What is the difference between annual and perennial grass seed?

The main difference between annual and perennial ryegrass is that annual ryegrass is a cool-season grass whereas perennial ryegrass can tolerate both cold and warm temperatures. Furthermore, Lolium multiflorum is the scientific name for annual ryegrass while Lolium perenne is the scientific name for perennial ryegrass.

Annual, perennial, and winter ryegrass are the three types of ryegrasses classified mainly based on the type of growing season.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Annual Ryegrass
– Definition, Features, Importance
2. What is Perennial Ryegrass
– Definition, Features, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between Annual and Perennial Ryegrass
– Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Annual and Perennial Ryegrass
– Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Annual Ryegrass, Cool Temperatures, Lawns, Perennial Ryegrass, Silage

What is Annual Ryegrass

Annual ryegrass (Lolium perenne) or Italian ryegrass is a type of cool-temperature ryegrass native to temperate Europe. It can be grown in fall and spring, but it readily becomes dormant during the warm season. Therefore, annual ryegrass is suitable for overseeding lawns to grow along with warm-temperature grasses. It helps to keep a green expanse for a longer duration.

Figure 1: Annual Ryegrass

Furthermore, annual ryegrass is more suitable to cover bare grounds as it fights against soil erosion. Also, this type of grass is very cheap. Therefore, it can be used to fill temporary turf. In addition, annual ryegrass is eco-friendly as it is non-aggressive and furnishes nutrients back to the soil. However, it can become an invasive species in agricultural areas as well.

What is Perennial Ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) or European ryegrass is another type of ryegrass with a longer lifespan. It means that perennial ryegrass can grow up to 1-3 years. But, it has a higher growth rate during cool seasons. Due to the longer lifespan and the ability to tolerate both cold and warm temperatures, perennial ryegrass is widely used in lawns.

Figure 2: Perennial Ryegrass

However, one drawback of perennial grass is its inability to tolerate shades. It needs direct sunlight for proper growth. Moreover, it can tolerate foot traffic well. Due to these favorable characteristics, perennial ryegrass is widely grown all over the world including north of the tropical areas into the transition zone and into the regions of the cold season zone.

Similarities Between Annual and Perennial Ryegrass

  • Annual and perennial ryegrass are two types of ryegrasses classified based on the growing conditions.
  • Generally, ryegrasses are characterized by their bunch-like growth.
  • Also, both grow well when the soil temperature is between 50 and 65 degrees F.
  • But, they cannot tolerate extreme temperature conditions.
  • Besides, their rate of seed germination and the rate of growth are high.
  • Furthermore, both ryegrasses are used for grazing and hay and silage production.

Difference Between Annual and Perennial Ryegrass


Annual ryegrass refers to the cool-season grass that originated in southern Europe while perennial ryegrass refers to a cool-season grass, meaning it peaks in growth during cool seasons, from fall through spring. Thus, this is the main difference between annual and perennial ryegrass.

Scientific Name

Lolium multiflorum is the scientific name for annual ryegrass while Lolium perenne is the scientific name for the perennial ryegrass.

Native to

Annual ryegrass is native to Southern Europe while perennial ryegrass is native to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. Hence, this is also a difference between annual and perennial ryegrass.

Other Names

Moreover, another name for annual ryegrass is Italian ryegrass while another name for the perennial ryegrass is English ryegrass.

Growing Season

Another difference between annual and perennial ryegrass is their growing season. Annual ryegrass can be grown in fall or in the spring while perennial ryegrass comes back year after year in permanent lawns.


Their lifespan is also a major difference between annual and perennial ryegrass. The lifespan of annual ryegrass is short while the lifespan of perennial ryegrass is long.

Under Warm Temperatures

Moreover, annual ryegrass is not suitable to grow in warm temperatures while perennial ryegrass is more suitable for drying out under warm temperatures.

Lawns in Single Strands

Annual ryegrass is not suitable for the lawns in single strands often cultivated with warm-temperature grasses while perennial ryegrass is suitable for lawns in single strands since they can produce foliage throughout the year. Thus, this is one other difference between annual and perennial ryegrass.


Annual ryegrass is a type of ryegrass with a short lifespan. It can be grown in fall and spring under cool temperatures. In comparison, perennial ryegrass is another type of ryegrass with a longer lifespan. It can tolerate warm temperatures to a certain extent and they live up to 1-3 years. Both types of ryegrass are important for grazing and for the production of silage. However, the main difference between annual and perennial ryegrass is their ability to tolerate warm temperatures.

1. “Planting Areas For Annual, Perennial, Or Winter Ryegrass.” SEEDLAND, Available Here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Westerwolds raaigras Lolium multiflorum” By Rasbak – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Lolium perenne Engels raaigras doorschietend” By Rasbak – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

Grass Growth and Regrowth for Improved Management

Grasses are broadly classified as summer annuals, winter annuals, or perennials. There are no biennial grasses. The intended use dictates which group is most suitable for a given situation.


Annual grasses are represented by the major grain crops (corn, sorghums, wheat, rye, barley, oats), and by many weedy types which infest fields and pastures. Broad categories include:

1. winter annuals: cool-season species which germinate in late summer or fall,

2. summer annuals

  1. cool-season species seeded in the early spring, and
  2. warm season species seeded in late spring or early summer.

Annuals complete their growth cycle in a single growing season and reproduce only by seed whereas perennial grases reproduce vegetatively as well as by seed. Seeds represent the major storage organ for excess photosynthate. With no storage organs, such as rhizomes, stolons, or tubers, there is no means for vegetative reproduction. Annuals usually grow back after mowing or grazing. Regrowth arises from buds found on the lower nodes of the stem. This type of regrowth is called aerial branching because the new shoots arise from adventitious buds on stems as opposed to basal buds in the crown zone. Aerial branching is an efficient regrowth mechanism. For example, annual ryegrass and sudangrass, which exhibit this growth habit, can be grazed several times during the summer. Many weedy grasses are noted for their ability to recover from defoliation. Their control usually involves use of selective herbicides.

Winter Annuals

Winter-hardy varieties of common cereal grains are planted in late-summer or fall, sufficiently early to allow seedlings to develop a crown and produce winter-hardy shoots (tillers). With resumption of growth in the spring, additional tillers are produced. With environmental conditions favoring floral induction, the shoot apex of each tiller produces a floral bud. The developing seedhead becomes a storehouse for sugars not needed to support further vegetative growth. As with annual grasses, winter annuals do not develop organs for storing food reserves; therefore, with advancing maturity the plant becomes senescent and dies.

Winter-annual cereal grains are often harvested for hay or silage when seedheads emerge from the boot. As seedhead development is disrupted, new tillers may arise from lower stem nodes as previously described with annual grasses. This recovery growth may represent an important source of forage.

There are several winter annual bromegrasses that are troublesome to many forage managers; hairy chess, downy brome, and cheat. Proper management can serve to reduce these unwanted species.

Summer Annuals

Summer annuals are species that are planted in the spring and complete their growth by the autumn. Summer annuals can be cool season or warm season. In northern latitudes, where cold temperatures threaten winter survival of fall-seeded cereals, growers select cultivars that are adapted to spring seeding (for example: spring wheat, spring oats, and spring barley). When seedheads ripen in early summer the plant becomes senescent and dies. However, if seed head development is disrupted by grazing or mechanical harvesting, further growth may follow due to aerial branching.

Forage type sorghums and millets (including the weedy types) represent warm-season annuals. Seed germination is favored by relatively warm soil temperatures, thus maximum vegetative growth occurs in late spring and early summer. Again, if seedhead development is disrupted, regrowth arises by virtue of aerial branching where new shoots arise from buds located in basal stem nodes. Sudangrass, related forage sorghums, and various millet cultivars provide mid-summer growth for managers who wish to calendarize their grazing systems.


Biennials are plants that take two entire seasons to reach the reproductive stage. The first year is a time for accumulating food reserves in storage organs. The second season produces reproductive flowers and seeds. This is in sharp contrast with winter annuals which germinate in the fall and die the follwoing season when seeds ripen.

There are no true biennial grasses. Nevertheless, in some climate zones, species like annual ryegrass may behave like a biennial, producing forage for two seasons when planted in the spring.

Although there are no biennial grasses, there are biennial forage crops. These include the Brassica family (turnips, rape, kale, etc.) and some legumes such as sweet clover (Melilotus spp.).

Horticultural root crops, such as beets, carrots, and parsnips, some vegetables like onions and cabbage, and some ornamental shrubs like hollyhock, are true biennials.


Perennials are plants that continue to grow indefinitely or that regrow each year. Most of the commonly used forage grasses function as perennials, reproducing vegetatively as well as by seed. With perennials, vegetative reproduction involves development of winter-hardy crown tisue which contains buds and tillers that resume growth with the onset of spring temperatures.

Short-lived Perennials

Forage grasses which perenniate for 3-5 years are typically referred to as short-lived perennials. Perennial ryegrass is an example of a short-lived perennial forage grass. However, any perennial that is mismanaged will be short lived.

Life Cycles of Common Forage Grasses

The following are examples of annual and perennial grasses:

Annuals: annual ryegrass, annual bluegrass, pearl millet, corn, and sorghum / sudangrass.

Perennials: orchardgrass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, kentucky bluegrass, smooth bromegrass, meadow foxtail, timothy, colonial bentgrass, bermudagrass, reed canarygrass, wheatgrasses, big bluestem, switchgrass, and indiangrass.

Practical Implications


Annual species are by nature short-lived plants and must be planted each year. Most are planted in the spring. Winter annuals are planted in the fall, early if you want fall grazing or greenchop feed.

Winter annuals such as wheat, rye, winter oats, and winter barley are cereal gain crops, however, they can be used as cover crops or as nurse crops for new seedings of perennial grasses and legumes.

Cover crops vs companion or nurse crops: A cover crop is typically seeded in the fall to prevent erosion during the winter and to add organic matter to the soil. The cover is normally plowed or otherwise tilled into the soil in the spring prior to planting a crop such as corn, soybeans, vegetables and such. When tilled into the soil, cover crops may be called green manure crops-being used to improve soil fertility. Cover crops follow a crop. Companion or nurse crops are used concurrently. When used as a companion crop, the winter annual is seeded in early-fall together with a perennial grass and legume. The following spring, the companion crop is cut for hay and silage and the perennials species takes over.


Perennials have more uses. In crop rotations the sod crop may be plowed after only two or three years. With livestock as the major enterprise, the intent might be to maintain the sod for an indefinite period, to be reseeded when the desireable species disappear. Optimal management suggested by this project includes prompt, high regrowth rates after defoliation, and extended pasture life.

Ryegrass What Makes You Shine?

Ryegrass development has come a long way over the years. It has gained a well-deserved reputation as being a beautiful turf grass. It is used on golf courses to home lawns. One of the things that people first notice about perennial ryegrass is its shine. The surface of the grass reflects light better than most other grasses. Even when growing with other grasses, you can still easily spot it. It gets its name for its reddish color seedheads.

Currently, about 98% of all the seed sold today was grown and harvested in the state of Oregon. Oregon is home of some of the highest quality seeds for certain species.

In the photo, you can spot the grass that is shining within the other green lawn grasses. The lawn is common bermudagrass that was overseeded with a perennial variety. Ryegrass is a close relative of tall fescue, and like fescue, was originally used as a forage grass. It has come a long way since the early days with many new turf varieties on the market.

There are both a perennial and annual types. Both types are cool season grasses and are best suited for the cooler sections of the country. They are generally used as a winter grass in the south and throughout the year in the transition zone. Annual varieties can’t be used as a permanent grass so is generally used only for overseeding dormant, warm season lawns. Its one year life cycle makes its uses very limited.

Even with the improved varieties, ryegrass is rarely used as a stand alone grass. Most generally, it will be part of a seed mixture selected for its fast germination and good wear resistance.

It is probably best known for its quick germination and has been known to germinate in as little as 3 days after planting. Fast germination provides quick growth for ground cover and for soil stabilization. If it is one part of a seed mixture, you will still need to keep the soil moist until the other seeds have germinated. In comparison, it could take much longer. Fescue, for example, could take 15 to 21 days.

Many homeowners will have a greater feeling of success when they see new grass sprouting so soon after planting. Seed companies know this, so some seed distributors will include fairly large amounts of this seed in their seed blends. While some ryegrass may be fine, you may find bags that contain as much as 50 %. If the bag contains an annual variety, it will die back as temperatures rise in late spring. Buyers need to be aware of this. Unless the bag contains what you are looking for, it might be better to purchase bags that contain the type of seed you actually want. Make sure you check the cultivar to insure that it is a favorable variety.

The pros and cons of ryegrass

The Pro Side of Perennial Ryegrass

On the “pro” side, perennial ryegrass has a very high wear tolerance. It is used on athletic fields, along with bluegrass, to provide a more durable playing surface. This provides the field with good wear resistance while the bluegrass will spread to quickly heal any damaged areas. Having a good sustainable turf is necessary on high traffic areas.

Perennial ryegrass can tolerate low mowing and can be overseeded in dormant bermudagrass lawns. As bermudagrass loses its color in the fall, overseeding will provide green color throughout winter.

Ryegrass is an “allelopathic” grass. Allelopathic by definition means the grass inhibits other plants by the release of chemicals into the soil. This is a good thing at times. For example, ryegrass will suppress the germination of crabgrass seeds by about 30% or greater. It is a natural pre-emergent, though it shouldn’t be relied upon as a cure for crabgrass.

For more information on the bad effects of allelopathy, see the “Ryegrass Cons” below.

Some of the newer varieties can make a beautiful, high density turf. You can click on the link to see some of the latest Cool Season Grass Cultivars.

The “Con” Side

Most varieties do not make a dense turf and only a few can produce a high quality lawn. Most varieties have a somewhat narrow range to temperatures it thrives best in. It has a poor cold tolerance and can suffer damage in the hard winters of the northern states. Nor can it take the heat of the south. Its preferred areas of adaptation are where the winters and summers are not too extreme.

Another disadvantage is the high maintenance requirement needed to keep it looking its best.

Note: Research has shown that ryegrass is an “allelopathic” grass. This means it inhibits other grasses around it through the release of chemicals through the roots or in other ways. Many trees and grasses (especially weedy grasses) fit this category. Black walnuts, are an example.

Ryegrass that is overseeded into bermudagrass may find the bermudagrass will start to decline. This is especially noticeable in the spring before the bermudagrass resumes growth. It becomes more weedy and takes longer to thicken up.

Annual Ryegrass Pros and Cons

Also known as “Italian Ryegrass” and has a one year life cycle. It is best known for its use in overseeding warm season grasses in the fall. It is also used in roadside mixtures as a nurse grass until the other grasses can be established. The one year life cycle is usually a hindrance to establishing a quality turf, but it does have an occasional benefit. For example, if you are wanting to plant a warm season grass, but it is too late in the year, try planting annual ryegrass instead. It will provide soil stability over the winter and die back in spring when it’s time to plant your preferred grass. It works because all the annual varieties will die as the temperatures rise in late spring. No amount of fertilizer or water will alter its genetic make-up. Just a word of caution, if it is not mowed regularly and allowed to go to seed, it can become a weed later that year as the temperatures cool and the seeds germinate.

Overall, it doesn’t have much of a market in the professional turf industry. The turf quality is just too poor and turf managers are looking for a sustainable turf. Sadly, these annual grasses are sometimes marketed as a turfgrass to unsuspecting homeowners. It is not uncommon to find a very large percentage of bagged seed to be either perennial or annual varieties and often of the type that doesn’t make a good turf grass. Why do some companies do this? Ryegrass can produce almost 1500 lbs of seed per acre. It is fairly inexpensive, so some suppliers put a lot in. The best thing a person can do is to gain a little knowledge on the various grass types. That way, we are able to make better informed decisions and maybe avoid the cost of replanting later.


In the cooler times of the year, ryegrass can be mowed as low as 1.5 inches. In the heat of summer, the height should to raised to at least 3 inches. It is almost always better to mow at higher heights throughout the year. There is a link between higher mowing heights and deeper root growth. Lawns that are consistently mowed at lower heights will have shallower roots and will be the first to be affected by drought or high heat. As more grass blade is made available, the plant benefits from better photosynthesis and energy production. Longer grass blade lengths enable grass to better fight disease problems and recover faster from drought.


Ryegrass cannot tolerate drought conditions as well as other turfgrasses. It needs to be watered more frequently to ensure its survival during hot, dry periods. It will be one of the first grasses to show signs of drought stress.


In the turf and fertilizer industry, the amount of fertilizer to apply is measured in lbs of nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft. per year. The nitrogen fertilizer requirement is approximately 5 lbs/1000 per year. See the fertilizer section for easy to understand information for determining the right fertilizer to apply and at the right amount. This will even help you determine the right amount regardless of the percent of nitrogen in the bag.


If your plan is to overseed bermudagrass, the timing will be important. If you overseed to early while bermudagrass is still actively growing, the ryegrass will be smothered. If you wait too late in the year, the first frost may injure the young blades. If you overseed approximately 45 to 60 days before the first frost is expected, then it should do well. Seed application should be made at 5 to 7 lbs per 1000 sq. ft. For best results, mow the bermudagrass down to about 1 inch or less and remove the clippings before seeding. Core aeration can be done before seeding to relieve soil compaction and provide more oxygen and water to the root zone. Apply a good starter fertilizer after seeding and keep the soil moist until the seed has germinated.

Insect problems

Sod web worms, cutworms and grub worms can be particularly harmful to ryegrass. If grub worms are a problem in your lawn, they will continue to be unless it is treated. A grub worm is the larvae of the June Beetle and will lay eggs in soil that has the characteristics they are looking for. They become a pest during the late larvae stage. There are many insecticides on the market that will stop these pests. Products containing the active ingredient carbaryl (sevin) or trichlorfon (also called Dylox) are curative compounds and can begin killing within a few days. Products containing the active ingredient imidacloprid or halofenozide are preventive products. They must be applied well in advance of any problems or it will have no effect. Some companies claim that their product will work all season long, but I wouldn’t trust that. If applied too early, it will degrade before it has time to be effective against grubs and some other insects. See the Pesticide section for more advice.

Disease problems

Proper management practices help grass resist disease problems. A few grass diseases have been known to infect ryegrass. Pythium blight, Fusarium blight, rhizoctonia are problems in the fall. Pythium blight is also called “damping off” and is a problem with young plants in wet soil. Buy seed that has been pretreated seed to resist pythium blight help solve this problem.

Leaf spot and dollar spot can be problems in the spring. Leaf spot is primarily a problem in damp, humid, spring weather. The disease will usually go away as soon as the weather dries out and is less humid. Fungicides are available for this disease, if needed.

Dollar spot starts as circular, tan spots from 1 to 3 inches in diameter. It is generally a sign of insufficient nitrogen. Proper fertilizing can usually control this disease. See the Disease section for more information.

Kentucky Bluegrass and Other Bluegrass Varieties
Kentucky bluegrass is one of the most popular of all the cool season lawn grasses. Find out what makes this grass so special.
Coarse and Turf-Type Tall Fescue
Tall fescue is an exceptional cool season grass. It is preferred by many because of its dark green color, wear resistance and heat tolerance. Click here to find out everything you need to know about tall fescue.
Fine Fescues
The fine fescue grasses are known for their exceptional shade and cold tolerance. They also have some of the narrowest blades of any grass type. Click here for detailed information about its climate range, uses and management.
Overseeding Lawns – Tips and Techniques for a Beautiful Lawn
Lawn overseeding is one of the most overlooked practices by homeowners. However, it is one of the most important steps you can take to maintain a consistently thick and beautiful lawn. Find complete information on why and how to overseed correctly.
Understanding Organics and Organic Lawn Fertilization
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All About Lawn Fertilization
Fertilizing a lawn can be tricky if you are not sure how to do it correctly. Find everything from understanding fertilizer ingredients to calculating fertilizer rates to planning your fertilizing schedule for the entire year and more.
Lawn Winterization Tips and Techniques
Fall winterization is the most important time for fertilizing cool season grasses. Warm season grasses do not receive the same treatment. Find everything you need to know to winterize both cool and warm season grasses.
Watering a New Lawn
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Lawn Care Academy Products for Lawn and Garden
Lawn Care Academy’s list of quality products that will help you develop and maintain your lawn and garden.
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“Ryegrass” Pros and Cons of Overseeding Lawns

Many homeowners and green industry personnel have begun inquiring about overseeding lawns with cool-season grasses that will ensure green grass throughout the winter. I must say that we are spoiled here on the Gulf Coast. It is not uncommon to see green St. Augustine or centipede grass deep into the winter season during mild winters. I will admit I did not see many green lawns this past winter season except for those overseeded with a cool-season grass.

Sure, everyone likes a lush, green lawn all year long. It is, however, a natural occurrence for warm-season grasses like St. Augustine and centipede to enter dormancy as the weather cools. Overseeding your lawn with ryegrass can give you that green color during the winter season, but cool-season grasses need maintenance just like the warm-season grasses.

It is now too late in the year to expect warm-season grasses to firmly establish and grow well. As a result, some people prefer to plant ryegrass. If you are just starting or renovating a lawn, consider planting ryegrass this winter. If you have an established lawn, you may consider overseeding it with ryegrass for green color this winter.

There are many types of ryegrasses grown for lawns in the United States. Annual ryegrass (Lollium multiflorium) is commonly grown in United State as forage for winter grazing. You may here this grass referred to as Italian ryegrass. It is quick to germinate and is often used to overseed the warm-season grasses. The warm-season turf is sometimes mowed one last time to allow the ryegrass seed to get good soil contact. Sometimes the seed is simply spread on top of the established turf and watered in.

Annual ryegrass is a lighter green and slightly coarser than perennial ryegrass. It also is less heat tolerant than the perennial ryegrass planting. This is one advantage since cool-season grasses can interfere with warm-season grasses as they begin to grow in the spring.

Perennial ryegrass (Lollium perenne) is another lawn seed that is used for overseeding. It is used extensively in the Northern areas of the United States as a warm-season grass. It does not act like a perennial in USA and cannot grow during the spring and summer. It must be replanted every year because it cannot survive our hot weather from year to year. Like annual ryegrass, it is used to

establish temporary lawns or overseed warm-season grasses. Perennial ryegrass has finer leaves and is darker green than annual ryegrass. Have you ever noticed the green grass in athletic fields in the winter? Chances are the grass you are seeing is perennial lawn-ryegrass. It is the preferred cool-season grass for athletic fields during this time of the year.

Planting time is important in lawn establishment. We are just entering the preferred time for over-seeding in our area. Rye may be used to overseed warm-season turf now through the end of November. Seed planted after this time period may not have time to grow into plants that can survive freezing temperatures.

Seeding rates are important for a uniform stand of grass. Ryegrasses are bunch grasses, and seeding too lightly will produce a thin turf. Perennial ryegrass should be seeded at the rate of 8 to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Annual lawn-ryegrass should be seeded at 10 to 12 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Ryegrass is a living turf just like warm-season turf. Yes, even during the winter, cool-season grasses require fertilizing, watering, mowing, and other care to produce the desired effect. A soil test is the only way to know exactly what fertilizer you need to use. if you want to know more about how to grow ryegrass and will ryegrass grow in sandy soil…leave a comment below…

Proper management of cool-season turf is essential to the overall health of your turf. Unless you overseed with certified, weed-free seed, you do run the risk of introducing weeds into your yard. In addition, improper overseeding can interfere with your warm-season turf next spring leaving thin spots that rapidly fill up with an assortment of weeds.

If you decide to overseed your turf, consider the time and effort needed to properly establish a cool-season grass. There is certainly no “dormant” season for the gardener who wishes to keep it green all year long.

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disadvantages of annual ryegrass

Annual Ryegrass has very deep, fibrous roots.

Annual Ryegrass is one of the more popular and also one of the more vilified of the cover crops. Those that love it cite the deep fibrous roots and excellent soil tilth improvement. Those that loathe it cite that it does not always survive the winter…or that they can’t kill it if it does!

Thankfully there are a few very good winterhardy varieties on the market and the method of killing annual ryegrass is becoming more refined and dependable. Annual Ryegrass has many benefits and a few disadvantages. I list them below.

Advantages of Annual Ryegrass:

  • It is a deep rooted cover crop that helps mine minerals from deep in the soil profile.
  • It is an excellent erosion control crop.
  • It is a luxury consumer of nitrogen and tremendous scavenger of N.
  • It works well aerial applied into corn and soybeans.
  • It also makes an excellent forage crop.
  • Corn following annual ryegrass often yields more and is more drought tolerant due to depth of roots and holding N in the soil from previous fertilizer applications.
  • Excellent with manure applications…holds N in soil profile, out of tile drains.
  • And more…

Disadvantages of Annual Ryegrass:

  • Many varieties are not winterhardy (many rarely make it through the winter alive).
  • It may be difficult to kill in the spring.
  • It takes more management than many other cover crops.

Annual Ryegrass in the spring of 2010. Planted in 15″ rows, this erosion fighting cover crop was a huge success.The root structure on Annual ryegrass is impressive. Even when planted in 15″ rows the roots filled in between the rows.

THe GREEn insider

Just as every lawn is different and has different needs, your grass comes in many different varieties as well. The needs of your grass and lawn can be due to the climate and geographical location of your area. To help you have the most understanding of your lawn, we researched eight different types of grass and identified their advantages and disadvantages. See which type of grass is found or would be best for your lawn!



  • Strongly recommend for residential and commercial landscapes, golf courses, sport fields, parks, and recreation areas
  • Excellent heat tolerance (up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Excellent wear resistance
  • Superior drought resistance


  • Poor shade adaptation- requires full sun for most of the day to grow properly
  • Poor adaptation to cool or damp climates



  • Low maintenance
  • Good for general purposes
  • Grows well in full sun


  • Poor water resistance with slow growth pattern
  • Sensitive to drought
  • Sensitive to low temperatures, going dormant in the winter months

Fine Fescue


  • Tolerates both hot and cold weather well
  • Upright growth habit creates nice even-looking grass
  • High drought tolerance


  • Moderate wear resistance and does not recover well from severe injury
  • Not wholly tolerant of shade

Kentucky Bluegrass


  • Widely used in cool, humid, semi-arid and temperate regions, like Ohio
  • Recovers quickly from occasional wear and moderate foot traffic


  • Poor shade adaption and only a few varieties are moderately adapted to partial shade
  • Somewhat poor drought resistance and can go into summer dormancy if there is no irrigation



  • Great drought tolerance
  • Very easy to maintain
  • Can thrive in both cold winters and hot summers
  • Fair wear resistance


  • Very few disadvantages

St. Augustinegrass


  • Excellent drought resistance
  • Moderate wear resistance
  • Well adapted in coastal regions and thrives in heat


  • Very poor tolerance in low temperatures
  • Shade adaption extremely varies between varieties

Tall Fescue


  • Deep root system avoids drought
  • Good for a tough play lawn and recommended for a wide variety of uses, such as roadsides, parks, and sports fields
  • Great wear resistance
  • Grows in a variety of climates


  • Very few disadvantages



  • Superior wear resistance
  • Tolerates heat very well
  • Remains green and resists short periods of drought


  • Slow to recover from severe thinning
  • Slow to grow in partial shade
  • Subject to winter dormancy

Want the next steps for your lawn’s care?

In lawn care, being late can mean the difference between a beautiful lawn, and one that is full of weeds. That’s why we’ve laid out step-by-step everything you need to know when it comes to lawn care material and when to apply it. The best part is that this guide is yours, absolutely FREE by clicking on the link below. Or for more information on our plans and prices, .

Perennial Ryegrass Information: Learn About Perennial Ryegrass Uses And Care

Annual ryegrass is a valuable rapidly growing cover crop. It aids in breaking up hard soils, better allowing roots to absorb nitrogen. So what is perennial ryegrass used for? Read on to learn more.

What is Perennial Ryegrass Used For?

There are a number of benefits to planting perennial ryegrass. Perennial ryegrass uses extend from using as a pasture grass or as sod for the home lawn. It is considered the best cool season perennial pasture grass in many areas. Planting perennial ryegrass for pasture has many benefits. It establishes rapidly, is high yielding with a long growing season, is highly nutritious, recovers well from grazing and tolerates traffic. This perennial grass is highly digestible for ruminants and is valuable not only as pasture but hay and silage as well.

Perennial ryegrass is also used for home lawns and other areas requiring attractive turf such as golf course fairways and tees or baseball fields. It wears well, germinates rapidly

and maintains a lush appearance. Other perennial ryegrass information states that it has the highest wear tolerance of all the cool season grasses and is forgiving of very high traffic, making it perfect for use around schools and in park settings.

All the above perennial ryegrass information lends it as the perfect candidate for over-seeding winter dormant lawns and its rapid growth aids in weed suppression.

Perennial Ryegrass Care

Perennial ryegrass is used in cool, temperate climates well suited to coastal regions with moderate temps throughout the year. It thrives in full sun, but will do well in partial shade. It does not tolerate drought or long periods of extreme heat. Like all ryegrasses, it flourishes in fertile, well-draining soil, but perennial ryegrass handles wet soils better than other ryes.

Perennial ryegrass has a bunchgrass growth habit without rhizomes or stolons and perennial ryegrass care ranks between moderate and high maintenance depending upon environmental conditions. Seed at the rate of 6-9 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet in the fall, or use sod. Germination should take place between 3-5 days and mature turf will take hold within 4-8 weeks.

This fine textured, rich green grass should be mowed when used as lawn cover between 1.5 and 2.5 inches high. When planting perennial ryegrass to over seed warm season grasses, begin mowing in the spring and gradually reduce its height to encourage growth of the warm season grass.

Fertilize this ryegrass with 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq feet per year during its active growth period – February through June or October through December. Water this grass often to a depth of 6-12 inches unless used to over seed, in which case water deeply but less often.

All in all, perennial ryegrass is an excellent pastoral or turf choice of grass for cool weather regions.

Annual ryegrass

Identification and attributes

Latin name – Lolium rigidum

Alternative names — Wimmera ryegrass, ryegrass

Distinguishing features

Mature annual ryegrass

Annual ryegrass is hairless and has bright green, narrow leaves. The leaves are shiny, especially on the back of the blade. It has a wide ligule, long auricles and the emerging leaf is folded. The base (below ground) is often reddish purple in colour and seedlings exude a clear sap when crushed.

Mature plants are erect and up to 900 millimetres (mm) in height. The inflorescence (flowering stems) are flat and up to 300mm in length. Spikelets have 3-9 flowers and the husk is almost the same length as the spikelet.

Seeds are relatively flat, 4-6mm long, 1mm wide and straw-coloured, with the seed embryo often visible through the outer layers. They are held securely to the flower stem and significant force is needed to detach them either as individual seeds or as part of the flower stem.


Annual ryegrass is a winter to spring growing weed that can emerge from late autumn through to early spring. Ideal conditions for germination of annual ryegrass include a significant autumn/winter rain event and seeds located 20mm deep in the soil. Germination reduces with increasing seed depth, stopping at about 100mm.

Most shallow seed will germinate during autumn and early winter. The peak germination (80% of seeds) occurs at the break-of-season after the first two falls of rain that exceed 20mm. Newly-formed seeds of annual ryegrass are dormant for the first 8-9 weeks. Less than 1% carryover of viable residual seed remains after late winter in undisturbed soil, indicating that the seed is relatively short-lived.

Why is it a major weed?

As one of the most serious and costly weeds in southern Australia’s winter cropping systems, annual ryegrass produces an extremely high number of seeds per plant. Dense stands (>100 plants/m2) can produce up to 45 000 seed per square metre under ideal conditions. Annual ryegrass is highly competitive and can compete with crops as early as the two-leaf crop stage. Annual ryegrass also is a host for the bacteria Clavibacter spp., which cause annual ryegrass toxicity (ARGT) and can be infected by ergot fungus.

Herbicide resistance

Many populations of annual ryegrass have developed resistance to both selective and non­-selective herbicides. Repeated use of herbicides from the same mode-of-action group (particularly the high-risk Groups A and B) have lead to herbicide-resistant individuals. Annual ryegrass has developed resistance to the following mode-of-action herbicide groups in Western Australia.

  • Group A — ‘fops’ (for example, diclofop-methyl)
  • Group A — ‘dims’ (for example, sethoxydim)
  • Group B — sulfonureas (for example, chlorsulfuron and sulfometuron)
  • Group B — imidazolinones (for example imazapic)
  • Group C — triazines (atrazine and simazine)
  • Group C — substituted ureas (for example, diuron)
  • Group D — trifluralin
  • Group F — triazoles (for exampe, amitrole)
  • Group M — glyphosate

Annual ryegrass

There are now more than 23 confirmed cases of glyphosate-resistant ryegrass populations in Australia mostly from cropping paddocks. There are at least three populations recorded in WA. There has also been a recent case of resistance to paraquat in annual ryegrass been found in South Australia.

Two ryegrass species are of great importance in forage/livestock production; annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). Both species are easy to establish, versatile in how they can be used and adapted on a wide range of soil types. They are leafy grasses that produce highly palatable forage that often exceeds 70% digestible dry matter and 20% crude protein. These characteristics enable grazing animals to maintain exceptionally high dry matter intake levels and result in outstanding animal performance.


Annual ryegrass is an outstanding winter annual forage grass that is highly productive. It can be planted on a prepared seedbed, overseeded into the dormant sods of warm season forage crops or used as a winter cover crop and/or winter grazing crop. It is estimated that over two and a half million acres of annual ryegrass are grown for forage in the USA every year. The species is considered an annual, although in a few areas of the USA, plants sometimes live for one and a half years or more, depending on variety and/type, planting date and climatic conditions.
“Westerwolds” type ryegrass is a true annual that will make seed in spring regardless of planting date. This type is widely grown in the Deep South, but less so farther north because some varieties are not highly winter-hardy. “Italian” type ryegrass needs exposure to cold weather in order to head, so when planted in spring it will make little or no seed. In most climates Italian ryegrass acts as an annual and dies in less than one year, but in the northern tier of U.S. some varieties are winter-hardy and may act like a biennial or a weak perennial.

Annual ryegrass is a fast-growing bunchgrass that produces several upright tillers from each plant. It has clasping auricles and shiny leaves that generally reach around 8 to 12 inches in length. Ungrazed plants can reach a height of 40 to 50 inches. Well-fertilized ryegrass foliage is a lustrous green color except for the bases of plants, which are yellowish-green. Seedheads, which normally first appear in April or May depending on geographical location, are a single spike and spikelets are in an alternate arrangement on each spike. Seed are awned and there are 9 to 15 florets in each spikelet. It establishes quickly (germination usually occurs within a week to ten days under good conditions), develops an extensive fibrous root system and can be quite competitive with other plants.

Adaptation and Use
Annual ryegrass originated in Europe but is widely grown in the USA. The greatest concentration of use at present is in the Deep South from East Texas to North Carolina, but some varieties are winter-hardy enough to be grown in the Midwest. It can be grown on many different soil types and in numerous climates, especially where there are extended periods of mild temperatures (the optimum range being 68º to 77º F) and good soil moisture. It is not shade tolerant or highly drought tolerant but it can be grown on heavy, waterlogged soil and will tolerate brief periods of flooding. It is mostly utilized as pasture but is also widely used for hay, silage, haylage, baleage and greenchop.
Ryegrass pasture can reduce hay or other stored feed requirements for many livestock producers, especially in the Deep South. Fluctuations in hay yields of other forage crops affect the acreage of annual ryegrass planted from year to year, as more ryegrass is planted in poor hay production years. Overseeding warm season grass sods, which is the most common approach to planting annual ryegrass, can extend the grazing season by three months or more.

Description and Origin
Perennial ryegrass is a cool season bunchgrass native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. Its use in the USA has been primarily for turf but interest in it, and opportunity for using it as a forage crop, is increasing. Perennial ryegrass has short, non-clasping auricles and the seed has no awns. There are approximately 330,000 seeds per pound. It has a branched root system with adventitious roots at the basal nodes of tillers. The inflorescence is a “spike” with awnless spikelets. Leaf blades are narrow and folded in the bud. It is cross-pollinated.
Perennial ryegrass is more persistent than annual ryegrass but less persistent than tall fescue. It tillers more profusely than annual ryegrass but is lower growing and will not form a seedhead in the establishment year. There are diploid (two sets of chromosomes) and tetraploid (four sets of chromosomes) varieties of perennial ryegrass. Tetraploids have longer tillers, longer seedheads and wider leaves. Tetraploid varieties tend to be taller and less dense. Because they have a more open sod (less ground cover) they are better suited to be grown in mixtures with legumes. Tetraploids are more digestible, have more soluble sugars and generally perform better than diploids during grazing. However, diploid types are usually more persistent and more tolerant of heavy grazing.

Adaptation and Use
Perennial ryegrass is popular in many turf situations because it germinates rapidly, establishes quickly and has aesthetic appeal. However, its use for forage has been limited by temperature extremes. Since the species is primarily adapted to temperate climates, it historically has not been productive and/or persistent during cold winters in the North or hot summers in the Lower South. Advances in variety development have expanded its use beyond its historical adaptation area and with continued breeding efforts its zone of adaptation will likely continue to expand in the future. At present approximately 250,000 acres are grown in the USA.
Perennial ryegrass has the potential to produce high yields of excellent quality forage and can be used for pasture, hay, silage, turf and conservation purposes. It is easy to establish and can be grown in mixtures with legumes such as alfalfa, white clover and red clover.

Perennial ryegrass can survive in a wide range of soil and climatic conditions; however, it grows best on well-drained, fertile soils. The first and most important agronomic and economic investment in ryegrass production is a soil test. Phosphorus and potassium should be in the medium range and the soil pH should be between 6.2 and 6.8 for optimum production and persistence. When seeded with legumes, nitrogen is not required. In pure stands, add 40-60 pounds of N per acre depending on planting date and expected growth during late fall and winter. For late-winter early-spring seeding, use 50-60 pounds of N per acre.
Use high quality seed of a variety capable of producing and persisting in your area. Many states conduct variety tests that provide information about which varieties have performed well in a given area.
Depending on location, seedings can be made from early August through October. Earlier plantings are best for fall and early winter grazing possibilities. Plantings can also be made from March to early May. Seedings can be made into prepared seedbeds or no-tilled into killed sods or crop residues. When seeding into a prepared seedbed, use of a cultipacker-seeder or broadcasting seed followed by cultipacking has been very successful. Regardless of seeding method, seed should be planted at the optimum rate and placed at a depth of ¼-½ inch in good seed-to-soil contact. Reduce seeding rate when seeding with a legume. Monitor a new stand and control any troublesome weeds and insects during establishment.

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