Some grasses can stay green in winter, if the winter weather is mild in your area and you have planted the correct type of grass. Warm-season grasses grow well in the summer heat but begin to turn brown once temperatures drop below 65℉ (18℃). Cool-season grasses may turn brown during summer highs, but they can remain green in winter temperatures as low as 40℉ (4℃). In some areas, you can keep your yard green all year round by overseeding your warm-season lawn with an annual cool-season grass in the fall.
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Does All Grass Turn Brown in Winter?
All grass types will turn brown if temperatures get low enough. However, some grasses can remain green throughout the winter, as long as temperatures remain consistently above freezing.
- Some grasses are more cold-hardy than others, which may stop them from turning brown during a mild winter.
- Even the toughest grass will turn brown if winter temperatures consistently drop below freezing.
If you plant winter-hardy grass (these varieties are called cool season grasses) in a region where winters don’t get very cold, your lawn may stay green throughout the year. However, a cold snap that brings freezing weather will even send cool-season grasses into dormancy. So, there is no grass type that stays green in all weather.
Why Does Grass Turn Brown in Winter?
Grass turns brown when temperatures drop as a means of self-protection. Green grass contains high levels of moisture. If this moisture freezes into ice, it will literally tear apart the cell walls of the grass blade. This causes severe damage and will kill the grass.
- Grass turns brown to protect itself from damage during cold winter weather.
- Moisture-rich green grass can be harmed or killed by cold weather.
- To prevent damage, grass draws moisture and chlorophyll from the blades, which causes the grass to turn brown.
- Brown, dormant grass will green up again in spring.
Once temperatures drop, grass draws the moisture out of its blades to prevent damage. As the moisture leaves the blades, the chlorophyll that gives the grass its green color is pulled out as well. This results in brown grass. Grass that turns brown in winter is not dead. It’s simply lying dormant until the weather warms up again.
How Do You Make Your Grass Green All Year Round?
There are several methods for keeping your grass green in winter. However, the most common method is to overseed a warm season lawn with Annual Ryegrass, also known as “Winter Ryegrass.” This is a short-lived, cold-hardy grass that you seed on your warm-season lawn in fall, just before your permanent grass starts to turn brown. The Ryegrass will sprout and remain green all winter as long as temperatures don’t stay below freezing for long. Then, the Ryegrass will die off as temperatures rise in late spring and summer. You can follow this process year after year for a green lawn year-round.
- If you are growing warm-season grass in a region where winter lows rarely get below freezing, overseed your lawn with this Annual Ryegrass in the fall.
- Ryegrass thrives in cool weather, so it will sprout and remain green while your warm-season grass is brown and dormant.
- If you live in a region where winter temperatures are frequently below freezing, there are fewer options for keeping a green lawn in winter.
Unfortunately, if you are faced with consistently freezing temperatures, green lawns are hard to maintain. Turf colorants are an option. These products dye brown grass green, for a lush appearance. However, if you get regular snow during the colder months, you may not see your green lawn often.
When Do Warm Season Grasses Turn Brown in Winter?
Warm-season grasses begin to turn brown once temperatures drop below 65℉ (18℃), although some species may remain green for longer than others. Common varieties of warm-season grasses include Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, and Zoysia. They are often planted in regions with long, hot summers because they tolerate heat well. However, they enter dormancy at higher temperatures than cool-season grasses.
- Warm-season grasses begin to turn brown when air temperatures drop below 65℉ (18℃).
- Most warm-season grasses are not cold hardy and will turn brown even during mild winters.
- In some very warm regions (such as Southern Florida and the Southwest), warm-season grasses will remain green year-round.
You may be wondering why people don’t plant cool-season grasses in these warm areas so they can have green yards year-round. The reason this is seldom done is that cool-season grasses struggle in the summer heat. If a cool season grass is exposed to prolonged summer temperatures, it will enter dormancy and turn brown in summer.
When Do Cool Season Grasses Turn Brown in Winter?
Cool-season grasses start to turn brown once temperatures drop below 40℉ (4℃). By the time temperatures start to hit the freezing point, these grasses will enter full dormancy. Common cool-season grasses include Kentucky bluegrass, Ryegrass, and Fescue. If you live in the northeast or midwest of the United States, your lawn is probably planted with cool-season grass.
- Once nighttime temperatures consistently drop below 40℉ (4℃), your cool season grass will begin to enter dormancy.
- Frost and consistent temperatures below freezing will turn cool season grass completely brown.
- In colder areas, cool-season grass stays green much later into the winter months than warm-season grass.
Cool-season grasses are more capable of surviving the winter months than warm-season grasses. Plus, they stay green later into the year in regions with cold winters. They don’t handle heat exceptionally well, but cool-season grasses are a great choice if you live in a snowy region.
Is it Normal for Grass to Turn Brown in Winter?
Even the most healthy lawn will turn brown in winter. Here’s what to know about brown winter grass:
- All grass turns brown in winter if temperatures drop low enough.
- No type of grass remains green when temperatures are below freezing.
- Grass turns brown in cold weather to protect itself from damage.
- Brown winter grass will turn green again in spring.
- Different grass types begin to turn brown at different temperatures.
- Warm-season grasses begin to turn brown when temperatures drop to 65℉ (18℃).
- Cool-season grasses remain green until temperatures dip to 40℉ (4℃).
- You can keep warm season lawns green year-round by overseeding with Annual Ryegrass in the fall.
Don’t worry, that brown winter grass is not dead grass. Although your lawn may not look very lively now, it will bounce back once temperatures rise again.