When and How to Fertilize Centipede Grass

When is the proper time to apply fertilizer to centipede grass? Should I use a weed and feed product?” – Bill

Centipede grass is a warm-season turf grass, which means its growing season begins in late spring and lasts through the summer, then it goes mostly dormant or brown for the winter. The beginning of the growing season is called “green up,” as the grasses once again send up bright green blades and the lawn starts actively growing.

Although usually occurring in April, the exact timing of the spring green up depends on the temperatures in your particular microclimate. During the green up period, the new growth in your lawn is very tender and can be harmed by the broadleaf herbicides in weed and feed products. In addition, feeding too early can cause growth that may be damaged by late cold snaps.

The ideal time to apply fertilizer, or weed and feed products, to centipede grass is a few weeks after green up, but before temperatures start topping 85° F. That’s usually around mid-May, but let your lawn be your guide. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Centipede grass doesn’t respond well to high doses of fertilizer. Too much nitrogen will cause a flush of growth susceptible to disease, and phosphorus will deplete iron levels. Use a phosphorus-free fertilizer such as 15-0-15, with only about 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet.
  • If time constraints require you to treat your lawn earlier than recommended, use fertilizer only rather than a weed and feed product.
  • Never apply fertilizer until after all danger of frost has passed.
  • General-purpose weed and feed products can be deadly to this type of lawn. Make sure you purchase a product specifically designed and labeled for centipede grass.
  • Weed and feed is difficult with centipede grass, because the grass does better with a late application, but weeds are more affected by an earlier application – giving a narrow window of time for good results.

For more information on fertilizer, check out our Fertilizer 101 article.