede grass is sensitive to many different herbicides.

You can use preemergence herbicides to control goosegrass, crabgrass, and foxtail. Once you reach the summer, you will want to use postemergence herbicides, but you must wait until at least three weeks after green up.

You will also want to check for grubs, which can deplete the grass roots of nutrients.

Fertilizer Schedule for Centipede Grass

The best way to make sure that your centipede grass is healthy is to follow a simple schedule for fertilizing it.

Spring Time

Starting in the spring, wait until two weeks after green up to fertilize. The threat of a frost should have passed, and you need to use a fertilizer that is labeled for use with centipede grass. You want to make sure that it is phosphorous-free.

The time of your first fertilizing will vary depending on your climate. Start off by spraying iron sulfate. The grass will green up within 24 hours of this treatment, so you need to make sure that any threat of frost has passed. This is normally around the end of April in most climates.

Once you have seen the green up for about two weeks, use a high potassium fertilizer with less than two pounds of nitrogen per 1000 feet. If you find that your grass is yellow, you might have an iron deficiency, and you can repeat the treatment of spraying with iron sulfate.


In the fall months, you will want to fertilize with one pound of potassium for every 1000 square feet of lawn. You should apply this treatment four to six weeks before the first frost. You can use potassium sulfate, which is 0-0-15 for this treatment.


Over the winter, from December through February, you do not need to fertilize your centipede grass at all. It will go dormant during this time, and you can simply wait until after the last frost of the season for your grass to begin growing again.

A Common Mistake When Fertilizing Centipede Grass

Many homeowners will overuse nitrogen on bare spots of grass to try and get grass to fill it in. Although this may help you in the short term, over time it’s probably going to end up doing more harm to your centipede grass than good.

We recommend that you sparingly fertilize centipede grass and maybe give it some micronutrients from time to time.

Final Words

People love centipede grass because it tolerates the heat of summer well and it is very low maintenance as far as lawns go.

It has minimal fertilizing needs, and it survives with only an inch of water per week. It has a shallow root system, and it does tolerate some shade.

The important thing is to know how to fertilize centipede grass so that your lawn is always healthy and green.

Centipede grass is dormant during the winter months, and it requires no maintenance at all.

You need to wait until the final frost of the winter before you consider helping your grass come back. If you do nothing, the centipede grass will start to green up around the end of April or the beginning of May. If you want to help it along, you can spray it with iron sulfate, and it will green up within 24 hours. Just make sure that you are not going to have another frost.

Follow the schedule above to keep your centipede grass healthy and green, and make sure that you use fertilizers that are labeled for use with this type of grass.

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