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Seashore Paspalum Grass: What It Is And How To Grow It

In Grass Guides, Lawn & Garden, Lawn Care by Jamie

Only becoming mainstream in 1999, Seashore Paspalum instantly became known as a miracle grass. But while it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype and myths surrounding it, this warm-season grass is still a great low-input choice for sandy, coastal lawns. Is Seashore Paspalum right for you? Read on to find out.

What Is Seashore Paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum)?

Genus Paspalum
Zone USDA 7 to 10

Warm-Season

Sun Full Sun to Part Sun (At least 4 hours of sun per day)
Soil All; Ideal is Sandy
pH 5.5 – 8.0
Water Requirement Low
Nitrogen (lb/1,000 sq. ft.) 1 to 2

Pay more attention to calcium and micronutrients than nitrogen

Use kelp-based fertilizers on poorly growing patches

Growth Habit Rhizomes and Stolons
Height Mow to ¾ – 1 inch

May be subject to more diseases if mowed higher. Keep mowing blades sharp.

Maintenance Low to Moderate
Wear Medium
Tolerance Excellent salt and heat tolerance.

Medium cold tolerance and disease resistance.

Low shade tolerance and insect resistance.

Germination Time 7 – 14 days

Establishes Fast

What Is Seashore Paspalum

If you’re looking for that golf course-quality turfgrass without fertilizer, Seashore Paspalum may be for you. Although it’s been used on golf courses since the 1950s, it only became popular among homeowners in 1999.

While many myths swirled around this grass, after the hype died down and the reality became clear, people still found Seashore Paspalum an attractive-looking alternative to warm-season grasses like Bermuda, St Augustine, and Zoysia.

You can mow Seashore Paspalum lower than any other commercially available turfgrass while still tolerating a lot of activity and part shade. It requires very little in the way of nitrogen and nutrients (in fact, keeping up with micronutrients is more important than nitrogen).

It can withstand dry periods with infrequent watering and even tolerates poor quality water, especially that laced with salt. Just don’t use ocean water as salt buildup can render your lawn sterile and unable to grow any plant.

While homeowners struggle to keep their Bermuda grass in control and out of the garden and neighbors’ yards, Seashore Paspalum does not become invasive.

Best of all, Seashore Paspalum is a highly attractive grass with dark green coloration. It only takes one pass of a mower to produce the distinctive striping patterns so loved on golf courses, while Bermuda and Zoysia require multiple passes.

But Seashore Paspalum is not a miracle grass. While it thrives in soil and water conditions that thwart other grasses, if grown in better conditions, it may struggle against invasive weeds and Bermuda grass.

It also requires detail-oriented care, like being able to mow much shorter than other grasses, mow more frequently, keeping mower blades sharp, and providing enough micronutrients instead of focusing on nitrogen. It has lower maintenance than other highly attractive warm-season grasses Bermuda and Zoysia, but it’s not exactly a sow and leave it kind of grass.

When looking up Paspalum, you may find references to Paspalum as a weed. That Paspalum references Paspalum dilatatum, also known as Dallisgrass, which is another grass species native to the Americas that belongs to the same genus but is not the same as Seashore Paspalum, or Paspalum viginatum. Paying attention to scientific names is so important – common names are often confusing.

Pros and Cons of Seashore Paspalum

Pros Cons
Requires only small amounts of fertilizer per year Low resistance to insects and medium resistance to disease.
Tolerant of nutrient-poor soil and poor water quality May need to mow much more frequently, and it needs to be mowed short, which is a skill in itself.
Excellent resistance to salt Outside of nutrient-poor and dry soils, Seashore Paspalum may struggle against weeds and invasive grasses like Bermuda
Part-shade tolerance  

How To Grow Seashore Paspalum

Seeding/Overseeding 

Like other warm-season grasses, it’s best to start a new Seashore Paspalum lawn in late spring and early summer when temperatures are warm. You can choose to start a new lawn with sod or seed, although you may have limited choice in varieties with seed. The initial cost to start a new Seashore Paspalum lawn will be higher than Bermuda grass, but you’ll save money, time, and stress in the long-run.

If seeding, use a seed rate of 1 pound per 1,000 sq ft. This seed rate is lower than Bermuda and Zoysia because once germinated, Seashore Paspalum lawns establish and fill in quickly. This helps to save money. Keep the seed moist for 7 to 14 days, then start cutting back on watering frequency.

Seashore Paspalum can self-repair and fill in gaps, so it won’t need overseeding unless it’s really struggling. If you have poorly growing patches, applying kelp extract will help more than overseeding.

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Seashore Paspalum benefits from being mowed really low, from between ¾ inch to 1 inch tall (although some experts recommend between 1 to 2 inches). That’s shorter than any other home turfgrass out there, including Bermuda (at 1 to 2 inches tall). Mowing this short helps bolster its disease resistance.

As with other grasses, mow shorter in the spring and fall, and longer in the summer to help it survive heat stress and keep the soil moist longer.

To achieve a good cut, keep your mower blades sharp. You may need to mow frequently.

Weeding

When healthy, Seashore Paspalum grows densely, severely reducing the space that weeds need to pop up in your lawn. It helps if you’re growing this lawn in salty conditions with nutrient-poor soil, which gives Paspalum the edge and reduces weed competition. Make sure you’re not overfeeding and overwatering, as this grass doesn’t need it and only gives weeds what they need to grow.

But if weeds do pop through, do your research before reaching for herbicide. Identify what kind of weed it is, which will help you pick the most effective herbicide and timing.Seashore Paspalum can be sensitive to many common herbicide chemicals. Make sure that the herbicide is safe for use on Seashore Paspalum and is effective for the weed in question. When using herbicide, spot treat in non-windy conditions to avoid damaging your grass. 

Golf courses growing Seashore Paspalum treat weeds with salt or a saline solution, but depending on the weed, that may only kill the leaves of the weed and not affect the roots. Golf courses can make this work by hiring people to apply salt daily, so it’s not an ideal solution for homeowners.

Fertilizing

Along with Bahiagrass and Centipede, Seashore Paspalum has the lowest nitrogen requirements in warm-season turfgrasses, needing only 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Since it needs so little nitrogen, you may only need 1 fertilizer application per year – or even none at all.

But don’t forget about calcium, phosphorus and other micronutrients that are also necessary, especially if you’re growing in nutrient-poor soil. Instead of synthetic fertilizer that only offers NPK (granular fertilizer gets caught up in the mower because of the short height), opt for organic/natural sources like compost and kelp. These natural sources contain low levels of nitrogen but the full complement of other micronutrients.

When applying fertilizer, get a soil test done to check on nutrient levels. Phosphorus levels can build up in soil and cause problems, so only apply if you know you have a deficiency.

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Seashore Paspalum has low water needs. Water Seashore Paspalum deeply (4 inches) and infrequently. This encourages the grass to grow deeper roots, allowing it to gather more nutrients and water from the soil than if it has shallow roots.

If you have sandy soil, then you’ll need to water more shallowly and more frequently as water drains away quickly in sandy soil.

Seashore Paspalum can tolerate low-quality and salt-laced water, but if you have a choice, don’t use salt-laced water and never water with ocean water. Salt will build up in the soil and turn it infertile.

Aerating

Seashore Paspalum suffers under compaction, growing shorter and paler. If you need to aerate your soil, core aerate during the late spring or mid summer when grass is growing vigorously.

If you’re dethatching, core aerate first, as the process will do some dethatching for you, and it may be enough that you don’t need to dethatch.

Dethatching

Seashore Paspalum may be prone to thatch problems, as it grows densely through stolons and rhizomes. The faster a grass grows, the more stolons and rhizomes are added to the thatch layer. When the thatch layer becomes thicker than the microorganisms in the soil can decompose them, it creates excessive thatch.

Applying excessive amounts of nitrogen can cause more stolons to grow, increasing thatch problems, so only apply as much nitrogen as strictly needed.

Thatch below ½ inch is beneficial, as it holds moisture to the soil. You may wish to dethatch annually with a rake, which does less damage than a dethatcher machine.

Dethatch in mid to late spring when the grass is growing vigorously and can quickly bounce back from the damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Fertilizer For Seashore Paspalum?

The best fertilizers for Seashore Paspalum are compost, seaweed, and kelp. These fertilizers are natural and organic with low nitrogen, more phosphorus, and a variety of micronutrients. Since Seashore Paspalum requires so little nitrogen, providing more than 1 lb per 1,000 sq feet per year will only feed weeds or runoff into local waterways causing algae blooms.

Before applying phosphorus, get a soil test to check your phosphorus level, as it’s easy to overapply, causing growing problems and polluting runoff. Since this grass grows best in nutrient-poor soils, you also need to make sure it’s getting enough micronutrients to keep your grass healthy.

Is Seashore Paspalum A Bermuda Grass?

No, Seashore Paspalum is not a type of Bermuda Grass. Seashore Paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) is its own species and does not belong to the same genus as Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon).

Is Paspalum A Weed?

Paspalum can refer to multiple grasses. Seashore Paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) is a turfgrass, not a weed, and its slow growth makes it unlikely to become invasive. Dallisgrass (Paspalum dilatatum) is a perennial bunching grass that can show up in lawns as a weed. While they share the same genus, they’re different grasses.

When looking up information on plants, it’s always important to double-check the scientific name as common names can be misleading.

About the Author

Jamie

Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.