What Is Ryegrass?

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perennial ryegrass growth

Ryegrass (Lolium) is a type of grass that is used for lawns, pastures, and forage. A cool-season grass, so it grows best in cool climates. Because ryegrass is a fast-growing grass that is tolerant of a variety of soils and conditions, it is often categorized as a grassy weed. While ryegrass is a good choice for lawns because it is low-maintenance and requires less water than other types of grasses, it can also completely take over your lawn, as it outcompetes other turf grasses for nutrients.

Types Of Ryegrass

The two most common types of ryegrass are perennial and annual ryegrass. If you are looking for a long-lived grass tolerant of various conditions, perennial ryegrass is a good choice. If you are looking for a fast-growing grass that is a good choice for temporary cover crops or overseeding, annual ryegrass is a good choice. Below is a chart showing the main differences between these two types of grasses:


Perennial Ryegrass

Annual Ryegrass


Several years

One year

Growth rate



Drought tolerance



Heat tolerance



Cold tolerance



Disease resistance



Pest resistance



Palatability to livestock






Perennial Ryegrass

identifying Perennial Ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) is a grassy weed that is also considered a cover crop. It is a fast-growing weed that can be difficult to identify because it resembles healthy turfgrass. Perennial ryegrass outcompetes healthy turfgrass for water and nutrients, so it is important to identify and remove it from your lawn as soon as possible.

Here are some features of perennial ryegrass that can help you identify it:

  • Fine texture and deep green color.
  • Long, narrow leaves that are rolled inward at the base.
  • Strong, sweet smell.
  • Small, purple, or white flowers grow in the spring and summer.

Annual Ryegrass

identifying annual ryegrass

Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) is a winter annual grass that is found throughout the United States. It has a fibrous root system and can reach heights of up to 3 feet. Annual ryegrass is a popular turfgrass and is often used for overseeding lawns during cold winter months. Farmers and ranchers also use it as a cover crop to provide food for grazing cattle.

Here are some features of annual ryegrass that can help you identify it:

  • Bunch-forming grass that grows in clumps.
  • Leaves are dark green and have ridges on the upper surface, while they are glossy and smooth on the lower surface.
  • The stems have a red hue at the base.
  • The leaf blades range between 2.5 to 8 inches in length and up to 0.25 inches in width.
  • The seed head is a long spike that is between 4 to 16 inches long, with spikelets arranged alternately up the stem.

Life Cycle Of Ryegrass

The life cycle of ryegrass is as follows:

  1. Germination: Ryegrass seeds germinate when the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds need sunlight to germinate, so they will not germinate in shady areas.
  2. Growth: Ryegrass plants grow quickly and can reach a height of 2 feet. They have long, narrow leaves and a deep green color.
  3. Flowering: Ryegrass plants flower in the spring and summer. The flowers are small and white.
  4. Seed Production: Ryegrass plants produce seeds that are about 1/8 inch long. The seeds are dark brown in color and have a pointed tip.
  5. Seed Dispersal: Ryegrass seeds are dispersed by wind, water, and animals. The seeds can remain dormant in the soil for several years before germinating.

Prevention & Treatment

beautiful green lawn

If ryegrass has invaded your lawn, taking care of it immediately is crucial, as this fast-growing grass spreads quickly. The best treatment for ryegrass that invaded your lawn is prevention.

Here are some tips for preventing and controlling perennial ryegrass:

  • Keep your lawn healthy and well-maintained. This will help to make your lawn less attractive to ryegrass.
  • Water your lawn deeply and regularly. This will help keep the soil moist, making it more difficult for ryegrass to establish itself.
  • Fertilize your lawn regularly. This will help to keep your lawn healthy and vigorous, which will make it more resistant to perennial ryegrass.
  • Aerate your lawn regularly. This will help to improve the drainage of your lawn, which will make it more difficult for ryegrass to establish itself.
  • Mow your lawn regularly. This will help to remove any ryegrass that does establish itself.
  • Apply a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring. This will help to prevent ryegrass from germinating.
  • If you see any ryegrass, remove it immediately. This can be done by hand or with a herbicide.