Perennial Ryegrasses are perennial plants which have been growing for years or even centuries. They grow from one year to another. These plants are very hardy and can survive harsh conditions such as drought, frost, heat waves and cold snaps. However they do not like being over grown with other perennials because it causes competition for light resources and nutrients.
The best time to plant perennial ryegrasses is after last frost date. If you wait until spring, the plants will start blooming earlier than if planted in fall. You may want to consider planting them in late winter or early spring.
Perennial ryegrasses need lots of space so make sure there is plenty of room around your house for their growth. They prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade. They require well drained soil and good drainage.
They prefer rich, moist soil but can handle dry soils. Some varieties thrive in sandy soils while others do better in loamy soils.
When choosing perennial ryegrasses, look for ones that bloom regularly and don’t wilt easily. Check out the variety’s leaf color, size and shape to see what kind of growth habit it prefers. Some varieties of ryegrasses have a tendency to turn a tan color when the days get hot. This is normal and doesn’t hurt the quality or viability of the plant.
Perennial ryegrasses do not spread rapidly like weeds. You can easily control their spread with weekly maintenance. If left alone, they will fill in the open areas by themselves.
Perennial ryegrasses spread by underground roots and stolons. The stolons are horizontal stems that sprout roots that in turn nourish the new plants. This process can take several years to complete so don’t expect a big change the first year.
Perennial ryegrasses spread more rapidly under ideal conditions. They will choke out other plants and can turn a well manicured lawn into a jungle if left unchecked. You may want to keep them confined to their own area.
Perennial ryegrasses make excellent lawn grasses for areas that are difficult to grow traditional grasses in such as thin or poor soil, shady areas, steep hillsides, sandy areas or other problem areas around the home. They can also be used for highway medians, embankments, roadsides and other applications around the home or office where a lush green lawn is desired.
If you want a lush green lawn but don’t have the time to take care of one, consider using a perennial ryegrasses. It will save you time and money. They require little fertilizer, no pesticides and less mowing.
Perennial ryegrasses are very easy to establish. They thrive in most conditions and are very easy to get started. All you have to do is spread the seeds.
Here’s some basic information on how to plant Perennial Ryegrasses: How To Plant Perennial Ryegrasses.
Perennial ryegrasses can be mixed with other hardy grasses or wildflowers. You can also add some flowers such as purple cone flowers or other colors to give your garden a splash of color. Most garden centers carry a wide selection of flowers and wildflowers that will do well in your area.
Before you plant please check to make sure there are no restrictions in your area about what you can and can not plant. Some areas have restrictions on certain types of plants.
Water the area well before and after planting to be sure the seeds have enough moisture to germinate.
When to plant Perennial Ryegrasses:
Spring is the best time to plant. The best time is just before your area’s last frost or up until early summer. Plant as soon as you can, seeds need sunlight to germinate.
Fall planting is also an option. Some varieties can be planted in the fall and will still germinate the next year. You need to hold off on planting anything in the spring if you plant in the fall. (soil has to be unfrozen)
If you are extremely patient, you can plant in the winter. Some areas are so cold they provide natural freezing conditions for the seeds to germinate in the spring.
How to plant Perennial Ryegrasses:
Rake the area to be planted to smooth out the bumps. Remove rocks and other debris. Apply a fertilizer once the area is raked if you have poor soil. Perennial ryegrasses can grow in poor conditions but do much better with some fertilization.
Scatter the seed by hand or use a spreader according to the seed package directions. Lightly rake the area again to smooth out the seed. Keep the area watered. You can start mowing after 2-3 weeks when the grass is a few inches high.
How much Perennial Ryegrasses Seed do I need?
This depends on the area to be planted of course. Generally it’s about 1oz per 100sqft or 7.5lbs per acre.
You can use our application calculator to calculate how much seed you need to order.
Fertilizing Perennial Ryegrasses:
We suggest using a slow release fertilizer such as 13-13-13 or 10-10-10 applied at the rate of 4lbs per 1,000sqft as a broadcast spread before planting. This is not necessary, but will definitely promote healthier, denser grass.
If you want to fertilize your Perennial Ryegrasses after it is up and growing you can use a fertilizer such as: 5-10-10 or 6-12-12 at the rate of 1lbs per sq yard. This can be done periodically throughout the year but should be done with a low nitrogen formula in the fall to prepare for winter.
Mowing Perennial Ryegrasses:
Perennial ryegrasses can be cut anytime as long as they are not stressed. If you leave grass a little longer than normal in the fall, it will naturally turn a lovely reddish color as part of the dying process. Cutting it a couple times a year actually improves the health of the plant (and prevents seed production) but it really doesn’t need it if you don’t want to.
Perennial ryegrasses should be cut when standing approximately 1 to 2 inches above the ground. Never cut more than 1/3 of the total height at any one time. This prevents an excess of water from being released and weakening the roots. That’s why it is best to cut Perennial ryegrasses frequently instead of letting it grow to a very tall length and then mowing it down.
Once your Perennial ryegrasses has been growing for a year you may want to consider mowing it shorter. This will not only make it more manageable but can actually improve its drought resistance.
Perennial ryegrasses that are in more shade than normal tend to be greener (of course) and require less mowing. Perennial ryegrasses located in areas that are very dry (low rainfall) also tend to be greener.
Once a Perennial ryegrasses is about a year old, it begins to produce seeds. These can actually be harvested for bird food or to be used as seasoning (sort of like Pepper). You can let them fall where they may and just mow over them or you can rake and gather them.
Perennial ryegrasses tend to grow in clumps more than turf type grasses. They have a shallow root system (about 3 inches deep) so it’s easy to remove a few roots here and there to transplant if necessary.
Problems with Perennial Ryegrasses:
Perennial ryegrasses tend to be more maintenance free than other types of grasses, but they are definitely subject to some pest and disease problems. Fortunately, most of these are preventable or at least easy to control.
Perennial ryegrasses tend to grow slower in shade than in full sun. They will grow in partial sun/shade but not as lush as they would in full sun.
Perennial ryegrasses also do not tolerate water sitting on their crown (root zone) for long periods of time. This is not a problem if you live in an area that does not have hard freezes and do not have to worry about snow cover. But, if your yard is sloped or has any grade to it, then you probably will have water sitting in patches after a rain or snow. This can lead to fungal diseases and deteriorating grass plants.
Perennial ryegrasses can also be susceptible to chewing insects such as Dog ticks, Chewing Lice, and Sod Webworm.
Perennial ryegrasses are also susceptible to some types of fungus such as Brown Patch and Red Thread. Brown Patch is more of a problem in warmer humid areas with poor air quality (cities for example) while Red Thread affects stressed out plants. While not contagious, these can cause large unsightly dead patches if not caught early.
The good thing is that most of these problems are preventable and fairly easy to control once you know what the problem is. Of course if you’re really concerned about these problems you can always fallback to a less water demanding Turf Type such as Zoysia, Buffalo or St. Augustine.
Fertilizing Perennial Ryegrasses:
Always start off using a soil test to find out what the nutrient levels are in the soil already. This will help determine what fertilizer products to use and how much. For best results, apply nitrogen based fertilizer in the early part of the growing season (early Spring) and then again in mid to late summer.
Apply in the amount suggested by soil test or according to the package recommendations. For best results, wait a week or two after applying the initial amount before applying the second.
You can also apply a product like Sevin Maxfly Strike Down to help control insects such as Sod Webworms and other pests if needed.
Rejuvenating Perennial Ryegrasses:
Over time most lawns will become susceptible to some type of pest or disease that will cause irreversible damage. One way of helping avoid this is to do a lawn renovation and start over with new sod.
Another method is to overseed your lawn. This is most effective in the springtime after you’ve mowed down your existing grass.
Seeding is nice because it’s relatively cheap and it can help patch bare spots that have opened up due to natural (or unnatural) disasters.
However, there are also methods of “helping” your current lawn such as top dressing it with a high quality top soil product. Top Soil products will help add back nutrients and organic matter that has been lost over time and will help thicken out your yard. You can either spread by hand or use a broadcast spreader to apply the topsoil over the existing grass. Do not mow for at least 3 weeks after application.
Perennial Ryegrasses are a great “middle of the road” grass type that has both ornamental and functional purposes. They are fairly easy to grow, pest resistant and can take a fair amount of foot traffic.
Perennial ryegrasses are fairly easy to maintain and will help keep your bank balance in the positive.
Other Types Of Lawns:
Sources & references used in this article:
Effects of Ergot Alkaloids on Food Preference and Satiety in Rabbits, As Assessed with Gene-Knockout Endophytes in Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne) by DG Panaccione, JR Cipoletti, AB Sedlock… – Journal of agricultural …, 2006 – ACS Publications
Trinexapac-ethyl delays lodging and increases seed yield in perennial ryegrass seed crops by P Rolston, J Trethewey, R Chynoweth… – New Zealand Journal of …, 2010 – Taylor & Francis
Increased concentration of water‐soluble carbohydrate in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). Evaluation in dairy cows in early lactation by JM Moorby, RT Evans, ND Scollan… – Grass and Forage …, 2006 – Wiley Online Library
Root distribution and nitrate interception in eleven temperate forage grasses by JR Crush, JE Waller, DA Care – Grass and Forage Science, 2005 – Wiley Online Library