Floratam St. Augustine grass was released in the early 1970s by the Florida and Texas Agricultural Experiment Stations as a SAD virus and chinchbug resistant turfgrass (hence the name FLORada and TexasAM). Since then, these resistant qualities have weakened and chinchbugs are now a major problem for Floratam.
Floratam requires more than 6 hours of sunlight. It grows vigorously in warm weather, but in north Flordia, it remains dormant for a relatively long period compared with other cultivars.
Like other Florida turf types, Floratam is a vigorous, coarse textured St. Augustine grass variety. Stolons of Floratam are large, purplish-red in color (demand this characteristic when purchasing sod) with internodes averaging 3" in length. Leaf blades are wider and longer than common St. Augustine grass. According to James Beard, TAEX Turf Researcher, tests at A&M concluded it is the most drought-tolerant of all St. Augustine grasses.
Floratam's aggressive growth can extend stolons laterally at up to 3/4" per day!
Floratam is not as cold tolerant as common St. Augustine, so preconditioning by use of Winterizer fertilizer (3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio) in the fall (October) is CRITICAL. Floratam may suffer freeze damage when temperatures fall below freezing for extended periods.
Four years of field drought-resistance studies have been completed on a modified sand root zone. In the fourth year of the study, 29 Bermuda grass, 2 seashore pespalum, 2 Buffalo grass, 8 St. Augustine grass, 6 Centipede grass, and 11 Zoysia grass cultivars were subjected to 158 days of progressive water stress with no supplemental irrigation applied and less than 7.5 cm of natural rainfall. Degree of leaf firing was used as an indicator of dehydration avoidance and post-drought shoot recovery was used as the indicator for drought resistance.
Significant drought resistance differentials were found across the cultivars and among the species. Results were consistent with the first three years of this study among the Bermuda grass, seashore pespalum, St. Augustine grass, and Buffalo grass cultivars. Among the Centipede grass cultivars only Oklawn fully recovered. Leaf firing of all Zoysiagrass cultivars was in excess of 50%. All recovered, except Meyer at 20% and Belair at 45% after 30 days.
Excellent dehydration avoidance was seen in Floratam and Floralawn St. Augustinegrass. There were large variations in drought resistance among the five St. Augustinegrass cultivars. Floralawn and Floratam showed a high green of shoot recovery. They showed less than 50% leaf firing after 34 days of drought stress with recoveries at over 90%. However, Texas Common and Raleigh St. Augustinegrass, as well as Prairie Buffalograss showed over 98% leaf firing with less than 20% recovery. The performance of Floratam and Floralawn was excellent throughout the study in terms of shoot color, turgidity, and uniformity. They were comparable to #609 Buffalograss.
Floratam's is a coarser textured grass when viewed upclose. However, when viewed as a lawn, the coarseness of the blades are reduced. Mowing height should not be over 1 1/2". However, if you do not water in dry weather, increase the mowing to 2" or higher if possible.