Grass That Grows in Winter

Grass on lawns is a landscaping hack that can raise your house’s aesthetic appeal and home value. Most grasses, however, don’t stay green throughout the year. They have seasons where they grow and look thicker and lusher but become dormant and brown in unfavorable periods.

While warm-season grasses become dormant and turn brown during winter, cool-season ones remain green. Varieties like Kentucky and annual bluegrass, velvet, colonial and creeping bentgrass, perennial and annual ryegrass, tall and chewing red fescue are winter grasses that survive in the chilly conditions if no heavy snow cover.  

The 10 best grasses that grows in winter

We’ll be looking at cool-season grasses that grow and remain green in winter and are therefore deemed suitable for this season.

1. Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L. ) is a perennial, cool-season grass native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Though this grass dominates the northern US states’ lawns, you can also find it along the transition zones of the country’s southern parts. Kentucky bluegrass has over 200 varieties worldwide improvised over two and half decades.

The leaf blades of this grass are 3-4 inches long,  dark green, smooth on both surfaces, and boat-shaped. Kentucky bluegrass establishes itself in seeds while other varieties in sods and spreads by rhizomes. The best time to spread its new grass seeds in lawns is September. The seeds, however, take longer to establish. If you want to overseed your lawn with  Kentucky bluegrass seeds, Scotts Turf Builder Grass seeds are your best choice. These grass seeds establish quickly and produce fine leaf blades that grow well in full sun.

Kentucky bluegrass’s new young leaves emerge rolled from the bud (rolled vernation). It has a short, truncate membranous ligule but with no auricles. This grass blends with other cool-season types like perennial ryegrass, tall fescues, or annual ryegrass. 

Kentucky grows well in well-drained, moist, fertile soils with a pH of 6.0-7.0. It thrives in full sun, but some varieties can tolerate partial shade. However, it has poor drought and heat tolerance. Mow this grass at 3.5 inches weekly using a rotary mower for healthy growth.

2. Creeping bentgrass

Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera)  is a stoloniferous growing cool-season grass with bright green, fine-textured leaf blades. Its ligule can be finely toothed, rounded, or membraneous. However, it has no auricles. Creeping bentgrass has a rolled vernation and spreads by stolons. It withstands heavy foot traffic, shade, cold, heat and is popular in the transition zones and southern states. But, it is more vulnerable to diseases and drought.

Bentgrass establishes itself in the form of seeds, which are best planted in late summer or early fall. Seeds take 6 to 10 days to germinate. Penncross bentgrass seeds are a great choice for grass seeds as they produce a more aggressive thick and wear tolerant lawn. The best grass seed for creeping bentgrass is Crystal Bluelinks Creeping Bentgrass.

Creeping bentgrass requires low mowing height, less than 0.125 inches, done daily using a reel mower, thus making this grass more popular in golf courses than home lawns. It needs 3-5 lbs of fertilizer per 1000 square feet annually.

Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) is a mat-forming cool-season grass spread by long, vigorous stolons. Creeping bentgrass is hardy in the transition zones, usually popular in golf courses, and sometimes invasive in home lawns.

Creeping bentgrass has sharp-pointed leaf blade tips, ridged on the upper surface, and slightly creased on the lower surface. The sides of the leaf blades are rough. It has a bronze-purple compacted pinnacle that contains a single-flowered spikelet. Its leaves are rolled in the bud. The ligule is membranous, rounded, or blunt, with few hairs at the back with no auricles.

Creeping bentgrass has a divided collar with an open leaf sheath margin. It`s a high-maintenance grass requiring frequent mowing, fertilization, and topdressing during summer.

3. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) is a bunch type growing, non-spread cool-season grass majorly used for overseeding warm-season grasses in the transition zone for winter colorization. It’s often mistaken for Kentucky bluegrass, but these two are distinct. Kentucky bluegrass has boat-shaped leaf blade tips, while perennial rye has sharply pointed leaf blades.

The leaves are dark green and deeply ridged on the upper surface but smooth and glossy on the lower side. Perennial rye has a folded vernation, a membranous ligule pointed at the apex, and a straight, slightly clasped auricle. Its midrib divides the hairless collar. Its leaf sheath is flat and reddish at the base. It also reproduces by tillers and therefore doesn’t spread.

Perennial ryegrass establishes itself in seeds that take 3-7 days to germinate. The best perennial grass seeds for overseeding or establishing lawns is Turf Star Ryegrass Seeds from Barenbrug company.

Perennial rye grows best in the hardy zones of 5 to 7, which are warmer. It also prefers well-drained soils that are wet most times of the year. Perennial ryegrass tolerates heavy traffic, prefers full sun, and can tolerate partial shade.

4. Annual ryegrass

Annual ryegrass (Festuca perennis) is a non-spread, bunch-type growing cool-season grass native to southern Europe. This grass is mainly used in golf courses, athletics fields, and lawns to overseed warm-season varieties like Bermuda grass and bahiagrass to provide color during winter.

Although it may resemble perennial rye, these two are distinct. Annual rye has a life span of one year, after which it dies and restarts to grow in the next growing season. It establishes itself in the form of seeds.

Annual rye has coarse-textured, smooth, lime green leaf blades that are hairless and glossy on the lower surface. The grass has a rolled vernation with a hairless sheath.

Annual rye thrives best in the colder zones of 4 to 9 since it is a highly cold-tolerant grass. It becomes dormant on hot summer days. Consider this grass for your lawn if the traffic is moderate as it will not wear. However, it is more vulnerable to diseases such as brown light.

5. Improved tall fescue

Improved tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is a bunch forming, perennial cool-season grass better version of the tall fescue grass. Improved tall fescue is adapted to the northern and transition zones of the USA.

Improved fescue has better tolerance to heat, drought, and shade than tall fescue, increasing survival chances. Also, it has better disease resistance to diseases such as brown patch. Its fine, thick, dark green leaves provide an all-year-round green and lush lawn.

Improved fescue grows in all soils but performs best in heavy clay soils, with low foot traffic. This grass prefers full sun and doesn’t tolerate shade because it thins and clumps.

This grass is low-growing and has few maintenance needs.

6. Annual bluegrass

Annual bluegrass (Poa annua) is also called annual meadow grass, pasture grass, spear grass, and plains bluegrass. It is native to Eurasia but has spread worldwide. This grass is grown in lawns, gardens, roadsides, and cultivated areas. However, it may be a weed on golf courses.

Annual bluegrass is a bunch type growing grass and does not spread by rhizomes. It resembles Kentucky bluegrass because they both have boat-shaped leaf tips. Annual bluegrass has a folded vernation and a hairless membraneous ligule.

Annual bluegrass has light green leaf blades that sometimes wrinkle on the lower side. It produces seeds that can stay dormant in the lawn for up to six years. They regrow when conditions become favorable again in the next growing season. The seeds germinate in late spring through summer. Annual bluegrass establishes quickly. 

Annual bluegrass thrives in well-drained soils and compacted soil. It can stand high acidic grounds and heavy foot traffic. It highly tolerates shade, thus making an excellent choice of grass for winter.

7. Tall fescue

Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is a bunch type growing cool-season grass with numerous short rhizomes. Though it has a limited ability to spread, it primarily spreads by tillers. Tall fescues are majorly grown in home lawns, parks, and golf courses.

The leaf blades of tall fescue are broad, dark green, glossy on the lower surface, and serrated on the margins. It has a smooth leaf sheath with a short membraneous ligule. The inflorescence is a sharp pinnacle with lanceolate spikelets. The grass flowers in spring and matures in early summer.

Though it can survive in all soils, tall fescue prefers well-drained, heavy clay soils. The grass can tolerate shade, therefore grown in the southern states of the USA. Establish tall fescue in fall using either seeds or sod. An excellent choice for tall fescue grass seeds can be the Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Tall Fescue.

Tall fescue is moderately tolerant of turfgrass diseases. Fusarium blight is common in new young leaves. Armyworms, white grubs, and cutworms are common in tall fescue lawns.

Tall fescues become thin and form clumps during the hot and dry summer months. Applying fertilizer, overseeding in the fall, and watering regularly prevent thinning and clumping. 

8. Chewing red fescue

Chewings fescue is a bunch type growing,  perennial cool-season grass native to Europe. It is different from creeping red fescue as it has no creeping rhizomes like the red fescue. Because of dense tillering, Chewings fescue produces a thick sod.

Chewings fescue has a high tolerance to snow molds, therefore suitable for winter growing. Its leaf blades are fine-textured, dense,  and dark green throughout winter.

This grass spreads from seeds, and turf quality takes longer than six months to establish on the lawn. It needs well-drained soils to grow well. Its dense turf prevents weeds’ invasion. Chewings fescue moderately tolerates saline soils in hot and dry weather conditions.

Because of its good shade tolerance, Chewings fescue is blended with other warm-season grasses growing in shady areas in the southern states. This grass has exemplary disease resistance drought tolerance, and it can withstand heavy foot traffic.

9. Velvet bentgrass

Velvet bentgrass (Agrostis canina) is the finest textured among the three bentgrass types(colonial and creeping). It is most commonly used in home lawns and golf courses. This grass performs poorly in the transition area. This grass establishes in the form of seeds that might have been lying dormant in the lawn or brought by someone’s feet to the lawn.

Velvet bentgrass appears lighter green than the other bentgrass varieties. It is more vulnerable to turfgrass diseases such as Microdochium patch. Because it can stand high winter stress, velvet bentgrass is an excellent choice of grass for growing in winter.

10. Colonial bentgrass

Colonial bentgrass (Agrostis capillaris) thrives better in cool and humid climatic conditions. It has fine-textured, dense, upright leaf blades. The leaf color is mid-green. The grass spreads by short rhizomes and is the tallest bentgrass variety.

How long does winter grass take to grow?

Winter grass seeds take approximately 3-35 days to grow. Fast-growing ones like annual rye take three days to sprout after planting to cover the lawn in lime green. After 10 days, all the grass germinates and takes the next 10-14 days to continue growing until they are mature for their first mowing.


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