What Is Fairy Ring & How To Treat It

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The lawns of our homes are often cultivated to be polished and beautiful outdoor spaces, but they can sometimes present curious and unexpected phenomena. One such phenomenon is the Fairy Ring. These intriguing circles of mushrooms or discolored grass patches have fascinated people for centuries. But what exactly are they?

Contrary to the many myths surrounding them, a Fairy Ring is a natural occurrence caused by specific fungi in the soil. These fungi grow outward in a circular pattern, forming rings of mushrooms or creating circular effects on the grass. The most common types of Fairy Rings are caused by basidiomycete fungi, which is the same group that includes many edible mushrooms.

Identifying Fairy Rings

Fairy Rings can manifest in several ways.

  • Mushroom Rings: The most recognizable form, featuring a circle of mushrooms fruiting from the underground fungal network. The mushrooms can vary depending on the specific fungus but often appear in clusters or rings.
  • Fairy Ring Effect on Grass: Sometimes, the ring does not have visible mushrooms but instead exhibits a distinct effect on the grass, such as:
    • Dark Green Ring: A ring of lusher, darker green grass compared to the surrounding area, due to increased fungal activity breaking down organic matter and releasing nutrients readily absorbed by the grass.
    • Dead Ring: A ring of brown, wilted, or dead grass, occurring when the fungus depletes the soil of nutrients in the immediate vicinity of its growth.

The Life Cycle Of A Fairy Ring

Fairy Rings expand outward over time, typically growing a few inches to a few feet per year. Here is a simplified overview of their life cycle.

  • Spore Dispersal: Fungal spores spread through the air or are carried by animals.
  • Germination: When spores land in favorable conditions, they germinate and begin to grow as microscopic threads (mycelium) underground.
  • Vegetative Growth: The mycelium grows outward in a circular pattern, feeding on organic matter in the soil.
  • Fruiting: At certain times of the year, depending on the specific fungus, the mycelium produces fruiting bodies—mushrooms—above ground.
  • Nutrient Depletion: As the fungus grows, it depletes the nutrients in the center of the ring, leading to the dead grass zone often observed.

Preventing & Treating Fairy Rings

Fairy Rings are not inherently harmful to lawns but can be unsightly. Here are some strategies for prevention and treatment.


  • Maintain a Healthy Lawn: A dense, well-rooted lawn is less susceptible to fungal colonization. Practice proper mowing, watering, and fertilization.
  • Balanced Soil Fertility: Ensure balanced soil nutrients by conducting a soil test and fertilizing according to the results. Excessive nitrogen can contribute to Fairy Ring development.
  • Remove Debris: Regularly remove leaves, debris, and grass clippings to prevent buildup and improve drainage.


  • Physical Disruption: Physically disrupting the fungal network can sometimes help. This may involve digging a trench around the perimeter of the ring and removing the top few inches of soil. However, this method is only sometimes effective and can damage the lawn.
  • Improved Drainage: If poor drainage is a factor, core aeration can improve drainage and reduce the favorable environment for the fungus.
  • Fungicides: In severe cases, fungicides specifically labeled for Fairy Ring control can be used. Always follow label instructions and consult with a lawn care professional before applying any chemicals.

While intriguing, fairy rings are usually not a major cause for concern. Understanding their life cycle and implementing preventative measures can minimize their impact on your lawn. If a Fairy Ring persists and significantly disrupts your lawn's aesthetics, consulting a lawn care professional for targeted treatment options may be beneficial. Remember, a healthy lawn is the best defense against fungal invaders, so prioritize good lawn care practices to keep your green haven thriving.