Palmetto® St. Augustine started in Central Florida as a small, niche grass with improved shade tolerance and a hope and prayer. Today, sales have surpassed 2 billion sq. ft. worldwide with acreage and demand still increasing.
“A great grass that is versatile and adaptive in many climates and soil types is the secret,” commented Tobey Wagner, President of Sod Solutions and owner of the proprietary rights to Palmetto.
“There are no perfect grasses,” he continues, “but Palmetto St. Augustine is the perfect blend of a great looking grass, a fantastic grower’s grass for production, and a good performer in full sun and moderate shade.” Co-Breeder Elmer Kirkland and Tobey Wagner patented the grass, trademarked the name, and licensed just four growers in Florida decades ago.
Today, there are over 50 growers of Palmetto worldwide.
“Kirkland has passed away, but his legacy continues. It is unlikely any single proprietary grass will ever match the geographic diversity, sustainability and have the impact to the industry as Palmetto St. Augustine” Wagner says.
At the time of the Palmetto release, Floratam St. Augustine dominated the market. The contrast between Palmetto’s dark green color and finer texture versus Floratam’s course texture is striking. Consumers seem to greatly prefer the look of Palmetto. Below are two pictures comparing the visual appearance between Floratam and Palmetto St. Augustine.
From left to right: Floratam and Palmetto St. Augustine.
Recently, the Sugarcane Mosaic Virus has been severely damaging, killing numerous Floratam yards across Florida. Consequently, sales for Palmetto St. Augustine have increased; it has shown resistance to the virus.
In the early days, Wagner and Kirkland were invited to display Palmetto at the Florida Sod Cooperative Field Day in Central Florida by Gary Resmondo, a grower near Lake Wales, Florida.
“We were clueless,” laughs Wagner. “We weren’t a member of the association and had not signed up to display Palmetto. We didn’t know we had to. Gary Resmondo told us to come on anyway as it was his farm!”
Fast forward to today, and Sod Solutions and the now renamed Turfgrass Producers of Florida have jointly released several successful grasses including Celebration® Bermuda, Latitude 36™Bermuda, and the newly released CitraBlue™ St. Augustine. Sod Solutions started by raising eyebrows of the associating leaders, but now work successfully together.
“I’ll always be grateful for Gary Resmondo and the leaders of what is now The Turfgrass Producers of Florida for giving us an opportunity that has had such a positive impact on our company and the industry.” Wagner states.
Palmetto St. Augustine was Sod Solutions’ first release in the 1990s. Today, Sod Solutions has proprietary rights for over 15 grasses and works with five land-grant universities including the University of Florida, North Carolina State, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M to release improved grasses for homes, commercial, golf and sports venues. Sod Solutions develops and promotes proprietary grasses specified for major PGA events, NCAA fields, FIFA pitches, MLB Stadiums, Parks and Recreation venues, and landscapes across the United States and internationally. Sod Solutions’ impact on the turf world is significant, and it all started from one St. Augustine grass sold from the back of a pickup truck to a hand full of turf growers in Central Florida.
If you live in the regions shown in the map below and are interested in Palmetto St. Augustine for your own lawn, view more information here: Shop Palmetto St. Augustine Online.
To learn more about St. Augustine grass and its various characteristics that make it a perfect choice for the southern U.S., view our St. Augustine Grass 101 blog.
If you have Palmetto St. Augustine on your lawn or you’re considering using it in the future, check out some of the maintenance guidelines so that you can make the smartest choice for your lawn: Palmetto Homeowner Maintenance Guide.