Bermuda grass is the most common grass that spreads by runners. In the southern United States, Bermuda grass often invades yards and is treated as a weed. However, several other lawn types of grass spread by producing runners. Zoysia is a runner-producing grass that is closely related to Bermuda grass. Additionally, Buffalo grass, Centipede grass, and St. Augustine are all runner grasses that thrive in warm regions. Rough Bluegrass and Creeping Bentgrass are the most common cold-tolerant grasses that spread by producing runners.
What is the Difference Between Grass Runners and Rhizomes?
Runners—or stolons—are shoots that spread from the base of the grass plant and crawl on the soil surface. Rhizomes are roots that spread similarly to runners, but they grow just below the soil surface. Runners can be easily spotted. The runner roots to the soil a short distance from the parent plant and begins producing grass blades.
- Runners are grass shoots that grow along the soil surface, producing new grass plants where they take root.
- Rhizomes act similarly to runners, except they are a form of root that spreads beneath the soil.
- Several species of grass spread by both runners and rhizomes.
Rhizomes are unlike runners because you cannot find rhizomes except by digging. What looks like a new grass plant popping up from nowhere may actually be grass growing upwards from a rhizome. Several popular kinds of grass spread via rhizomes, such as Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescue.
7 Common Grass Types that Spread by Runners
Whether you’re trying to identify a pest grass that is invading your lawn or if you want to choose a fast-growing type of grass for your lawn, it’s essential to know which grass species produce runners. These are the most common runner grasses found in North America:
Bermuda grass is the number one runner grass to find growing in your yard, especially if you live in a warm region. Bermuda spreads by growing jointed runners that produce grass blades along the runner. This grass type can have a “creeping” appearance. Although it is common for Bermuda grass to be treated as a pest, it can be grown as a beautiful yard. If you are trying to identify the grass in your yard, it is helpful to know what Bermuda grass looks like.
Because it is a less common grass type for lawns, you may be wondering if Buffalo grass produces runners. Buffalo grass does produce runners. In fact, if your Buffalo grass is producing runners while it is green, that means your lawn is healthy. If your Buffalo grass lawn is not producing any runners, treat it as a sign that the grass may be struggling.
Centipede grass does not spread as aggressively as Bermuda grass, but it does spread via runners. The runners that grow from Centipede grass have short, emerald-green grass blades. With the proper cultivation techniques, Centipede grass can spread quickly to cover bare spots. Plus, it has the benefits of being a low-maintenance warm-season grass with lower fertilizer needs than Bermuda or Zoysia.
Creeping Bentgrass is one of the few cool-season grasses that spread by sending out runners. Most cool-season grasses spread by producing underground rhizomes, since aboveground runners can be damaged by freezing temperatures. However, Creeping Bentgrass is a tenacious type of grass that spreads quickly. If you live in a cold region and you see new grass invading your lawn, it’s most likely Creeping Bentgrass or Rough Bluegrass.
Like Creeping Bentgrass, Rough Bluegrass is one of the few runner-producing cool-season types of grass. Rough bluegrass runners are usually thin and produce small grass blades. In comparison, Creeping Bentgrass produces very long runners with several shoots and long, wide blades of grass. So, it’s usually easy to tell which runner grass is invading your cool-season lawn.
St. Augustine grass is a close relative of Centipede grass, so its runners look very similar. Both are emerald green with thick runners. In the South, it is common for St. Augustine lawns to be invaded by the darker green, thinner-bladed Bermuda grass. You can easily tell St. Augustine grass from Bermuda because St. Augustine is a bright green, while Bermuda is nearly forest green.
As a close relative of Bermuda grass, Zoysia has a very similar coloration, runner appearance, and growth rate as Bermuda. In fact, it can be difficult to tell these two warm-season kinds of grass apart. One key factor to look for is where the grass is growing. Bermuda loves to invade sunny portions of the lawn but struggles in shade. Meanwhile, Zoysia grows well in shade. If you have grass sending out runners in the shaded area under your trees, it’s most likely Zoysia.
Do Grassy Weeds Have Runners?
Common grassy weeds such as crabgrass, annual bluegrass, and orchard grass do not have runners. In fact, most pest grasses spread by seed only. The reason pest grasses appear in your lawn year after year is that the seeds were carried by the wind or were lying dormant in the soil. So, if you see grass in your lawn sending out runners, it is probably not a grassy weed.
- Pest grasses rarely have runners.
- Crabgrass, quackgrass, orchard grass, and annual bluegrass do not spread by runners.
- If you have a runner-producing grass in your lawn, it is most likely a turfgrass species spreading from a nearby lawn.
In some regions, Bermuda grass, Creeping Bentgrass, and Rough Bluegrass are considered grassy weeds, so you may still want to kill a runner grass invading your lawn. However, almost all grasses that spread by runners can be cultivated to form an attractive, usable lawn.
What Grass Grows by Runners?
If you’ve encountered a grass type in your yard that is spreading via runners, it is most likely one of the following types:
- Bermuda grass
- Buffalo grass
- Centipede Grass
- Creeping Bentgrass
- Rough Bluegrass
- St. Augustine
- Zoysia grass
Some of these grasses—such as Bermuda grass and Rough bluegrass—are considered weeds in some areas. However, runner grasses spread quickly and make for great lawns. So, most species of runner-producing grass are used as turfgrass.