Bahiagrass Control – How To Eradicate Bahiagrass In Your Lawn

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Bahiagrass is most commonly grown as forage but it is sometimes used as erosion control on roadsides and disturbed soils. Bahiagrass has excellent drought tolerance and can be grown on a variety of soils. The grass seeds prolifically and spreads into turf areas.

Unfortunately, it has a rough, unattractive appearance that can invade green lawns. Control of bahiagrass is important in lawns to minimize competition. Bahiagrass control is achieved with a two-prong method of cultural and chemical means.

Recognizing Bahia Grass

The Y-shaped seed heads it produces easily identify bahiagrass. Unfortunately, the species is at its most invasive by the time you see the seeds.

Control of bahiagrass rests on identification of the plant. The grass is mat-forming and spreads by rhizomes. It is a light green color, coarse and spreads in tufts or clumps. Efforts to eradicate bahiagrass in sod is foiled by its consistent use in warm-season climates.

A useful bahiagrass preventer would be the suspension of its use in open settings.

Bahia Grass Control

A natural bahiagrass preventer is with cultural methods. Bahiagrass does not tolerate shade and high nitrogen soils. When the grass is found in garden beds, it may be hand-pulled but you need to be careful to get all the rhizomes.

Organic mulch over 6 to 8 layers of wet newspaper is also useful to smother the plants. Consistent lawn mowing prevents the formation of seed heads and the further spread of the plant. Annual fertilization and proper watering techniques will keep sod healthy and help eradicate bahiagrass.

There are numerous chemicals that can kill bahiagrass. The perennial grass is controlled with pre-emergent or post-emergent herbicides. In a vegetable garden, it is best to use a pre-emergent chemical and wait to plant. Bahiagrass control in garden beds is achieved with spot spraying of a chemical like Glyphosate. Any product with Atrazine is effective in lawns as a pre-emergent treatment. You can kill bahiagrass with Imazaquin in any setting except where food items are grown. Follow up spraying may be required with any chemical.

Bahiagrass is a perennial grass and manual removal is difficult because of the rhizomes. The best way to kill bahiagrass in most lawns is by applying a product with MSMA. If it is applied 3 times in 7- to 10-day intervals, the bahiagrass will die. Any application of chemical treatments should be consistent with the product’s instructions. The best time to apply post-emergent products on lawns is when the selected species has just begun to green up after winter.

Control of bahiagrass requires vigilance and repeated applications of treatments. Be sure to read the packaging to make sure the product will not adversely affect your turfgrass species.

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Bahiagrass was brought to the United States in 1914 for use as a pasture grass in the Southeast. 1 This South American native is still used extensively in agriculture, conservation and erosion control programs. 2 As its origin suggests, Bahia is a warm-season grass. Its most active growth occurs from late spring through the hot summer months. In its proper climate, this perennial grass persists year after year.

A naturally deep root system makes Bahiagrass very drought tolerant, even in sandy soils common to the Southeast. Its natural texture is coarser than many regional grasses, particularly cool-season grasses common in northern zones. Though Bermudagrass has greater drought tolerance in sand, few other warm-season grasses match Bahia on this strength. Bahiagrass prefers full sun, but tolerates limited shade better than Bermuda. It also has better tolerance for poorly drained soils. 2

Since its pasture-grass beginnings, some Bahiagrass varieties have been singled out for lawn use in the heat- and humidity-prone Southeast. Its lawn use extends from Florida through the southern Coastal Plans and the Texas Gulf Coast. For homeowners in this challenging turf zone, these Bahiagrass varieties offer benefits other warm-season grasses don't.

Pennington Pensacola Bahiagrass builds on basic Bahiagrass strengths, and excels even in poor soil conditions to form durable, dense, drought-resistant lawns. Its deep, extensive root system enhances tolerance to heat and cold, giving Pensacola better winter hardiness and improved turf quality than common Bahia. Pennington Argentine Bahiagrass has a finer leaf texture and darker color, resulting in more attractive lawns. Its deep roots and drought and disease tolerance combine with very low growth and low maintenance needs.

How to Establish a Bahiagrass Lawn

Due to its popularity, many home improvement stores and nurseries in the bahiagrass-growing regions of the country carry either sod or seed. The advantages of planting sod include rapid establishment and fewer weeds. Starting a lawn from seed generally costs less than sod and it uses far less labor, however, seed takes longer to become established.

Kill any old grass and weeds with a herbicide about two weeks before planting, using the manufacturer's directions as a guideline. Rake or till the yard, removing debris and softening the top layer of dirt. Consider topping the native soil with a 1/4-inch thick layer of garden or lawn soil. These soils contain more nutrients and less weeds than top soil. Level the surface with a garden rake.

Lay bahiagrass sod in a brick pattern. Give the sod multiple 15-minute watering sessions throughout the day for seven to ten days. During the following week, gradually cut back the frequency to twice a day. About two weeks after laying the sod, gently lift up on one corner of a piece of sod. If the roots firmly grip the soil, reduce the frequency to once every other day for a week then water as needed going forward. If the roots failed to grip, maintain the twice a day watering schedule for a week and test again. Do not mow bahiagrass sod until the roots grip the soil, generally two to three weeks after laying. Likewise, avoid applying fertilizer until the roots establish and use a light application of a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, for the initial treatment.

Check the bahiagrass seed container for the "new lawn" or "reseed" spreader setting and adjust the unit as necessary. Apply the seed evenly throughout the application area with the spreader. Lightly rake the yard with a leaf rake, ensuring adequate seed-to-soil contact. Turn on the irrigation system until the top 1/2-inch of soil becomes moist, then turn it off. Do not wash away the seed or over saturate the soil. Several 10- to 15-minute bursts throughout the day produce better results than a few heavy soakings. Continue to water in this manner this until the seed germinates bahiagrass takes up to two weeks to germinate.

As the grass grows, cut back on the number of times of watering per day, but lengthen each session time to approximately 20 minutes. Keep the soil moist until the grass blades reach about two inches in height. Start the mowing and fertilizing schedule once the blades become 3-inches tall.

A full and healthy bahiagrass lawn crowds out weeds.

Control and prevent lawn moss

Mosses have been around for over 350 million years, and they’re still going strong today. And while moss looks lovely carpeting cool woodland glades, it’s less welcome in our lawns.

Lawn moss can form dense mats, outcompeting grass for water and nutrients and making the lawn uneven and spongy to walk on. These primitive plants thrive in damp shady conditions and can quickly spread in struggling lawns.

How to get rid of moss in lawns

Moss in lawns is a sign that there is an underlying problem with the lawn. This can be caused by any of several factors, including:

  • Poor drainage
  • Shade
  • Acidic soil
  • Lack of fertiliser
  • Grass cut too short
  • Heavy foot traffic

Feathery, fern-like mosses are most common in poorly drained areas. Acidic soils tend to encourage mat-forming mosses.

Ridding lawns of moss requires a two-pronged attack – firstly, to remove the moss and secondly, to stop it coming back.

Physically removing moss is done by scarifying, i.e. raking over the lawn to remove moss and thatch (dead grass). For small gardens this can be done by hand with a spring tine rake. For large areas, it’s easier to use a mechanical scarifier.

If the moss problem is mild, it may be possible to get on top of it by simply scarifying and then improving the overall health of the lawn by regular lawncare to stop the moss coming back. However, getting rid of moss in lawns where there is a serious problem needs a combination of moss killer, scarifying and lawncare.

Moss killers

Chemical moss killers containing ferrous sulphate (also called sulphate of iron) are the most effective method of eradicating moss in lawns. Some chemical moss killers also include a fertiliser, which is useful for lawns where the grass has lost its vigour. Chemical moss killers are typically applied in autumn or spring when the weather is cool and wet, so that lawn seed sown afterwards to cover bare areas is most likely to germinate.

For gardeners who prefer not to use synthetic chemicals, organic moss killers are also available. These don’t contain ferrous sulphate, using bacteria instead to break down the moss. An advantage of organic moss killers is that since the bacteria effectively ‘digest’ the moss in situ, it doesn’t go black and needs no raking out. Organic moss killers need a temperature above 15ºC (59ºF) to work and can be applied from late spring to autumn.

Tips on using moss killer

  • Moss killer can be applied either by hand or by using a manual spreader that can be pushed over the lawn. Chemical moss killers affect soil acidity levels, so it’s important to apply moss killer evenly across the whole lawn, not just in problem areas, otherwise the lawn may grow back patchy and discoloured.
  • Always read the manufacturer’s instructions before applying moss killer, and use only at the concentrations specified, as applying too much moss killer is likely to damage or even kill the grass.
  • Moss killer should be applied in fine weather, but again, always check the manufacturer’s instructions, as some products require watering to activate.

Using ferrous sulphate (sulphate of iron) as a moss killer

Ferrous sulphate is often seen advertised as a solution to lawn moss. Most chemical moss killers contain ferrous sulphate, and when contained in a proprietary moss killer and correctly applied, it is effective.

However, it should not be used on its own as a moss killer, firstly because it is not approved as a pesticide, and secondly because used in the wrong quantities it is likely to do more harm than good, killing off grass as well as moss.

How to apply chemical moss killer

The best time to apply a chemical moss killer is autumn or spring, when the weather is cool, and damp and any bare patches left after moss has been removed can be re-seeded.

  1. If the moss is very thick, scarify first to thin it out before applying moss killer.
  2. Apply moss killer according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Once the moss turns black (this usually takes two to three weeks) use a spring tine rake or mechanical scarifier to rake it out of the lawn.

The raked-out moss can be composted, but it is slow to break down, so should be added to your compost heap gradually.

Lawn care

Moss in a lawn indicates that there is an underlying problem with the lawn, and unless this is fixed, the moss will return. The best way to discourage moss from coming back is to get the grass growing vigorously.

How to reinvigorate your lawn

  1. Aerate the lawn in autumn by spiking holes in the soil at regular intervals. For small gardens, you can do this using a garden fork, pushing it in as far as possible and then removing it. For large areas, it’s easier to use a mechanical aerator.
  2. Re-seed sparse or bare patches of lawn. Shady areas of your lawn are always going to be more prone to moss, so for these areas, use grass seed mixes especially designed for shade.
  3. After aerating and re-seeding the lawn, brush in a lawn top dressing. You can buy pre-prepared top dressing from garden centres or make up your own mix using three parts loam, six parts sharp sand and one part multipurpose compost. Spread it evenly over the lawn, using a firm garden brush to work it in.
  4. When mowing, take care not to cut the grass too short, as this will stress the grass, reducing its vigour and encouraging moss.

Moss in lawns doesn’t need to be a problem. With a little care and attention, you can turn a mossy lawn into beautiful green turf to be proud of.

When to use Weed Killers?

You can remove weeds in the following ways:

All these methods are limited in their functions and require a lot of time and effort on a user’s part. This is why weed killers are such a great option. They are easy to use and very effective. Some selective weed killers act on specific weeds, and the results are excellent. For different types of soils and locations, you must use different types of weed killers.


February – March:

Preemergence: Apply a preemergence herbicide (see Table 1) according to the previously mentioned dates. If rain is not expected within 48 hours, apply ½-inch of irrigation. Many preemergence herbicides do not last more than 8 or 9 weeks, so a second application may be required 60 days later.

Postemergence: Before turfgrasses begin to green up for summer growth, apply a postemergence herbicide (see Table 2) to control winter broadleaf weeds or summer broadleaf weeds that have emerged. Turf damage may occur following some broadleaf herbicide applications if used during turfgrass green-up, especially in more sensitive turfgrasses, such as centipedegrass and St Augustinegrass. If the lawn has begun to come out of dormancy, then wait until the turfgrass is totally greened up before applying a postemergence weed killer. As with any pesticide, read the label to make sure that it is appropriate for your situation, and that it is being applied at the correct rate.

Preemergence: If making two spring applications, apply again 60 days following the first application

Postemergence: If annual grasses such as crabgrass, or perennial grasses such as dallisgrass have emerged, apply a postemergence grass herbicide. Two to three applications, 14 to 21 days apart may be necessary for control. For broadleaf weeds, apply a three-way mixture, such as containing 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop. See Table 2 for examples.

August – October:

Preemergence: Make applications according to the previously mentioned schedule, to control annual winter weeds. Most crabgrass preventers will stop most annual grass weeds from coming up in the lawn, including annual blue grass (Poa annua). However, these preemergence herbicides may need to be reapplied twice in the fall for season long control, so check the product label (see Table 1).

Postemergence: Continue to treat grassy weeds. Best control is achieved when treating young plants.

November – January:

Postemergence: Treat winter broadleaf weeds with a postemergence herbicide on mild days. Wild onions and garlic are best treated during November and again during February using a three-way herbicide. If necessary, repeat spray application during the following November (see Table 2).

Non-selective herbicides, such as Roundup or Eraser, can be used safely on bermudagrass that is completely dormant. However, in SC, turfgrasses may not go completely dormant due to the mild winter, and glyphosate application may delay total green-up in the spots where sprayed.

Table 1. Preemergence Herbicides for Lawns.

Hi Yield Turf & Ornamental Weed & Grass Stopper Containing Dimension

Howard Johnson Crabgrass Control with Prodiamine & 0-0-7

Lebanon Pro Fertilizer (0-0-7) with

Lesco Barricade Plus Fertilizer 0-0-7

Lesco Stonewall Plus Fertilizer (0-0-7)

Pro-Mate Barricade Plus Fertilizer (0-0-7)

Scotts Halts Pro 0-0-7 & Halts Pro
Harrell’s with Barricade

Table 2. Postemergence Herbicides for Lawns.

Image for St. Augustinegrass & Centipedegrass with Atrazine

Southern AG Atrazine St. Augustine Weed Killer

Bonide Weed Beater Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec
Bonide Lawn Weed Killer Granules
Ferti-lome Weed Out Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec

Southern Ag Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec Conc.

Bayer BioAdvanced All-in-One Lawn Weed & Crabgrass Killer Concentrate

Ferti-lome Weed Out with Crabgrass Killer Concentrate

Monterey Crab-E-Rad Plus Concentrate

Ortho Weed B Gon Max Plus Crabgrass Control Concentrate

Table 3. Preemergence & Postemergence Herbicide Combination Products for Lawns.

Turfgrass Weeds Controlled Active Ingredients Examples of Brands & Products
St. Augustinegrass
Preemergence: summer annual grasses (such as crabgrass & goosegrass), annual bluegrass, & some broadleaf weeds, such as chickweed & spurge.
Postemergence: most perennial & annual sedges, many broadleaf weeds, crabgrass, & some annual bluegrass control.
prodiamine (pre)
sulfentrazone (post)
Bonide Prozone Weed Beater Complete Granules
Bonide Sedge Ender Concentrate & RTS
Bermudagrass, Centipedegrass,
St. Augustinegrass, Zoysiagrass
Preemergence: broadleaf weeds, such as chickweed, clover, henbit, bittercress, spurge, plantain & others.
Postemergence: most broadleaf weeds.
isoxaben (pre)
2,4-D +
dicamba +
mecoprop (MCPP)
Bayer Advanced Season Long Weed Control for Lawns
Note: These preemergence herbicides should only be applied to well-established turfgrass lawns.
1 Application to St. Augustine may cause temporary discoloration.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at [email protected] or 1-888-656-9988.

Original Author(s)

Chuck Burgess, Former HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University

Revisions by:

Joey Williamson, PhD, HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University

This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.

Dealing with Pests and Diseases

As promised, Bahia grass is not plagued by many diseases or pests. One of the most serious threats to your Bahia grass is the mole cricket, which tunnels underneath the soil, feeding on the grass shoots and damaging the grass roots. By bringing in mole cricket predators (the nematode Steinernema scapterisci or the wasp Larra) or using an approved bait or insecticide you can solve the problem mole crickets quickly.

Crabgrass, goose grass, sand bur, and crowfoot grass are common invaders in Bahia grass lawns but applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the winter before new growth emerges can effectively destroy these common weed pests. Applying a post-emergent herbicide will rid your Bahia grass lawn of broadleaf weeds like knotweed, lespedeza, and spurge, which are already in place. These herbicides should only be applied when your Bahia grass is healthy, and temperatures are in the 60 to 85 degree range.

As mentioned, Bahia grass will yellow when iron is deficient in your soil. If you notice yellowing your will want to apply a product with ferrous sulfate as directed by the label directions, continuing the application at six week intervals from spring through fall, the growing season.

The professionals at Xtreme Landscaping are ready to help you plant, grow, and care for your Bahia grass lawn year round. As experts, the team at Xtreme can handle any problem areas you face with your lawn and landscaping including Bahia grass issues.

Watch the video: Sunny view After MSM Turf application to kill Bahiagrass

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