Warm Season Grass Propagation

There are many ways to propagate a new lawn or to patch in bare spots - seeding is often a go-to, particularly for home lawns. Unfortunately, many warm season grasses cannot be seeded, either because seed is highly variable and will result in a non-uniform lawn, or because hybrid varieties don’t produce viable seed. Instead, most warm season grasses are often established vegetatively, via sod, sprigs, or plugs.

Seed

Seed is great for overseeding into existing turf, patching bare spots, or for general renovations. Seeding is the slowest way to establish turf, but it is also usually the cheapest option. Centipedegrass, bahiagrass, buffalograss, zoysiagrass, and common bermudagrass – including Sunday’s Bermuda Time seed – all have seeded varieties. These are best planted in late spring, so seeds have enough time to establish before temperatures dip in the fall. 

  1. Prep the soil: Lightly topdress or aerate the lawn in compacted or high-traffic areas
  2. Spread the seed: To ensure uniform distribution, spread half the seed in one direction, then the other half perpendicularly 
  3. Rake and roll: Gently rake the seed into the soil and roll (or tamp) the area to ensure good seed-to-soil contact
  4. Keep the soil moist: Water seeded areas in the early morning and evening until they germinate, making sure not to apply too much water, which can negatively affect germination or wash seed away
  5. Stay off the grass: Reduce traffic & wait to mow until you have around 60% green cover and grass is 1 ½ times the desired height

Sunday ProTip: Bermudagrass usually takes around 4-10 days to germinate, but some varieties can take longer. 

Sod

Sod is large chunks or rolls of grass that can be laid directly on the soil surface for a quick groundcover. Sodding is the most expensive method of establishing a lawn, but it is also the quickest, since the grass is already actively growing. Warm season sod can be laid any time during the growing season. 

  1. Prep the soil: Remove any debris or vegetation, and lightly water the bare soil 
  2. Lay the sod: Lay sod in a staggered, brick-like pattern to help prevent soil erosion, sod slippage, and crispy edges. Sunday ProTip: Lay sod within 24 hours of delivery, to prevent the sod from drying out.
  3. Water it in: As soon as the sod is laid, irrigate deeply and infrequently to encourage deep rooting
  4. Tug test: You’ll know the sod is ready for action when you tug it and you feel some resistance – this means the roots have extended into the underlying soil. Sunday ProTip: Warm season sod can be chopped into smaller pieces and planted as sprigs to help cut costs. Follow the tips below, but keep in mind – sprigs will take longer to establish than laying full pieces of sod.

Sprigs and Stolons

Sprigs are small pieces of grass roots, shoots, rhizomes, and/or stolons – essentially pieces of sod chopped up and washed free of soil. Sprigs can be dormant, but it is better to plant when there is green tissue present, if possible, to allow for more rapid establishment. Sprigs should be planted between mid-spring and early summer. 

  1. Prep the soil: Moisten the soil before planting
  2. Spread the sprigs: Broadcast your sprigs at 5-10 bushels per 1000 sq. ft. Sunday ProTip: Sprigs are prone to desiccation – if you are sprigging a large area, plant small sections at a time, so you can irrigate sprigs before they dry out.
  3. Secure the sprigs: Roll or tamp down sprigs to ensure good sprig-to-soil contact
  4. Keep the soil moist: Water briefly 1-2 times per day to encourage growth
  5. Stay off the grass: Reduce traffic & wait to mow until grass greens up and reaches 1 ½ times the desired height

Plugs

Plugs are small chunks of actively growing turf that are planted into the ground – much like transplanting a potted plant in the garden. Plugging is a great option for filling in small areas with grass that can’t be seeded, and can be done anytime the grass is actively growing.

  1. Find your plug source: Scout out a few healthy, actively growing, weed-free lawn areas
  2. Prep your plugs: Cut small (2+ inch wide, 4 inch deep) plugs out of the healthy turf – spread out your selections so you don’t end up with a bare zone here, too
  3. Plant your plugs: Plant the grass plugs 2-4 inches apart in bare areas throughout the yard, in a staggered, triangular pattern, making sure the top of the plug is flush with the rest of the lawn. Sunday ProTip: Slow growing grasses like zoysiagrass should be planted closer together, while grasses like bermudagrass can be planted a little further apart, since they will grow and establish quicker!
  4. Keep the soil moist: Water briefly 1-2 times per day to encourage growth.
  5. Stay off the grass: Reduce traffic & wait to mow until lateral growth is observed

Once your warm season grass is established, be sure to keep it happy by following proper maintenance. Mow at the correct height for your grass, irrigate deeply and infrequently, sign up for a Sunday Lawn Plan, and most importantly – enjoy your lawn!

Cited Sources

Bauer, S., B. Mugaas and B. Pedersen. Seeding and Sodding Home Lawns. University of Minnesota Extension. 

Turgeon, A.J. and J.E. Kaminski. Turfgrass Management.