Common Lawn Problems in South Florida

Weeds are simply defined as plants out of place. Here is a list of the most common lawn problems that can be found in South Florida.

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Technician tending to common lawn problems in a South Florida yard.

Brown Patch (also called Rhizoctonia Blight)

Symptoms/Signs: The fungus infects the leaf area closest to the soil, disrupting transport of water and nutrients to the upper portions of the foliage and eventually killing the leaf.This disease usually begins as small patches (1 foot) that turn yellow and then reddish-brown, brown or straw-colored as the leaves start to die. Patches can expand. This is a common lawn problem that results in rings of yellow/brown turf with apparently healthy turf in the center.

Brown patch fungus is a common lawn problem in South Florida.


White grubs are immature scarab beetles. They hatch from eggs laid in the soil, have three larval stages. This life cycle can last from 1 – 3 years. The adults are rarely turf pests, but some may feed on tree leaves ornamentals.

Signs of Infestation

When white grubs feed on grass roots, the grass gradually thins, yellows, and dies. In addition, white grubs attract raccoons and birds, which can make an already damaged area look worse.

Grubs are a destructive problem in grass.

Fire Ants

An unwelcome and common lawn problem facing South Florida, fire ants build mounds in sunny, open lawn areas. These nests may be located in rotting logs, around trees or stumps, under pavement and buildings, and even indoors. When their nests are disturbed, numerous fire ants will quickly run out of the mound and attack any intruder. Some people have allergic reactions to fire ant stings that range from rashes and swelling to paralysis or anaphylactic shock. In rare instances, severe allergic reactions cause death. In addition to stinging humans, imported fire ants can also sting your pets as well.

Fire ants are troublesome and a potential threat to humans.

Chinch Bugs

An infested lawn displays discolored patches, which are usually circular in shape. Injury typically occurs first in water-stressed areas along the edges of the lawn or where the grass is growing in full sunlight St. Augustine grass cultivated on high, dry, sandy or shell soil is especially vulnerable to chinch bug damage. Chinch bugs are not evenly distributed in an infestation site; rather, infected plots are scattered throughout the area. Chinch bugs can come from your neighbor’s yard or be transported by lawn mowing equipment.

Chinch bugs are a particular problem in St. Aygustine lawns.

Sod Web Worms

South Florida’s most damaging lawn insects are actually caterpillars. The sod web “worm” as it’s commonly referred to is the larval stage of a caterpillar (including the Army worm and Cut worm) that will morph into a moth. In its larval stage it feeds at an incredibly high rate on the blades of grass and undermines the foundation of the lawn. Many times you are not aware you have a problem until significant damage has been done. Irregular brown thinning of the lawn surface, chewing marks on the grass blades and areas where sections of grass seem to separate from its foundation can be signs of sod web worm destruction. What is most serious about this pest is, once the damage begins, affected areas become stressed and the lawn is subject to secondary damage, such as fungal issues, pathogens and many other concerns. Although the adult moth does not feed or damage the lawn, the appearance of moths emerging from the surface of the lawn is also an indication of activity.

Sod worm infestation can be the start of deeper lawn problems.
One Two Tree will recommend the proper mowing height for your lawn.
The most common lawn problem: Incorrect Mowing Height

What is the Proper Mowing Height for My Lawn?

According to the University of Florida, mowing too short is the # 1 cause of turf decline to Florida lawns. Select the proper mowing height for your lawn. Measure the grass plants after mowing a very small area, then adjust your mower as necessary. Always mow your lawn at the recommended cutting height. Optimal mowing height in inches:

  • St. Augustine grass & Bahia grass – 3.0 to 3.5 inches
  • Centipede grass – 1.0 to 1.5 inches
  • Zoysia grass – 1.0 inch
  • Common Bermuda grass – 1.0 to 1.5 inches
  • Hybrid Bermuda grass – 0.5 to 1.0 inches

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