Perennial ryegrass is commonly utilized across the United States, however how it is used varies by location. This hardy, fine-bladed grass is popular for its speedy germination and establishment. It’s a valuable addition to both permanent northern lawns and southern lawns that require temporary winter color. Perennial ryegrass may be precisely what you need depending on where you live and your immediate lawn objectives.
- Cool-season lawn grass.
- Fast germination and seedling growth.
- Used for permanent and temporary lawns.
- Good cold tolerance.
- Heat and drought tolerance varies by variety.
- Withstands light shade.
Perennial ryegrasses are widely employed as turf grasses and high-quality pasture grasses for animals in the United States. Perennial ryegrass is not related to the rye plant that yields cereal grain, despite its agricultural usefulness. It is linked to the turf grass known as annual ryegrass, although the two plants are also distinct.
Annual ryegrass, as the name implies, is a short-lived grass used to offer fast color, short-term erosion control, or temporary stability for a season. Turf-type perennial ryegrass is utilized in the same methods, but it returns year after year to form a permanent lawn in northern regions.
Like many common turf grasses used for permanent northern U.S. lawns, perennial ryegrass is native to Europe and Asia.1 It’s not as cold-hardy as Kentucky bluegrass or tall fescue, but perennial ryegrass flourishes where summers are moderate and winters are cool.
Even though perennial ryegrass naturally suits northern climates, southern lawn owners use it extensively. Warm-season grasses used in the south and west, such as Bermudagrass, go dormant and turn brown during cool winter months. Southern lawn owners keep lawns green in winter by seeding perennial ryegrass over existing warm-season lawns in fall. Fast-germinating perennial ryegrass creates a temporary green lawn for winter, then dies out when warm-season grasses green up and summer heat returns.
Perennial ryegrass germinates quicker than any other typical lawn grass seed when given the right circumstances.2,3 However, once established, it spreads slowly. Perennial ryegrass is a bunch-forming grass, as opposed to aggressive Kentucky bluegrass, which grows by subterranean stems known as rhizomes. It grows in clumps like tall fescue and spreads by vertical shoots called tillers rather than rhizomes or horizontal above-ground stems called stolons.
Traditional perennial ryegrass varieties have relatively shallow roots, which historically limited their heat and drought tolerance compared to tall fescue or deep-rooted warm-season Zoysia grass. However, Pennington-affiliated research and breeding programs have developed improved varieties of perennial ryegrass with greater heat and drought tolerance.