Understanding Why St. Augustine Grass Turns Brown in Winter: Maintenance Tips & More

Understanding Why St. Augustine Grass Turns Brown in Winter: Maintenance Tips & More

Ever wondered why your lush, green St. Augustine grass turns a dull brown during winter? You’re not alone. It’s a common concern for homeowners and garden enthusiasts alike.

St. Augustine grass, known for its thick, carpet-like growth and rich color, can indeed change its hue in the colder months. But why does this happen? Is it a sign of distress or merely a seasonal change?

In this article, we’ll delve into the reasons behind this color transformation, helping you understand your lawn’s seasonal cycles better. You’ll learn whether it’s a cause for concern or just another part of nature’s rhythm.

Key Takeaways

  • St. Augustine grass, known for its lush greenery and thickness, naturally changes color to brown during winter due to its dormancy period.
  • St. Augustine grass is classified as a warm-season grass, meaning it thrives in warm climates and goes dormant when temperatures drop.
  • The brownish color shift during winter is not a sign of distress or disease, but the grass’s natural reaction to cooler temperatures and reduced sunlight. Overwatering or over-fertilizing during this time may lead to more harm than good.
  • Maintaining a healthy dormancy period without overwatering or over-fertilizing prepares St. Augustine grass for a healthier, thicker growing season when temperatures rise.
  • Adjust watering and mowing routines during winter to boost its resilience against the cold, preventing issues like root rot or nutrient run-off.
  • The brown “winter phase” of St. Augustine grass is temporary. The grass will return to its typical vibrant green color with proper care once the warm weather kicks back in.

St. Augustine grass often turns brown during winter as a natural dormancy response to colder temperatures and reduced sunlight, which is not indicative of poor health (The Lawn Care Nut). To prevent excessive browning and maintain its health, it is important to provide adequate macronutrients, particularly nitrogen and potassium, before the onset of the cold season (Clemson HGIC).

Understanding St. Augustine Grass

Understanding St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine grass, known scientifically as Stenotaphrum secundatum, is a popular choice for lawns across warm regions of the United States. If you’re looking for a type of grass that’s lush, hardy, and maintains a deep, attractive green color, St. Augustine grass might be the perfect option for you.

Now let’s dive into some key facts about this grass. It’s a fast-growing, vigorously spreading grass that gives your lawn a beautiful, dense cover. Due to its aggressive growth, it’s known for its excellent ability to crowd out weeds. These growth characteristics make it a popular choice in areas like Florida and other southern states.

Classification of St. Augustine Grass:
St. Augustine grass belongs to the Poaceae family and falls under the category of warm-season grass. This means it thrives in warm, humid climates and goes dormant when temperatures drop.

Growing Conditions:
Ideally, St. Augustine grass flourishes in well-drained soils and full sunlight. However, it’s also tolerant to shade, making it a versatile choice for various landscapes. Regular watering is needed during dry periods, which helps maintain the intense color and thickness that homeowners love.

Color changes:
St. Augustine grass can turn brown during the winter months. This is due to the grass type entering its natural dormancy phase. This color change can often be misinterpreted as a sign of lawn distress, such as disease or dehydration, rather than its natural reaction to cooler temperatures.

Now you’ve got the basics of what St. Augustine grass is all about. It’s a grass that infuses lawns with an enviable green hue and superb thickness, providing an inviting outdoor space for relaxation and play. But remember, like every living thing it responds to the change in seasons and it’s normal for it to turn brown as winter settles in. As you continue to care for it, knowing what’s normal will help inform your lawn care strategies.

The Growth Cycle of St. Augustine Grass

If you’re growing St. Augustine grass, it’s essential you get familiar with its growth cycle. Looking at its natural rhythm will help you better understand why it changes colors through the seasons.

St. Augustine is a warm-season grass. As soon as temperatures start to rise in late spring and early summer, it bursts into life. Its fast, thick growth is a real advantage during this period. It not only creates a lush green lawn but also outcompetes other plant types. This ability to crowd out weeds is one of the reasons why St. Augustine is a favorite among homeowners.

During the warm months, your grass is actively growing and requires plenty of water and nutrients. Regular mowing will also keep it looking its best. Remember that cutting off no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at a time helps the grass stay healthy.

As temperatures drop in late fall and winter, St. Augustine grass goes into a dormant state. Dormancy is a natural part of the grass’s life cycle, an adaptation that allows St. Augustine to survive through unfavorable conditions. During this time, the grass reduces its growth rate and often turns from a lush green to a brownish hue. It’s important to note, the color change isn’t a sign of damage or weakness but protective behavior.

While the brownish color may not be as appealing as the vibrant summer green, resist the urge to overwater or over-fertilize during this period. The grass is resting, not dying.

Understanding these changes can help you care for your St. Augustine grass effectively. The right knowledge and the right care can keep your lawn looking attractive, regardless of the season. Plus, it prepares you for what to expect throughout the year.

Providing the proper winter care for your St. Augustine grass means less work when the growing season kicks in again. So, while your lawn may not look as green and lush during these colder months, know it’s only temporary. Once the warmer weather returns, so does the vibrant green color of your St. Augustine lawn.

Factors Contributing to Winter Browning

The browning of your St. Augustine grass during winter months isn’t a reason for panic. It’s a seasonal change, a response to lower temperatures. Understanding this phenomenon requires some insight into the factors that contribute to winter browning.

One primary factor is the drop in temperature. St. Augustine grass loves warmth. It thrives best in temperatures between 70°F and 90°F. When temperatures start falling below 60°F, the grass begins to enter a state of dormancy. During dormancy, the grass slows down its growth and its natural green color fades to a straw-like brown. This is not a sign of damage or disease. On the contrary, it’s the grass protecting itself from the harsh chill.

The next factor to note is its water needs. Your St. Augustine grass is quite thirsty during the growing season, but not in the colder months. Overwatering during dormancy can actually harm your grass. The roots don’t need as much water to thrive. Too much water can lead to root rot, an actual cause of brown grass. It’s why adjusting your watering schedule to accommodate the grass’s dormancy period is vital.

Additionally, sun exposure can also play a role in its appearance. With winter comes shorter days and less sunlight. Decreased light exposure can also lend to the browning of your St. Augustine grass.

Finally, over-fertilization during dormancy can interfere with the grass’s natural capabilities to prepare for cold weather. During the growing season, feeding your lawn with fertilizers strengthens it. However, continuing with high nutrient intake in winter might lead to more harm than good. Your grass is at rest, not hungry.

The table below gives you a quick summary:

TemperatureTriggers the dormancy
Water needsOverwatering leads to root rot
Sun exposureLess sunlight adds to browning
Over-fertilizationHinders natural winter preparation process

Keeping these factors in balance can help maintain your St. Augustine grass, even during its rest period. After all, a healthy dormancy makes for an even healthier growing season.

Tips for Maintaining St. Augustine Grass in Winter

Tips for Maintaining St. Augustine Grass in Winter

St. Augustine grass’s seasonal color change shouldn’t be a point of worry. This discoloration brings you a unique opportunity during winter months. With your grass in its dormancy stage, there’re certain things you can do to keep its root system healthy, ensuring vibrant growth when the warm season returns.

Firstly, adjust your watering routine. Since your grass is not actively growing, its water demand decreases. Less hydration is required to sustain its basic metabolic processes. Applying less water is advantageous for two reasons:

  • Decreases the risk of root rot
  • Saves water
    Remember, overwatering grass during winter can yield detrimental effects, such as promoting fungal growth, leading to disease outbreaks.

Secondly, limit the use of fertilizers. Over-fertilizing dormant grass may lead to chemical burns, rendering your lawn unsightly. The accumulation of excess nutrients also poses a threat to local water sources through nutrient run-off.

Thirdly, optimize your grass’s sunlight exposure. Although reduced, your grass still requires sunlight during winter. Prune surrounding trees or shrubs that might block its light access to ensure your lawn receives adequate sunshine.

Lastly, don’t give your lawn a close shave. By mowing your grass too short, you expose the delicate root system to harsh winter conditions. Instead, aim to keep your grass longer in winter, defending it from frost and making it more resilient.

Your St. Augustine grass may look lifeless in winter, but underneath that brown exterior is a very much alive and kicking ecosystem. It’s your job as a responsible lawn owner to take care of it, understanding that being brown doesn’t necessarily mean it’s down. Your grass is just taking a well-deserved break, prepping itself for a vivacious comeback in spring.


So, you’ve learned that St. Augustine grass does indeed turn brown in winter. It’s not dead but merely dormant, conserving energy for spring’s return. Remember, it’s crucial to adjust your watering habits and resist the urge to over-fertilize during this period. Keeping the grass at an optimal height and ensuring it gets plenty of sunlight will also help maintain its health. While the brown color may be a bit off-putting, it’s a natural part of the grass’s life cycle. So, don’t worry! Your lawn is just taking a winter nap, ready to wake up vibrant and green when the warmer weather rolls around.

How should watering St. Augustine grass be adjusted in winter?

During winter, St. Augustine grass goes into dormancy and needs less water. Adjust your watering routine to match these decreased needs to avoid risks associated with overwatering.

Can over-fertilization damage St. Augustine grass and surround?

Yes, over-fertilization can harm St. Augustine grass and local water sources due to runoff. It’s best to apply fertilizer in moderation and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

What can help ensure a healthy root system in St. Augustine grass?

Optimizing sunlight exposure and refraining from mowing the grass too short can help maintain a healthy root system in St. Augustine grass, contributing to vibrant growth in the warm season.

Is St. Augustine grass dead when it turns brown in winter?

No, St. Augustine grass is not dead when it turns brown in winter. Brown color is a sign of winter dormancy. The grass is alive and preparing for a return in spring.