Ultimate Guide To Annual Ryegrass

In my experience, I’ve noticed that annual ryegrass is a type of grass that people ask about quite a bit. I believe that this is caused by the recent interest in using annual ryegrass as a cover crop, which is definitely something to consider. Anyway, this is why I wanted to allocate some time to discuss this type of grass in my ultimate guide to annual ryegrass.

That’s why, today, I’ll be doing the best I can to answer any questions you may have. I know that it can be hard to work with certain types of grass, especially if you lack the knowledge you need, so you can expect to leave this post with the tools you need to properly understand annual ryegrass.

I’ll be breaking everything down into easy-to-read sections, this way you can jump around if you need to. I know that a lot of you come from all different walks of life, so it’s important to me that you can navigate this post freely.

Now, before I continue chewing your ear off, let’s dive right into my ultimate guide to annual ryegrass.

Annual ryegrass is a type of cool-season grass that can actually perish if exposed to extreme temperatures. Annual ryegrass is quite easy to spot, and this is due to the bright green reflection that it boasts. When it comes to common usage, annual ryegrass is typically used for agriculture, turf, or decoration.

Check out my full range of ultimate guides for different grass varieties.

Is annual ryegrass good for lawns?

The first question that I hear often, is whether or not annual ryegrass can be good for your lawn. This is important to consider when working with any type of grass, because you don’t want to bring a hard to manage grass into your life. So let’s take a look at some of the facts about using annual ryegrass for lawns.

For most basic lawns

If you’re thinking about planting this type of grass down to use in your yard, you might want to choose a different option. This is due to the fact that annual ryegrass can actually become damaged in the summer months, and at times it can act as a weed. The roots can spread deep, and cool-season grasses aren’t always the best choice for your lawn.

Check out my article on how to mow patterns onto your lawn.

For turfs or other applications

On the other hand, if you’ll be using annual ryegrass as a turf, or even as a decoration in select locations, it’s a pretty good grass to work with. It’s easy to establish, and it can handle quite a bit of foot traffic as well (making it great for turf applications).

In agriculture

Annual ryegrass also has its uses in agriculture. This is due to the fact that it makes for a good foraging type of grass for animals.

A quick little fun fact for you, is that annual ryegrass can be used for hay purposes.

So when it comes to annual ryegrass, you really need to consider what you’ll be using it for. For a standard front lawn, or backyard, you might want to look elsewhere.

Annual ryegrass scientific name?

I know that a lot of you may just skip over this section, but you should definitely pay close attention to my quick science lesson. This way, if anyone starts throwing some ryegrass jargon your way, you’re equipped to deal with it. So let’s crack open this brief science lesson.

Festuca Perennis

Festuca perennis is the legitimate scientific name for annual ryegrass.

Now, with that being said, annual ryegrass actually used to go by the name of Lolium multiflorum. Both names essentially mean the same thing, and there really isn’t that much more to say about the name.

The species name is considered festuca perennis, but this name actually covers a broad range of different types of annual ryegrass. Oh, and by the way, annual ryegrass can also be considered Italian ryegrass as well.

Annual ryegrass characteristics

Now that you know a little bit about annual ryegrass, I want to show you some of the characteristics. This should help you understand whether or not it’s the grass you’re looking for, and I’ll make this as simple as possible. Let’s take a look.

Cool-season grass

The first thing that I’ll mention is that annual ryegrass is considered a cool-season grass. This means that it thrives in cooler conditions, and when it gets too hot or cold, it can actually die quite easily.

Check out my ultimate guide to cool-season grasses.

perennial versus annual

I’ve noticed that a lot of people claim that annual ryegrass will go dormant. Now, while this may be possible, annual ryegrass generally will not go dormant. This is why it’s considered an annual grass, because you’ll need to reseed it every year.

Now, while this may be the case, perennial ryegrass will actually go dormant during the summer and winter months. I believe that this is where the confusion comes from, but keep in mind that there is actually a difference. If this is something that interests you, I’ll more on this for you towards the end.

Yes, they’re both cool-season grasses, but one goes dormant while the other dies. This is definitely a great way to determine which grass you’re dealing with.

Annual ryegrass varieties

In a perfect world, there would only be one type of annual ryegrass. Unfortunately, as many of you know, this world is far from perfect. Therefore, I want to set some time aside to mention a few of the different annual ryegrass varieties.

The varieties that are known to date are as follows:

  • Winter rye (more of a grain than actual grass)
  • Annual ryegrass (obviously)
  • Perennial ryegrass (can handle droughts and is able to lie dormant

So as you can see, there is not just one single type of ryegrass. Also, winter rye is sometimes lumped together with annual ryegrass, but I want to come out and say that they’re actually completely different.

Check out my full range of ultimate guides for different grass varieties.

How to identify annual ryegrass

If you’ll be working with annual ryegrass, or are trying to see if it has made its way onto your lawn, you’ll need to know what you’re looking at. That’s why, in this section, I’ll be showing you some ways to properly identify annual ryegrass. Let’s take a look.

If it turns brown in the summer or winter

The biggest indication that you’ll come across is the color of the grass. As you may already know, annual ryegrass is a cool-season grass, which means it may die off in the summer months. Therefore, if you notice your lawn turn brown in the summer, there is a good chance you’re looking at some annual ryegrass.

The shine

Another great way to determine whether or not you’re dealing with annual ryegrass is the shine. Ryegrass will have a nice bright green shine to it, because it can actually reflect light a bit better than other types of grass. So if you notice some shiny grass mixed in with your lawn, there is a good chance that it’s a type of ryegrass.

You can also check the height as well, and this will work better in the wild. If you see long narrow leaves, almost a foot in height, you might be dealing with annual ryegrass.

Annual ryegrass cold tolerance

One thing that always comes up when discussing annual ryegrass, is whether or not it’s cold tolerant. This is important to consider, because it will show you how well it will hold up during a harsh winter. So let’s take a look at how much winter this grass can handle.

cold tolerance annual ryegrass

How much cold can it handle?

Annual ryegrass is a cool-season grass that can handle some pretty extreme temperatures. While lots of other cool-season grasses will go dormant or die off around 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit, annual ryegrass can withstand up to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

While 30 degrees Fahrenheit may be the limit, if you manage to take very good care of the grass, you’ll find that it can survive the winter months in some cases. So just keep an eye on it before you give up or decide to lay new seed down.

Check out my article on reviving your grass after a cold winter.

how to plant annual ryegrass?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people enjoy working with annual ryegrass. This is why I want to spend some time showing you how to plant it, because I believe this will help quite a lot of you. So let’s roll up our sleeves, and get to some good planting practices with annual ryegrass.

When to plant seeds?

If you’ll be planting in the early spring months, and rain hasn’t yet been consistent, you’ll want to water the area once it’s seeded. I would also recommend mixing annual ryegrass with another type of crop unlike grass (like legumes). If you happen to plant the seeds during a time of consistent rainfall, though, the seeds should actually germinate on their own.

How long does germination take?

Cool-season grasses usually take a decent amount of time to germinate, but if you happen to get lucky…

Annual ryegrass can actually germinate within 5 days.

Now, while this may be the case, it can also take as long as 10 days to germinate as well. This will really depend on the conditions around you, and how well the soil is tilled.

Till the soil

When it comes to seeding grass, usually you don’t need any crazy tools. While this may be true for other grass, annual ryegrass will need to be tilled before you plant this. So you should always be sure to prepare your soil before you go ahead and plant annual ryegrass.

Planting annual ryegrass doesn’t have to be difficult, but at times it can require a bit more work than other types of grass.

When does annual ryegrass die?

Annual ryegrass is pretty durable, but it’s still important to understand when or how it dies. Therefore, in this section, I’ll be taking a look at the conditions that can lead to your annual ryegrass dying.

In the winter

Annual ryegrass will run into trouble during the winter months, and this is due to the fact that it can’t handle a harsh winter. Therefore, if your annual ryegrass is exposed to temperatures around 30 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time, it can end up dying.

In the summer

As I’ve mentioned a few times so far, annual ryegrass is definitely a cool-season grass, which means that if it does happen to get too hot it can end up dying. Luckily, annual ryegrass can handle quite a bit of warm weather. Therefore, you won’t need to worry too much unless temperatures consistently remain over 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Annual ryegrass can take quite a bit of punishment, but when push comes to shove, the extremes on both sides will end up killing annual ryegrass.

When to seed annual ryegrass?

I know that I’ve gone over planting annual ryegrass already, but working with seeds can be a bit tricky. So in this section, I’ll be showing you how to work with the seeds, and when to actually plant them. Let’s take a look.

The spring

You can actually seed annual ryegrass in a few different times of the year, but the best time is going to be the early spring. This will have the best soil temperature for annual ryegrass to grow, and if you’re in an area with mild summers, you shouldn’t have any issues growing it.

Check out my ultimate guide to spring lawn care.

In the fall

I would say that you can also plant annual ryegrass in the fall, but I would recommend doing so in the later summer months (September). This will provide your annual ryegrass with plenty of time to adapt to the conditions around it before winter.

This is really about preference, but with any cool-season grass you should always be thinking about planting it during the cool season months (fall and spring).

Annual rye grass water requirements

rain water annual ryegrass Check out my article on how to water your lawn with a sprinkler system.

If you’ll be taking care of annual ryegrass on your own, you’re going to need to care for it properly. Fertilization is important, sure, but having the proper irrigation can make all the difference. That’s why, in this section, I’ll be showing you how to properly maintain annual ryegrass.

It depends on the rain

If you notice that you’re getting plenty of moisture from rainwater, you can actually hold off on adding additional water into the mix. You don’t want to drown the grass, and more often than not, a few days of rain per week should be enough for annual ryegrass.

What if my area doesn’t get a lot of rain?

Unfortunately, if you’re area doesn’t receive a lot of rain, you’ll need to make sure that you provide your annual ryegrass with plenty of water. You can do this by watering the grass on your own every 3 days. This will allow the water to seep down into the soil, and maintain a steady level of moisture.

If you get a lot of rain, annual ryegrass is pretty hands-off. Without rain, make sure you can water the grass every 2 or 3 days at least.

Do you want to know the answer to the question of, will watering your grass in the sun cause it to burn?

Does annual ryegrass come back every year?

Now, as the name suggests, annual ryegrass should be annual, right? This can be quite confusing, and I know there is a lot of misinformation out there, so I want to take some time to give you the truth. Let’s take a look.

In most cases, it definitely can

Annual ryegrass got its name for a reason, and it does have a pretty good chance at coming back on its own. Now, while this may be the case, most of the time you might need to do a little legwork on your end. Don’t panic, it’s nothing too crazy, you might just need to do a little extra seeding.

Annual ryegrass has the ability to drop seeds, so if it does die, there is actually a chance that it can come back on its own as well. This is why annual ryegrass can become a pesky weed if you don’t want to deal with it.

How tall does annual ryegrass grow?

If you’ll be working with annual ryegrass, or even if you’re trying to identify it, it can help to know how tall it can grow. Trust me on this one, the answer might surprise you, so let’s jump right in.

If left in the wild

wild grass If you stumble across some wild annual ryegrass, you’ll notice that it can become quite tall. This is due to the fact that annual ryegrass can actually reach a height up to around 1 foot. Pretty tall for a patch of grass, right?

Keep in mind that this is usually a rare case, and most of the time you won’t need to worry about annual ryegrass being more than 12 inches in height.

Recommended annual ryegrass mowing height?

Annual ryegrass can grow in some pretty crazy patterns, which is cool and all, but what about mowing it? Not every grass type can handle tough mowing, so I want to show you some of annual ryegrass’ mowing limitations. Let’s have ourselves a look.

Check out some of the best mowers for a small lawn.

What is the average?

If you’re going to be mowing annual ryegrass in the fall or spring, you can safely mow it to around an inch and a half. This will keep it healthy, but it will also keep it very tame. If you’re looking to use annual ryegrass as a turf, this is definitely the height you want.

What about in the hotter months?

I’ve noticed that mowing should be a bit more infrequent during the summer months. Therefore, if you’ll be mowing in the summer, you might want to make sure that you only mow it down to about 3 inches. You can mow whenever you prefer, but leaving some extra length in the summer will definitely help.

Mowing is really about preference, but I would really recommend mowing it a bit less often when it may be struggling in the summer months.

Does annual ryegrass die in the summer?

The name annual ryegrass always raises quite a few questions. I understand the concerns, so in this section, I’ll be showing you what happens to annual ryegrass during the summer months. Will it die? Let’s find out.

In short, yes

Annual ryegrass will die in the summer if it’s left with poor conditions.

Now, with that being said, this is not always the case. If you do happen to provide this grass with enough shade, and irrigation, there is actually a chance that it can survive in the summer.

Unfortunately, this is not exactly guaranteed, so I would recommend against getting your hopes up too much.

Perennial vs annual ryegrass

The final thing I want to go over is a little comparison. This is due to the fact that annual ryegrass is often compared to perennial grass types, so I want to debunk a couple of common myths. Let’s dive right in.

Perennial ryegrass

I know that I touched upon this a bit earlier, but I want to make sure that this information is clear. Let’s take a look at the key differences:

  • Perennial ryegrasses will grow taller if left wild
  • Perennial ryegrasses have a better chance of going dormant instead of dying
  • Perennial ryegrasses can usually handle a bit more adversity and foot traffic than annual ryegrass

So as you can see, there are some differences when it comes to perennial ryegrass and annual ryegrass. The main takeaway is that annual ryegrass dies, whereas perennial ryegrass will go dormant instead.

You might be interested in my full guide to Perennial ryegrass.


I know that I really chewed your ear off about annual ryegrass, but I did so to make sure that you know everything you can. While annual ryegrass is not delicate, it’s important to understand how to work with it. Now, with that being said, I really hope that my ultimate guide to annual ryegrass has helped you.

If you ever find yourself pondering some questions about annual ryegrass, please feel free to refer back to this article as a guide. As I’ve said earlier, I want to make sure you’re well informed, and sometimes another read is what that will take.

Now that you know the facts, do you think annual ryegrass is the right grass for you?


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