Bermudagrass is a warm season perennial grass widely distributed throughout the southern part of the United States. It is believed to have been brought here from Western Africa around 1751 on ships carrying hay. Bermudagrass was initially used for forage and in the early 1900’s it evolved into use as a turfgrass on golf courses. Today it is a popular turf for use on lawns, sports fields, golf courses, parks and for erosion control in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It is also very popular in arid climates with irrigation.
Bermudagrass is a vigorous grass that thrives under conditions of high temperature and rainfall or irrigation. Due to its extensive root system it also can sustain drought conditions for an extended period with reduced turf quality. It spreads by underground runners (rhizomes) and above ground runners (stolons) as well as seed. These attributes are what makes bermudagrass so popular for high traffic areas as it can recover rapidly from wear. Bermudagrass has a high light requirement and will not grow well in shaded conditions.
As a warm season grass, it will go dormant (brown) at temperatures below 50⁰F. Temperatures below 30⁰F will kill leaves and stems but plants will recover when average temperatures increase. In milder climates bermudagrass will maintain its green color but will exhibit a reduced rate of growth. Growth rates are best when average daily temperatures are above 75⁰F.
Because bermudagrass seed is very small with a rapid growth rate, the seeding rate is significantly less than other grasses. The seed is available in two forms, unhulled and hulled. The hulled form is unhulled seed that has gone through an additional conditioning process where a protective sheath or hull is removed from the seed. This enables the hulled form to germinate more quickly as water can more easily penetrate the seed. The hulled form is best to use in warmer weather while the unhulled form should be used in cooler weather as it can more easily survive until warmer temperatures are favorable for germination. The unhulled form can also be used successfully in warm weather. Hulled seed is about 30% more expensive but it also has about 30% more seed per pound.
Bermudagrass seed is available as common bermudagrass or improved varieties. Many excellent improved bermudagrass varieties are available that feature better turf quality, finer texture, greater density and better cold tolerance including several hybrid types. Improved varieties are usually available in unhulled form as coated seed. Advantages of coated seed are improved distribution and establishment.