How to Grow Perennial Ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is an excellent cool-season grass for lawns that receive foot traffic. How do you take care of it?

Did you know that in England, perennial ryegrass is used on tennis courts? This tough grass is common in yards across the country and is also used as a high-quality pasture grass for livestock.

Because of its ability to withstand foot traffic wear and tear, it is an excellent choice for lawns and even soccer fields. The grass’s toughness also makes it an excellent choice for preventing erosion and soil stabilization.

If you want to learn more about growing this cool-season grass, keep reading. Everything you need to know about growing perennial ryegrass is covered in our guide below.

General Information

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) is a cool-season grass that grows in a bunching manner. Its dark green leaves are smooth and shiny on the underside. Each blade is toothless and has prominent parallel veins that run the length of the blade.

In some countries, it is considered an invasive species because it secretes a chemical into the soil that some competing plants cannot tolerate.

Perennial ryegrass comes in over 200 different varieties. When selecting a seed, do your research and determine which one is best for your property. Some are better suited to pastures and grazing fields. Each variety is distinguished by its color, heat and cold tolerance, and leaf structure. With so many options available, finding the one that is ideal for you should be a breeze.

Perennial ryegrass grows best in partial shade, but it can also grow in full sun. Its heat tolerance varies depending on the variety.

Annual ryegrass and perennial ryegrass are not the same thing. The annual variety is used as a short-term greening solution or to prevent erosion. It is, however, an annual plant that must be replanted each year.

A closeup picture of one stem of a perennial ryegrass


Freshly planted perennial ryegrass has different water requirements than established plants.

Newly Planted Lawns

A newly planted area, whether seeded or sodded, requires more attention than an established one. At this point, water is critical. Maintain the moisture level of the seed or sod. Dried-out seeds will not germinate, and dried-out sod can be harmful to young roots.

Water your new plants lightly every 2 to 4 days. The precise frequency will be determined by the overall weather conditions. When the weather is hot, you will most likely water the lawn four times. Moderate temperatures will most likely necessitate two or three sessions. To determine your watering schedule, feel the soil’s surface with your hands to determine the moisture level.

If you think it’s too dry, it most likely is. Water it if you want. However, be cautious. Don’t submerge your seeds or sod. Too much water could result in death.

When your new grass is 1.5 to 2.5 inches tall, you will begin mowing. Stop watering your lawn 48 hours before mowing.

Ryegrass plant with growing flowers

Established Lawns

Established ryegrass necessitates more attention than other types of grasses. You’ll also need to do some digging to figure out what kind of soil you have on your property. The density of the soil influences how frequently and for how long you water your lawn. This is due to the fact that you want the water to soak between 6 and 12 inches into the soil.

For lawns with heavy clay soil, water less frequently and for longer periods of time. Two one-hour sessions per week should be sufficient to achieve the desired soil depth.

Sandy soil drains rapidly. It will necessitate more frequent watering for shorter periods of time. Water your lawn four times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. This keeps the soil moist at the appropriate depths.

Spending 30 to 45 minutes three times a week is a good place to start for soils that are somewhere between sandy and clay. Exact consistency can be difficult to determine. So experiment with that formula to see what works best for your plants.

Watering less frequently for longer periods of time may be necessary. You may need to water more frequently and for shorter periods of time. Keep an eye on how your lawn reacts and make adjustments as needed.

Perennial grass’s shallow roots will be harmed by standing water. Take care not to over-water. If you notice water puddles on your lawn, cut your watering time in half. If you have an hour to water, water for 30 minutes and then take a 15-minute break. Return after your break and water for another 30 minutes.

A closeup picture of the little leaves of a ryegrass


Perennial ryegrass is a labor-intensive plant. It requires more fertilizer than other types of grass. Here’s how you go about it.

Prepare the Soil Before Planting

First and foremost, conduct a soil test. Perennial ryegrass thrives in both acidic and alkaline soils. You’re fine as long as your pH level is between 5.5 and 7.5.

Remove any weeds and debris from the soil. Then till or cultivate into the topsoil 6 inches deep. This adds oxygen to the soil and allows water and nutrients to flow freely through it.

Newly Planted Lawns

New lawns have different nutrient requirements than established lawns. The amount of phosphorus required by new plants is one significant difference. Select a starter fertilizer that is high in phosphorus. Phosphorus aids in healthy growth, photosynthesis, sugar and starch breakdown, and a variety of other functions.

Starter fertilizers with an NPK ratio of 5-10-5 should be applied at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet should be used for products with a 10-20-10 ratio.

Don’t worry if you’re wondering why the nitrogen level is so low. Nitrogen enhances the vibrant color of a lawn. Because your lawn isn’t yet colored, higher levels aren’t required. In due course, your perennial ryegrass will receive a healthy dose of that nutrient.

Spread the starter fertilizer evenly over the entire area of cultivated soil. To promote germination, the fertilizer must be accessible to the new seeds. Using a garden rake or rototiller to work the fertilizer into the soil will accomplish this. Make sure you’re not digging any deeper than 4 inches into the soil.

Winter ryegrass swayed by the wind

Established Lawns

Perennial ryegrass lawns will take 1 to 2 months to establish. The first application of standard fertilizer differs from subsequent applications not in fertilizer composition, but in scheduling. Six to eight weeks after planting, the first application will be made.

It’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid using fertilizer too soon. If you do, the roots may not be able to absorb the nutrients, resulting in runoff.

A fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 18-1-8 will help your perennial ryegrass develop rich, dark-green color. You will not require nearly as much fertilizer as you did with the starter product. This time, 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet will suffice.

You can fertilize your lawn every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season after the unusual scheduling of the first application of a standard product.

Depending on the needs of your lawn, you may need to apply a winter fertilizer.


In the spring and fall, perennial ryegrass grows rapidly. The summer sun’s heat slows its growth rate. This is significant because how you mow your grass varies depending on the season.

A person mowing the overgrown grass in the garden

Spring and Fall

You’ve already learned that during the growing season, this species should be cut to a height of 1.5 to 2.5 inches. The dark green color of the grass allows it to be kept this short. Because of its color, it is less susceptible to heat stress in the spring and fall. Perennial ryegrass is ideal for preventing soil erosion during the winter months because it grows best in the fall.


Allow your grass to grow a little taller before mowing it in the summer. A length of between 2.5 and 3 inches is ideal.

The longer blade is used to cast shadows over the soil. In the summer, keeping the soil shaded will keep it moist. Moisture in the soil is important not only because water is necessary, but also because it aids in nutrient absorption by the roots.

Proper Mowing Is a Must

When mowing, alternate the direction of the lawnmower with each pass. This encourages the short blades to stand upright, allowing for a clean cut.

You must use a sharp blade when mowing. The perennial ryegrass has already been cut short. Mowing with a dull blade tears the grass and increases its susceptibility to disease.

Always keep in mind that perennial ryegrass has shallow roots. Cutting more than the top third of the blade reduces the grass’s ability to photosynthesize. The reduction in photosynthesis will harm the shallow roots, making them vulnerable to drought. Maintaining the grass at the recommended mowing height encourages deeper root growth.

A gardener using a lawn mower to remove some overgrown grass

Common Problems

Preventative maintenance and proper lawn care practices are your best line of defense against any problems that may arise. Perennial ryegrass can have a variety of problems. Let’s take a look at some common issues and how to solve them.


When it comes to pests, the grub worm is a major issue. The larvae of the June Beetle are the grub worms. The beetle will lay its eggs in soil suitable for the development of its larvae. 

Because perennial ryegrass requires more water than other grasses, the soil is always moist. This provides the ideal environment for June Bugs to thrive.

Its larvae will eat your grass’s roots. As a result, there are brown patches of dead grass that are easily pulled off the ground.

Late summer is when the grubs are most active. This is bad news for perennial ryegrass, which has already been stressed this summer.

The best thing to do is to eliminate June Beetles before they can lay eggs. This is possible with a chemical insecticide.

If you prefer to avoid the chemicals, combine 0.5 cup molasses or honey with 0.5 cup hot water in an empty milk jug and shake vigorously. Set it near your bushes, and the June Bugs in the area will succumb to the temptation. They’ll become entangled in the solution and drown.

While there are natural ways to kill the grubs, I would recommend using insecticides. If possible, look for one that uses neem oil. It will kill the grubs while leaving other beneficial insects alone.

A closeup picture of a june beetle on a petal


Your lawn may be affected by Pythium blight in the fall. It’s also known as “damping-off.” It is most noticeable in young lawns with wet soil.

Purchasing grass seed treated to prevent Pythium blight is your best bet. Fusarium blight is also prevented by treated seeds.

Dollar spot and leaf spot are two fungal infections that you may encounter in the spring. When the soil is moist from irrigation and spring rainfall, leaf spot appears. It should dissipate as the weather warms. If the leaf spot persists, apply a fungicide to your lawn.

Dollar spot appears when there is insufficient nitrogen in the lawn. As long as you fertilize your lawn correctly, you should be fine.

Mixing Grass Seed

Perennial ryegrass seeds are frequently combined with other desirable grass seeds. Different grass seed mixtures achieve different goals.

Because perennial ryegrass germinates so quickly, it is frequently mixed with Kentucky bluegrass. Kentucky bluegrass is more disease-resistant and drought-tolerant, but it germinates slowly. The combination of the two covers all bases and results in a lawn that is extremely healthy.

Perennial ryegrass seed is frequently mixed with Bermuda grass seed. Bermuda grass blooms in the summer and dies in the fall. The opposite is true for perennial ryegrass. As a result, your lawn will be green all year.

Jeffrey Douglas
Jeffrey Douglas own a landscaping company and has been in the business for over 20 years. He loves all things related to lawns or gardens and believes that proper maintenance is the key to preventing problems in the first place.
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